Thursday, April 28, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle


Why do I feel like watching Canadian Federal Election advertising is like being assaulted by a Guns N' Roses video?

"Welcome to the jungle it gets worse here everyday ...
You learn to live like an animal in the jungle where we play"


Chatting with a friend over a Starbucks coffee the other day, the conversation turns to how politics in this country can now be comparted to a blood sport. A steady diet of predictable, old school "attack ads" from all sides only serve to confirm that view. The political machines who sling this sleazy muck are either:

a) Doing this deliberately, knowing it will completely turn off a certain segment of the population and keep them home on election day.

or

b) They are just blindingly stupid when it comes to knowing how little the attack strategy does to inspire anyone to actually beleive in the process and become part of it.

"Welcome to the jungle we take it day by day ...
If you want it you're gonna bleed but it's the price you pay"

This is Canada's 4th election in the last 7 years.

That works out to an investment of roughly $1.2 billion dollars.

But, the shareholders have grown more and more disenchanted with politicians and bureaucrats who form governments that provide less than adequate return on that investment.

But, the real question is why.

Why are a growing number of Canadians feeling this way?

"In the jungle welcome to the jungle ...
Feel my, my, my, my serpentine"


Perhaps, it has less to do with politicians as individuals and human beings, but more so with a "system" that promotes primal behaviour. But, rather than dwell on everything wrong with "the system", this forum will attempt to take the debate to higher ground, which is what I think most TSB readers would wish the political parties would do. Anything to bring more thought to the discussion rather than the "he said, she said", discourse we have been bombarded with over the last several weeks.

As it turns out, an American, based in the U.K., might have a solution for politics in an animal kingdom such as Canada. C.P.G. Grey offers his thoughts through this video segment on "Alternative Voting".



Alternative Voting, a system that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, is currently being to elect members of the Australian House of Representatives, the President of Ireland, the national parliament of Papua New Guinea, and the House of Representatives of Fiji. In Canada, Alternative Voting is how the leaders of the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party elected their leaders.

Is it time to consider Alternative Voting as way to bring the merit of sound ideas back to the political process?

Are there other things Canadians should be talking about to lift the debate out of the media moshpit?

Considering the size of our investment and what's at stake, do you believe there has to be a better way?



"It is difficult to maintain your mental health when you are surrounded by madness”

IZZY STRADLIN


Would you like Gair to add snap, crackle and pop with thought-provoking substance to your organization or event? Details on his game-changing keynotes, seminars and speaking programs can be discovered at http://www.gairmaxwell.com/

If you are curious to know more about his moderately bent philosophy that drives it all, Gair's book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" waits patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

Get to know Gair on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#%21/gair.maxwell

For more info on The Seamless Brand and how this award-winning team can help your company or organization zig while everyone zags, why not zip on over with a simple click and explore http://www.seamlessbrand.com/.

You can also follow The Seamless Brand on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/seamlessbrand or press the "like" button and plug into The Seamless Brand on Facebook - http://ow.ly/3VW68

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Branding Comebacks


Everyone loves a good come-from-behind story.

Think of movies like "Rocky", "Forrest Gump" and "The Mighty Ducks".

Those stories and hundreds of others like them, have inspired many of us to try and follow a similar path taken by down-on-their-luck, sad-sack underdogs who scratch and claw their way from the brink of disaster to dizzying heights of success. Going from proverbial rags to riches.

But, what about stories of those who made it to the top, only to hit rock bottom before rising again? In other words, from riches to rags to riches.

In the fictional world of Hollywood, think of "Jerry Maguire", "Shawshank Redemption" and "Any Given Sunday".

These are stories of those who had it all, lost it, and somehow found their way back into the light. Heroes who found a way to climb out of hell.

One such drama, playing out for real right now, sees the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks attempt the near impossible tonight when they pay a visit to the Vancouver Canucks. After being down three games to none, the Blackhawks are trying to become only the 4th team in NHL history to storm back from the brink and capture a seven-game series in the Stanley Cup playoffs. And while the odds are still stacked against Chicago, stories of amazing comebacks can also be discovered in the business world. Think of reputable brands that, at one time or another found themselves out of touch, out of step and ultimately, out of favor with consumers.

While some believe that brands follow a predictable life cycle, growing, maturing, declining, and dying, this is clearly not the case. Over the last few years, a number of brands, written off as dead, have experienced a resurgence and are now breathing new life in wide open, new market spaces.

In business, as in sports or Hollywood, "it's never over 'til it's over" and that's why TSB is counting down the 2011, "Top 5 Branding Comebacks".

With honorable mentions to Puma, Abercrombie & Fitch, Aerosmith, Nintendo, the Mini Cooper, Lacoste, the Chicago Blackhawks, Martha Stewart and Michael Vick, here is our current "Top 5 List":


#5. APPLE

The hip, cooler than cool jewel of the tech world was not always at the top of its game like it is now. Back in 1985, founder Steve Jobs was ousted and the company began a downward spiral until around 1997, when Jobs was brought back as interim CEO. The return of this messiah from MacWorld was followed by the introduction of iTunes and iPod. And as millions were learning to say "I'm a Mac", other new products followed, including the iPhone and iPad. Apple now enjoys mega-success as one of the most popular computer and tech-gadget companies, with a huge fan base that has MacAddicts lining up for hours to buy the latest versions of their stuff.


#4. FORD

Ford Motor Company has emerged from the bailout debacle as the one U.S. automaker that many seem to agree doesn’t suck like a Hoover. Is that because it is the only one of the three that managed to avoid a government-funded bankruptcy? Under new leadership, Ford is cutting back brands and focusing on smaller cars, turning away from the Sports Utility vehicles that have long dominated the U.S. market. It remains to be seen whether Ford can ride the wave and return to its former greatness, but many signs indicate it is heading in the right direction.


#3. KODAK

In 1988, Kodak employed 145,300 people, turning a profit of $1.17 billion on $13.3 billion in sales. By late 2009, the payroll had dipped to 19,900, a level not seen since the Great Depression, bleeding quarterly losses of more than $100 million dollars. How could this happen? Kodak was almost recession-proof until the rise of digital, a technology they actually invented but sat on until the late 90's and playing follow-the-leader to Canon and Nikon. However, CEO Antonio Perez and Chief Marketing Officer Jeffrey Hayzlett reframed Kodak by restructuring the company to focus on business-to-business products such as commercial printing and the consumer inkjet market with the attitude that, "this is not your father's Kodak". It was Hayzlett who gave the brand its biggest injection of bravado when he stared down KISS frontman Gene Simmons on an episode of "Celebrity Apprentice", which led to "The Donald" firing "The Demon". Kodak now expects revenue in its core growth businesses will more than double in size by the end of 2013.


#2. OLD SPICE

Talk about using the power of a story! Here is a brand that cleaned up and refreshed its image from old-fashioned and outdated to hip and happening with social media savvy. Old Spice has been around for over 70 years, but the comeback has generated widespread buzz that has allowed the brand to cross the generational and digital divide.


#1. STARBUCKS

For a time, Starbucks was becoming the posterchild for consumer excess. Coffee drinkers who had once embraced the brand’s cachet now started to view the $5 latte as frivolous, however, Howard Schultz started stirring the Starbucks turnaround with what, for many companies, is the hardest thing to do. Howard had to confess the company had sinned. The CEO admitted to employees that Starbucks had expanded far too quickly and these mistakes would force layoffs and the closing of more than 600 stores, 80% of which had been open for less than two years. But, even amid the cost-cutting Schultz refused to drop health care for his employees, a line item that tallies $300 million. A shareholder called Schultz and said the crisis would provide him the perfect cover to cut benefits for part-timers, but Howard refused, and told his investor if he felt that strongly, he should sell his stock. Today, Starbucks is diving into new areas of growth beyond simply opening new stores with the introduction of the VIA instant coffee line and newly rebranded Seattle’s Best.


So picture if you will ...

Reaching over, turning off your iPhone, taking a long, slow sip of your morning latte, while dreaming about driving to the office in a new Ford convertible as the scent of Old Spice mixes with a cool summer breeze. And as you are totally relaxed, enjoying this serene Kodak moment, contemplate these questions:

Why do you think some brands are able to bounce back and be stronger than ever?

Could some of the same thinking be applied to your brand?

Would it have anything to do with placing vision before money?

And will anything stop the Blackhawks in Game 7 tonight?


"If you plan to win as I do, the game never ends"
STAN MIKITA


P.S. ... Tried, but can't resist adding the great comeback speech in the history of Hollywood ...



Would you like Gair to add snap, crackle and pop with thought-provoking substance to your organization or event? Details on his game-changing keynotes, seminars and speaking programs can be discovered at http://www.gairmaxwell.com/

If you are curious to know more about his moderately bent philosophy that drives it all, Gair's book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" waits patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

Get to know Gair on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#%21/gair.maxwell

For more info on The Seamless Brand and how this award-winning team can help your company or organization zig while everyone zags, why not zip on over with a simple click and explore http://www.seamlessbrand.com/.

You can also follow The Seamless Brand on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/seamlessbrand or press the "like" button and plug into The Seamless Brand on Facebook - http://ow.ly/3VW68

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Angels. Still Broken

"When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised God doesn’t work that way, so I stole one and prayed for forgiveness" EMO PHILLIPS


Have you ever noticed how relationships are like glass?

When fractured or broken, do you leave relationships that way or risk exposing your vulnerable side in trying to put them back together?

This complicated adult stuff never concerned us when you and I were little kids. Back then, bruised shins and skinned knees were easier to fix than broken hearts.

Today, TSB is focused on the painting at the top of this post.

Graffiti Angel. Broken.

The piece is a product of a famous British graffiti master known as "Banksy".

He is the kind of guy who was once quoted as saying "Think outside the box? Collapse the box, and take a fucking sharp knife to it!" Asked about his technique, Banksy explains, “I use whatever it takes. Sometimes that just means drawing a moustache on a girl's face on some billboard". Dubbed as "Britain's Most Wanted Artist", Banksy's utter disregard for the conventional has him involved in a number of pranks including walking into the Louvre in Paris and hanging a portrait resembling the Mona Lisa but with a yellow smiley face.

"Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing.
And even if you don't come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can
make someone smile while they're having a piss"

BANKSY



Banksy has an edge.

But if you study the painting above, he also has a heart.

Interpret what you want, but while heartache can be numbed by the old black rum, great works of art are like a shot glass for the soul; transcending pain for peace. Have you ever wondered what it is about the work of great artists, poets or musicians that can drill into the oil of our emotions, causing us to gush with feelings never otherwise expressed?

Study the painting again.

Take a good look.

Hold your gaze for about thirty seconds.

Allow yourself to see your own reflection and think of other angels encountered along the way.

Has Banksy captured a part of you that aches for a healing far too painful to attempt, lest the other person know the size of the hole in your heart? When you think of that person, is there a darkness you try and navigate by day and gradually spiral into at night?

Thankfully, there are artists that find a way to celebrate sorrow, yet somehow lift wuthering spirits to new heights.

We are all broken in some way.

Few knew it better than Ray.



Ray Charles was blinded at six and orphaned at fifteen before overcoming tragedy and poverty to achieve respect, fame and wealth. Although hugely successful in his professional life, Ray never hit the jackpot in private. If Ray was on Facebook he would describe his status as "complicated". How else would you explain two divorces and fathering a dozen children with nine different women.

However, much of Ray's greatest music is thought to be a reflection of those broken shards of relationship glass.

Shortly before he died, Ray gathered his kids at a 2004 Christmas dinner, handing each of them a check for one million dollars. One of his kids recalled, "My dad talked about how they always wait until a person passes. He said, 'Why do that? I'll give it to you now so you can build on that now. It wasn't publicized because he was a very private man."

Hopes and hearts are fragile.

Relationships and angels easily shattered.

Yet artists like Banksy and Ray - one who refuses to be seen and one who couldn't see - vivdly demonstrate how pain can be converted to joy and darkness into light.

As the Easter weekend approaches, do you need to be more protective of the angels surrounding you? Is it possible you could let a broken one - an angel you can't stop loving - know yet again, he or she is not alone? Perhaps now is a good as time as any to send distant angels a message; letting them know how high they were meant to fly and how much they are loved.

Easter reminds us that life is to be interpreted not simply in terms of possessions, but in terms of ideals.

Easter reveals that truth can be buried in a grave, but won't be trapped forever.

Easter provides each of us yet another opportunity to rise again.

And communicate "I Can't Stop Loving You" with whatever words and actions necessary.

Will you do your best this Easter weekend, reach out to angels still broken and share that message with whatever means possible.

Do we have a deal?


"Angels, roll the rock away;
Death, yield up thy mighty prey:
See, He rises from the tomb,
Glowing with immortal bloom"

THOMAS SCOTT, Easter Angels


P.S. ... Inspired by Ray, a couple of Dutch brothers - angels broken many times over - were able to share a similar message in a different way.



P.P.S. ... This is the third consecutive Easter season in which this post has been published. Evidently, there is a deeper, more personal reason for that. As someone with a public persona who values dignity and personal privacy, this is painfully difficult to even write about. In that respect, I can only share that there is an angel I would love to reconnect with, but to date, those efforts have yet to bear fruit. They say time heals a broken heart but, like Ray says in his song, time has stood still since this angel and I have been apart. That being said, after exhausting all other avenues, this forum is the only way I know how to extend an olive branch of hope; that someway, somehow, someday, the depths of these thoughts and feelings will find their way into the heart of an angel who has always been loved and is greatly missed.


Would you like Gair to add snap, crackle and pop with thought-provoking substance to your organization or event? Details on his game-changing keynotes, seminars and speaking programs can be discovered at http://www.gairmaxwell.com/

If you are curious to know more about his moderately bent philosophy that drives it all, Gair's book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" waits patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

Get to know Gair on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#%21/gair.maxwell

For more info on The Seamless Brand and how this award-winning team can help your company or organization zig while everyone zags, why not zip on over with a simple click and explore http://www.seamlessbrand.com/.

You can also follow The Seamless Brand on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/seamlessbrand or press the "like" button and plug into The Seamless Brand on Facebook - http://ow.ly/3VW68

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Billion Dollar Question


You either own or you are thinking about owning a small business.

Your dream is to profit from what you love to do.

You want to control your own destiny and enjoy a lifestyle that gives you freedom to discover whatever pyramids you seek, as often as you please.

Truth be known, you crave freedom and control more than money. But, the reality is often entirely different once you actually jump into the small business foxhole and start slugging it out in the trenches of any market you enter.

Which is why I am sharing a recent Facebook note from a small business owner who is asking questions many have asked for decades.

Questions you may be asking yourself right now.

Hi Gair, I got a question for ya. The question of all questions for a small biz owner. Our customers have a great experience, receive a great product, served by great staff - we are told very often directly. When I am out and about I hear this same message from many in the community as well. Obviously we are not perfect and business is always in need of improvement - this goes without saying. So, here is the question, in our type of business - what do we need to do to drive more business? How do we share what has been mutually created by our customers and our staff to more in our city? Billion dollar question Gair but does it really have to be this complicated? Vulnerably, K


There it is, sitting on the table.

A "billion dollar question".

As you might imagine, the answer is not nearly as simple as the question implies, since these types of answers only come to those who are willing to trade the kitchen table of comfort for a trek through the desert of uncertainty in order to study and learn things at a much deeper level.

Experience teaches you that answering ten dollar questions is one thing, but "billion dollar questions" are another matter altogether. That being said, I can categorically state that what is lacking in most business models, such as the one mentioned above, has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the actual products or services being sold, how the staff interacts with the community or any number of other tactical or ground level issues.

The real issue here is clarity.

Or lack thereof.

There are no fewer than 7 Key Questions every entrepreneur must answer in order to gain the level of clarity required to take their business to the next level. 7 Key Questions that determine whether you are prepared and possess the capacity to absorb "billion dollar answers".

#1. IS IT THE RIGHT THING, AT THE RIGHT TIME IN THE RIGHT PLACE?
Your business may well have the right products or services, the timing may even be perfect, but is it in the right place? For example, trying to market a high end, niche-driven gourmet restaurant in an economically depressed neighborhood may not be the wisest approach. Selling skateboards and surfboards in the Yukon might not be a good idea either. In other words, are there enough customers for what you are trying to sell in the market you want to compete in?

#2. HAVE YOU CREATED A "BRAND OF DISTINCTION"?
In the category called computers, only Apple has created a "brand of distinction". Dell, Samsung, HP, Acer and countless others wear logos and company names that display nothing more than "badges of ownership". This pattern is consistent in any crowded, competitive category. Your family and friends might be in love with your business, maybe even see it as a "purple cow", but what if the rest of the market sees it differently or worse, doesn't really notice? Do you have something that truly separates your business from the rest of the herd?

#3. DO YOU HAVE ABSOLUTE FOCUS ON WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH?
Is this a company you are trying to create or are you attempting to generate a personal revenue stream? In other words do you really want to own a business or own a job? What sort of grasp do you have on your available market and the share you can hope to achieve? How will you measure success? Can you spell it out? In plain English using simple numbers?

#4. DO YOU HAVE A CLEAR PICTURE OF YOUR IDEAL CUSTOMER?
Can you outline their primary characteristics? From the music they listen to, the make of car they drive, the type of sports they play to the books they read and the movies they watch? Do they have a price-driven transactional mindset or would you describe them as more relational in their buying behavior? Can you articulate what would motivate them to buy from you as opposed to one of your competitors?

#5. DO YOU KNOW YOUR BLIND SPOTS?
It is far more important to know your weaknesses than your strengths. What are the limiting factors that will stymie progress? Do you have the available financial, intellectual and emotional resources to stand the inevitable test of time and the inevitable energy depletion that follows? In other words, do you have clarity on what is holding you back or some unleveraged assets that could be put into play?

#6. CAN YOU PUT VISION BEFORE MONEY?
No business has ever failed from a lack of capital. General Motors led global auto sales for 77 consecutive years from 1931 through 2007, so it wasn't a lack of capital that forced GM into bankruptcy in 2009. Businesses go broke not for a lack of capital but from lacking vivid imagination. Do you have a clear sense of purpose as to how your products or services make a dent in the universe? Or does profit supersede purpose? Would you rather own 100% of a $200,000 company or 51% of a $200 million dollar company? How willing are you to modify the business model? Are you prepared to take on additional partners if need be? Are you the right leader for this enterprise or a loud and lonely prophet who struggles to build a following?

#7. WILL YOU "BURN THE BOATS"?
Legend has it that when Cortez landed in Mexico in the 1500s, he ordered his men to burn the ships that brought them there, erasing the possibility of doing anything other than going forward into the unknown. Can you remove obstacles and excuses, storm the shore with attitude and set your boats ablaze? Are you the kind of person who can look fear, doubt and uncertainty square in the eye and still race toward the enemy? Have you learned when it’s time to stop talking and actually make a decision, take action. You might have to cut a cheque or terminate a partner, but can you pull the trigger and do something? Even when you feel you don't have all the "facts"?


For the sake of clarity, The Seamless Brand is not in the business of providing "quick fix" remedies for entrepreneurs who aren't ready to do the heavy lifting required. Nor are we in the business of casually tossing out professional opinions without first acquiring pertinent, validated information. Instead, we work with business owners who are deadly serious about answering the 7 Key Questions; owners who are determined to gain unusual clarity on their “story” and then work to align and anchor an unusually relevant and unexpected message across all mediums. In essence, The Seamless Brand helps cultivate and manage a process that allows the soul of a business to shine through.

It is in that spirit, we offer a free 90-minute Starter Session as a first step towards gaining clarity and recognizing what it takes to propel your business to the next level. Just don't expect a ride on the motivational merry-go-round. We’re not in the business of chirping like parrots and singing songs that sound like "All you need is persistence, faith and you too can go for it and follow your dream!" It takes a lot more than just believing in yourself and Law of Attraction "happy talk" to make it. You will need clarity before creativity in terms of what it is you are trying to accomplish. When it comes to analyzing any business, we examine the model, pull the vision apart, determine results we can measure and figure out the shortest routes possible to take that business to the next level. You might not always like what you hear in these frank discussions, but often the unvarnished truth is the only way any business owner can move forward and grow.

Hopefully, one those truths we revealed today is that long before any business dream is realized, there will be severe tests and challenges along the way as outlined through the 7 Key Questions. To help you diligently dig for those answers, we try and do our part through freely sharing the insights of more than 500 Seamless Brand blogs, through our book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" and the many keynotes and seminars I am invited to present.

This was a dangerous question for me to answer because many business owners tend to be uber-sensitive about issues they tend not to dwell on. So if some of the 7 Key Questions make squirm at the thought at facing the truth or pissed you off in any way, there is a better than even chance you don't enjoy the level of freedom you dreamed about when your business first got off the ground.

Everything you want for your business resides on the other side of fear.

Since faith and fear cannot coexist, what exactly are you afraid of?


"Why do they make things so complicated?", he asked the Englishman one night."So that those who have the responsibility for understanding can understand", he said. "Imagine if everyone went around transforming lead into gold. Gold would lose its value. It's only those who are persistent and willing to study deeply who achieve the Master Work""
THE ALCHEMIST, page 82


Would you like Gair to add snap, crackle and pop with thought-provoking substance to your organization or event? Details on his game-changing keynotes, seminars and speaking programs can be discovered at http://www.gairmaxwell.com/

If you are curious to know more about his moderately bent philosophy that drives it all, Gair's book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" waits patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

Get to know Gair on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#%21/gair.maxwell

For more info on The Seamless Brand and how this award-winning team can help your company or organization zig while everyone zags, why not zip on over with a simple click and explore http://www.seamlessbrand.com/.

You can also follow The Seamless Brand on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/seamlessbrand or press the "like" button and plug into The Seamless Brand on Facebook - http://ow.ly/3VW68

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Machismo On Wheels


For years, I have been explaining to business owners and executives an astonishly simple concept.

"He with the best story wins".

When it comes to the discipline known as branding, thoughtful and creative storytelling will far outweigh features, advantages and benefits of any product or service in any category or market segment. Imaginative, right-brain, entreprenurial types latch on to this concept immediately. Numbers-driven, left-brain, tight-asses will struggle to understand.

But, even the most logical, analytical, rational and sequential thinker will make the connection between the power of a story and its ability to drive customers to your dorr or website. The latest example of how this works comes from a Kijiji ad trying to unload a 1998 weather-beaten beater (pictured above)that has seen its best days. Since being made aware of this ad on Monday, another 10,000 plus hits have been generated by a "story" that is generating incredible interest and demand for a product that, from a rational logical point of view, does not deserve all this attention.

But, customers are emotional creatures with passions and interests that can suddenly be inspired by the power of the written word and the energy it communicates. Here is how this particular ad reads:

"OK, let me start off by saying this Impreza is only available for purchase by the manliest of men (or women). My friend, if it was possible for a vehicle to sprout chest hair and a five o'clock shadow, this Subaru would look like Tom Selleck. It is just that manly.

It was never intended to drive to the mall so you can pick up that adorable shirt at Abercrombie & Fitch that you had your eye on. It wasn't meant to transport you to yoga class or Bed Bath and Beyond. No, that's what your Prius is for. If that's the kind of car you're looking for, then just do us all a favor and stop reading right now. This car has been to hell and back, twice, and has the scars to prove it. So if you can't handle being seen behind the wheel of this biblical, fire breathing, dragon slaying, nazi killing hero because it has a few purle hearts, move on.

This wagon was engineered by 3rd degree ninja pirate super-warriors in the highest mountains of Japan to serve the needs of the man that cheats death on a daily basis. They didn't even consider superfluous nancy boy amenities like navigation systems (real men don't get lost), heated leather seats (a real man doesn't let anything warm his butt), or On Star (real men don't even know what On Star is).

No, this brute comes with the things us testosterone-fueled super action junkies need. It has a 137 HP engine to outrun the cops and a 5 speed tranmission so you know grandma wont be taking off with it when your not looking. It's saved my bacon more than once. It's got special blood/gore resistant upholstery. It even has a first-aid kit in the back. You know what the first aid kit has in it? A pint of whiskey, a stitch-your-own-wound kit and a hunk of leather to bite down on when you're operating on yourself.

My price on this bad boy is an incredibly low $2000 but I'll entertain reasonable offers. And by reasonable, I mean don't walk up and tell me you'll give me $500 for it. That's liable to earn you a Burmese-roundhouse-sphincter-kick with a follow up three fingered eye-jab. Would it hurt? Hell yeah. Let's just say you won't be the prettiest guy at the Coldplay concert anymore.

There's only 183 000 km's on this all-wheel drive hellcat from Planet Kickass. Trust me, it will outlive you and the offspring that will carry your name. It will live on as a monument to your machismo.

Now, go look in the mirror and tell me what you see. If it's a rugged, no holds barred, super brute he-man macho Chuck Norris stunt double, then reply to this ad. I might be out hang-gliding or BASE jumping or just chilling with my lady, but leave a message and I'll get back to you. And when I do, we'll talk about a price over a nice glass of Schmidt while we listen to Johnny Cash.

It passed its last e-test and safety with flying colours but is being sold as-is.

God bless"


http://toronto.kijiji.ca/c-cars-vehicles-cars-trucks-1998-Subaru-Impreza-Wagon-W0QQAdIdZ268172820



When you were growing up and getting tucked into bed, you yearned to hear a good story. It didn't matter if it came from a children's book or Mom and Dad's memory of their own childhood, we all loved hearing stories and telling our own. No kid ever goes to bed at night demanding to know the "facts". But as we became older we were taught serious people rely on hard numbers, solid information, sound logic and the voice of reason supported by accurate data. This, despite the "fact", that statistics are frequently used to tell lies in the business world with accounting reports often doctored like Doolittle. How do you spell E-n-r-o-n?

There will never be any dispute from this corner of the ring that "facts" are necessary, however, when the focus turns to the subject of branding, the power of "story" wins every time. And the best brands in the world, rely on effective storytelling to sell you things like $5 dollar lattes to sip on while you wear your best Armani suit as you text on your iPhone while climbing into your BMW.

But, that's not the type of customer who is actually going to man up and respond to the Kijiji ad that inspired this post.

How many of you believe the guy who placed the ad will not only be able to sell his much-ballyhooed beast of a car, but also fetch his asking price without being nickel-and-dimed by some price sensitive, bargain-hunting, coupon-clipping, knuckle-dragging penny-pincher?

Can you also picture what this level of storytelling would do to help your products and services into the grateful hands of the perfect customers? Those are the customers you dream about most, the one armed and ready with cold hard cash and soft Coldplay hearts.

Just like any crowded, competitive business category, there are thousands of other used cars for sale on Kijiji.

Only one, however, offers a riveting tale of world-class machismo on wheels.

A compelling saga that made what could have been an otherwise ordinary ad go viral.

Is there something your brand can adapt from this story?

In other words, does your business have a story you can win with?


"People are not inspired to act on reason alone. The key is to unite an idea with an emotion, which is best done through story. In a story, you not only weave a lot of information into the telling but you also arouse your listener's emotion and energy"
ROBERT MCKEE


Would you like Gair to re-energize, re-focus or re-inspire your organization or event? Details on his keynotes and speaking programs can be discovered at http://www.gairmaxwell.com/

His book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" is also waiting patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

Get to know Gair on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#%21/gair.maxwell

For more info on The Seamless Brand and how this program can benefit your company or organization, why not jump in, click and explore http://www.seamlessbrand.com/. You can also follow The Seamless Brand on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/seamlessbrand or plug into The Seamless Brand on FaceBook - http://ow.ly/3VW68

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Taking the First Step


Thirty-one years ago today, Terry dipped a toe into frigid water.

And took the first step.

There was little attention or fanfare. Only a handful of people showed up.

Considering his age, it would have been easy to say he lacked qualifications for the task he was faced with. He had no degree or specialized training, nor had he done anything like this before.

No one mandated him to set out on this journey.

He wasn't being paid.

And there was no shortage of critics and cynics who doubted his committment.

But, on this day, April 12, 1980, Terry was willing to take the first step towards something he had no way of knowing at the time.

An unparalleled marathon of the human spirit.

One that still lives to this day.

The monument that marks that "first step" moment at No. 1 Water Street in St. John's, Newfoundland is quiet and subdued. A simple plaque — hardly noticeable if you're not looking for it. Eventually, a new statue and garden will be installed at "Mile Zero" where Canada's greatest champion against cancer dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean before setting off on his Marathon of Hope.

Terry will end his run on September 1, 1980 in Thunder Bay Ont when cancer is discovered in his lungs. His final battle with cancer will end on June 28, 1981.

But, 5373 kilometres and $1.7 million dollars later, Terry's "first step" sparked a marathon that became a legacy; a legacy deeply embedded in the soul of an entire nation.



Even though you may lack the qualifications, training or experience, even though you might not see any immediate return, is there something happening in your life right now that requires you to take that monumental "first step"?

How long do you wait before taking it?

Or will you let the critics - both internal and external - have the final say?


“Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic”
JEAN SIBELIUS


Would you like Gair to re-energize, re-focus or re-inspire your organization or event? Details on his keynotes and speaking programs can be discovered at http://www.gairmaxwell.com/

His book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" is also waiting patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

Get to know Gair on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#%21/gair.maxwell

For more info on The Seamless Brand and how this program can benefit your company or organization, why not jump in, click and explore http://www.seamlessbrand.com/. You can also follow The Seamless Brand on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/seamlessbrand or plug into The Seamless Brand on FaceBook - http://ow.ly/3VW68

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Defusing the Drama: Final Curtain


You've watched the "Triangle" unfold in the legal system, throughout the media and how it embeds itself in your own family or on the job.

And now you know their names.

VICTIM, VILLAIN and SAVIOUR.

Three convenient roles from which to detonate an endless cycle of blame, criticism, defending, rescuing and guilt, allowing all three “characters” to avoid taking responsibility for their own thoughts, emotions, words, beliefs or behaviour.

As you are slowly realizing, the "Triangle" has a way of silently sucking you in, but once aware, you can begin to train yourself to notice what really happens in a conversation; especially those difficult, “sticky” situations with potential conflict that leave you walking on eggshells. Chase yourself and others around the “Triangle” and you are relegated to living in reaction, settling into a dull and painful existence ruled by the agendas of others and your own subconscious beliefs.

"So, how do I defuse the "Triangle"?

That's easier said than done, but there are some practical steps you can take.

#1. Recognition is Key.

Recognizing the patterns is more than half the battle when it comes to defusing and diminishing the impact. An understanding of Karpman’s "Drama Triangle" provides a roadmap to see where you are in your relational life and where you’re headed. Think of it as a process, not a final destination. No one intentionally enters the "Triangle" - but it's easy to get pulled in when you don’t see it for what it is. It is also good to know what sort of people you are more likely to get into games with. Be especially cautious about surrounding yourself with too many of those types.

#2. Recenter Yourself.

Disengage.

And observe from above.

See yourself as being elevated, as though hovering above the middle of the "Triangle". Watching from an imaginary 200 feet above the drama, observe the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of the VILLAIN, VICTIM and SAVIOUR roles - not to judge but to understand. The emotional co-dependence exhibited by the three roles can be neutralized by practicing this mental form of martial arts. By recentering and taking a more elevated position, you refuse to fight, struggle or yield, thereby marginalizing your adversary and eliminating their power base. If you successfully regain the center and avoid the "sharp edges", your adversary will halt their attacks, rather than risk unmasking themselves and exposing the game.

In his best-selling book, “The Four Agreements”, Don Miguel Ruiz offers two ideas to help recenter and refocus. Firstly, DON’T take anything personally, since what others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you become immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't play the victim. Secondly, DON’T make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. Assumptions are those those less-than-accurate stories you tell yourself as to why you can’t have it. Assumptions are often the only thing keeping you from what you want.

#3. Reclaim 100% Responsibility.

Accountability is power. You cannot change other people, only yourself. When you reclaim 100% responsibility for what's happening, you take back the power of choice and the power to change any situation.

When you make a conscious choice to disengage, recenter and move to higher ground, you also avoid any blaming, attacking, self-pity or enabling. You allow others to make their own decisions and be responsible for their own behavior. You avoid getting sucked into other people's battles and steer clear of indirect communications that involve accusing, condemning or guilt. If you have a problem with someone, discuss it directly with them. If they refuse to disengage, you may have to limit contact in order not to be villainized, guilted, blamed or drawn back in. It is impossible to maintain honest, open, direct communications about any drama that is happening with another person heavily invested in denying it. Instead, try to surround yourself with people who do not play this game so you can learn new ways of interacting with others.

Summary

Whether drama is portrayed in movies, "People" Magazine, the workplace, church, home or school, it thrives and depends on the existence of this "Triangle" to perpetuate the human condition to create variety and escape from boredom. But, if watching television, surfing Facebook, reading newspapers and dwelling on bad news has become habitual, you may be avoiding living a life of honesty, and unwilling to deal with your own emotions and take 100% responsibility for your actions.

Karpman’s “Triangle” is based on lies. Whether you tell lies to yourself or someone else, about data, your emotions or your experience, you slip immediately into the “Triangle” and the addictive process. All positions cause pain. There is no power since the “Triangle” dictates you operate from powerlessness and irresponsibility no matter what position you are playing. Being in the “Triangle” is not being alive; It is a living death; filled with guilt, hurt, regret, inauthenticity and a lack of love and acceptance.

Our lives were never meant to be a performance in which we are only actors, reading a script written by someone else. You can start taking 100% Responsibility by listing everything you know you should be in control of.

- No one made you take the job you own. That is a choice you made.
- No one can make you stay in the house you live in. That is your choice.
- No one forced you to marry or live with that person. That was your choice.
- No one can make you feel miserable. That's a choice.
- No one can motivate you. That is another choice.

Defusing the "Triangle" is rarely done once and for all. We jump on and off all the time. Dismantling this invisible drama bomb is challenging, but well worth the effort. Don’t worry about slipping or getting sucked back in - again.

Be gentle and forgive yourself.

Reestablish boundaries.

And try, try again.


“Conflict cannot survive without your participation”
DR. WAYNE DYER


Would you like Gair to re-energize, re-focus or re-inspire your organization or event? Details on his keynotes and speaking programs can be discovered at http://www.gairmaxwell.com/

His book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" is also waiting patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

Get to know Gair on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#%21/gair.maxwell

For more info on The Seamless Brand and how this program can benefit your company or organization, why not jump in, click and explore http://www.seamlessbrand.com/. You can also follow The Seamless Brand on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/seamlessbrand or plug into The Seamless Brand on FaceBook - http://ow.ly/3VW68

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Defusing the Drama: Opening Act


At some point today, you will confront the "Triangle".

Like an unexploded bomb, the "Triangle" lurks everywhere.

Each day, the "Triangle" threatens to bankrupt the very best of what we have to offer our friends, family and co-workers. Each week, thousands of man hours of productivity are wasted forever as time/energy/money gets sucked like a Hoover into the vacuum of the "Triangle".

Once you see how the drama unfolds, you can assess your role in it.

And measure its impact.

Predictably.

Regretfully, few are aware of this insidious, invisible "Triangle" and its draining, deadly existence.

Who knows, maybe this is the day you finally see the "Triangle" with clarity.

And actually do something about it.

For the record, the "Drama Triangle" is a psychological model of human interaction first described in 1968 by psychologist Dr. Stephen Karpman. Born from a Jewish mother, Karpman barely escaped the persecution of Jews in Europe at the time of the Second World War. He noticed many well-known fairy tales followed a certain simplistic role pattern, and he recognized the same pattern in many families. Karpman observed that people often slip into one of the following three roles: ‘VICTIM’, ‘VILLAIN’ and ‘SAVIOUR’. The tales of Little Red Riding Hood, the Pied Piper, Cinderella and countless others follow this pattern with the VICTIM playing the central role.

The VICTIM sees life as happening to them and believes they are powerless in the face of the onslaught of problems they encounter. But, a VICTIM can’t exist without a VILLAIN, usually taking form of a person, but it could be a condition (maybe a disease or illness?) or a circumstance (a snowstorm or hurricane?).

When a VICTIM encounters a VILLAIN, they hunt for a SAVIOUR, to rescue them or, at least, to alleviate their suffering. SAVIOURS are often other people, but could also be represented by various forms of escapism and/or addiction such as gambling, retail therapy, alcohol or video games.

Many interactions between two or more human creatures duplicate these deeply-rooted, ancestral and often damaging patterns. Like it or not, we are inundated by the "Drama Triangle" daily – whether it be TV shows, movies, the radio, newspapers and novels – or what goes on daily at work or home. As far as people are concerned, the characters who assume their roles in this script can be identified this way:

VICTIMS are helpless and hopeless. Typically they play their part by denying any responsibility for their negative circumstances as well as having the power to clean up their own messes. Mired in self-pity, VICTIMS get to feel “safe” by being submissive and are often:

- Unable to stand up for self and will avoid confrontation.
- Inclined to resort to passive aggressiveness.
- Overly sensitive, wish-washy and unable to make and stick to decisions.
- Stuck and unfulfilled in life but will not risk moving forward.

VILLAINS tend to be people with plenty of answers, but rarely step forward to initiate positive change. VILLAINS enjoy pointing the finger of blame towards VICTIMS while criticizing the enabling behavior of SAVIOURS, without providing constructive solutions. VILLAINS feel “safe” by putting others down and often:

- Resort to verbal or physical force to stay in power.
- Use blame, criticisms and then venting to release stress.
- Are highly judgmental of others, while denying their own weaknesses.
- Feel driven by a strong need to be right.

SAVIOURS constantly apply short-term repairs to a VICTIM's problem, often neglecting their own needs. Taking a “high moral ground”, SAVIOURS get to feel “safe” by enabling others and often:

- Get stuck in a false sense of superiority.
- Need to be in control of others to avoid own feelings and problems.
- Rescue and enable to connect or to feel important.
- Become a martyr when feeling he/she has been taken advantage of by others.

Each corner of this "Drama Triangle" supports the other two.

VICTIMS depend on a helping hand.
VILLAINS search for scapegoats.
SAVIOURS yearn for a basket case.


Visually, both SAVIOUR and VILLAIN are on the upper ends of the "Triangle", assuming a “one-up” position as though they are better, stronger, smarter, or more-together than the VICTIM. Eventually, the VICTIM develops a "pain in the neck" from always looking up. Feeling “looked down upon”, the VICTIM builds resentment. Sooner or later, retaliation follows. Once there is any type of appreciation imbalance (“I’m OK / You’re not OK” (VILLAIN and to some extent SAVIOUR) – or –“You’re OK / I’m not OK” (VICTIM)), predictable drama unfolds.


The VICTIM position is the one the others revolve around. Like a low-pressure weather system that creates hurricanes and tornados by sucking the surrounding air into their void. VICTIMS see themselves as life’s fall guys and use catastrophic language (“everyone,” “you,” “my mother,” “the government”) to describe what others are “doing to them.”

As the drama unfolds, people may suddenly switch roles and others will often switch unconsciously to match this. For example, the VICTIM will often turn on their rescuer, or the SAVIOUR will switch to persecuting. Sometimes the positions are solidly locked and people are heavily invested in staying in their assigned role at all cost. But most of the time, people rotate through the roles so fluidly and effortlessly they don't even realize they are changing their position on the Triangle. Would you believe it is possible to spend an entire marriage, an entire working career, an entire lifetime, rotating around and among these roles?

That being said, most people I know don't get up in the morning and announce things like, "I feel like playing the role of a helpless coward today!" or “Just for the hell of it, I think I’ll go to work and be a complete asshole”. The process is so subconscious, most aren't aware they are dancing to this tune.

You never have to look far to find examples. An unhappy wife and mother forms a triangle with one or more of her children. An unhappy husband triangulates with his work, beer buddies or by having an affair. Gossiping, guilting and backbiting might look safer, but ultimately those are devastating routes to follow instead of the riskier and more rewarding “confrontation.”

You may be familiar with some of the lines in the script that sound like this:

"Why does this Always Happen to Me?”
"See What You Made Me Do!"
"You Got Me Into This!"
"Look How Hard I've Tried"
"I Was Only Trying to Help"


Imagine a person complaining about how awful life is. They are unhappy, their job is boring, their relationship unfulfilling and think they might be depressed. A friend listens in a supportive way as the dialogue unfolds:

VICTIM: “Life sucks. I hate my job and my partner never supports me.”
SAVIOUR: “Well, why don’t you change jobs?”
VICTIM: “Suppose I could, but it will just end up like all my other jobs.”
SAVIOUR: “How about talking to your partner about your unhappiness?”
VICTIM: “I guess I could, but why bother? It won’t make any difference.”
SAVIOUR: “Why don’t we go out, have some fun, take your mind off things?"
VICTIM: "Well, we could but I wouldn’t enjoy myself."

A healthy person will perform in each of the roles occasionally but, pathological role-players actively avoid leaving the familiar and comfortable environment of the game. The underlying purpose for each 'player' is to get their unspoken psychological wishes met in a manner they feel justified, without having to acknowledge the broader dysfunction or harm done in the situation as a whole. As such, each player will act upon their own selfish 'needs', rather than behave in a genuinely adult and responsible manner.

In each case, the "Drama Triangle" is an instrument of crass destruction.

And you can’t or won’t defuse or dismantle it, until you recognize you’re in it.

Once you are consciously aware, you can observe interactions with others as a way to identify your own starting gate position.

From where do you typically enter the "Triangle" once you’ve been sucked in?

What hooks you in the first place?

Would you like to defuse this daily time bomb and dismantle the drama before or while it's happening?

Stay tuned.

More on Thursday.


“Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive - the risk to be alive and express what we really are”
DON MIGUEL RUIZ


Would you like Gair to re-energize, re-focus or re-inspire your organization or event? Details on his keynotes and speaking programs can be discovered at http://www.gairmaxwell.com/

His book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" is also waiting patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

Get to know Gair on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#%21/gair.maxwell

For more info on The Seamless Brand and how this program can benefit your company or organization, why not jump in, click and explore http://www.seamlessbrand.com/. You can also follow The Seamless Brand on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/seamlessbrand or plug into The Seamless Brand on FaceBook - http://ow.ly/3VW68