Is The Culture of Failure Failing Us?

What if success has nothing to do failure? What if success has nothing to do any of the factors we often attribute it to, namely hard work or luck. What if success has everything to do with making calculating decisions that put you in the best position to succeed? Or what if some people are just more apt to succeed than others?

I don’t think we’re ready to have that conversation because that would burst a lot of bubbles.

Hard work is easy to quantify in hours, push-ups, page-count. Anyone can work hard.
Luck takes no effort, it either happens or not.

And admitting some people are just more wired to succeed than others goes against the very fabric of our participation trophy culture. It would hurt too many feelings.

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Joe Biden delivers another gem

With his son days away from passing away, Joe Biden delivered another incredible speech. As he's done throughout his tragic, accomplished and storied life. His story and approach are unique, making him a different kind of politician. One of the few good ones. I don't know this man, but I love him.


There are 38 pages of "Productivity" apps on the App Store (which include a ton of organization apps) that start with C. That's just one letter. Imagine R. Or even L!

Feels like we've way over-engineered things in an effort to make our lives simpler. Added unnecessary complexity to fairly simple problems.

In the last few months I've gone back to written notes, plain to-do lists and my calendar as a primary form of organization.

And at least for now it's working better than ever.

Sometimes an ad is just an ad

For a million reasons I really wanted to like this ad from Whirlpool.

But as soon as I clicked 'play' I was kind of bummed to realize Andy & Dad were actors.
And for a minute after it finished I wondered if it was part of a larger corporate initiative to support single dads.

Basically I wanted it to be Minute Maid or Honey Maid

And it wasn't.

And then I remembered that sometimes an ad is just an ad. And that's more than OK.

And then I found it sweet and delightful. 

Advice? Advice.

Health & Wellness

CC // "Always With The Big" // @W+J

CC // "Always With The Big" // @W+J

Can you imagine the number of words written since the beginning of time on these 5 topics?
Yet somehow we're as clueless now as we've ever been.
Either the advice stinks, or we stink at taking it.

Probably both.

Parents #doingood

The cynic will say this is simply a way to tug at heart strings in order to sell more juice. Or question what right Minute Maid has to even play in this sandbox. 

Well, yes, Minute Maid is in the business of selling juice. They shouldn't have to apologize for that.

And as far as their right ... well, it's not going out on a limb to assume there are a lot of parents who work at Minute Maid (and thus have a connection to this subject). And Minute Maid's audience is families. We're not talking about an oil-filter brand. They have as much right as Honey Maid, who I think has done it really well. (yes, the "maid" connection is odd)

It's simply a case of a brand having a relevant purpose bigger than their product. 

Most importantly, those are real kids, real parents, real letters and real tears. And there are no more real words than: "You get inundated with all this information about what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong. And you start to second-guess yourself."

And it's already started a really nice dialogue about - and appreciation for - parents/parenting. 

Don't let the cynics ruin this one. It's a good effort from Minute Maid.

A Guy

Everyone's got a guy ... a car guy, a diamond guy, a ticket guy, a reservation guy and so on. Having a guy is preferred, if you're to believe the poll (n=5) below. But I bet being the right person's guy for the right thing can be very profitable and fulfilling. 

Why I Love Mother's Day

I love Mother's Day.

Because I love my mom. And because I find it delightful to see all the pictures and kind words people post on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram about their moms. I like seeing where people came from, where they are and what they have to say about the people they love.

It's the same reason I love seeing pictures of Coachella. Or another family's vacation in Sonoma. Or my friend's breakfast sandwich. Or National Siblings day. Or just a bunch of kids sitting on the front stoop.

It's simply a snapshot of a moment someone cares about for whatever reason, and is compelled to share. Their motivation for doing so doesn't concern me. I happen to find it interesting, seeing what people share. And when I get tired of it I just stop looking (rather than complain or shame, which are favorite past times of the internet).

It makes no difference to me if the photos are filtered or cropped; taken with a stick or by a stranger; staged or natural. Zero.

Mother's Day 2015 is on May 10. Can't wait to see your pictures and read your words.

My favorite picture of us. Circa 1988.

My favorite picture of us. Circa 1988.

Love Has No Labels

A wonderfully worthy campaign from my frenemies at R/GA called Love Has No Labels. Educational, engaging, interactive, clickable, sharable, likeable. 

I've seen plenty of bias, but I won't pretend I've ever really experienced it.

The closest I've come is as a single dad. People often assume I'm a babysitter; or my parenting obligations are anything but obligatory; or that I can't love these boys out loud, openly, in a profound way. Which is absurd at best, insulting for sure, and a dangerous lesson to instill in kids at worst.

Anyway, check it out. Good stuff.

Planned Serendipity

When you search Flickr for "chance encounter" you get thousands of results. And so many photos are of groups of people either smiling/laughing or someone having a moment of awe.

Oh, and lots of dogs doing this.

CC // "Chance Encounter" // @jameslaing

CC // "Chance Encounter" // @jameslaing

Every so often I'm reminded (by an article, a discussion, a chance encounter) of Planned Serendipity. It's an unimpeachable notion, at least in my opinion. Thor Muller, author of a book called Get Lucky, puts it really simply (emphasis is mine): 

Always keep goals in mind, but at the same time, be ready to process and utilize the experiences you didn't anticipate. Have a structure in place that enables a constant flow of chance encounters. 

I'm not even a little convinced our education or business infrastructures - let alone we as humans, probably as a result of the way education and business is traditionally done - are wired this way, despite the success of outlier companies like 3M and Google who are. Muller's co-author, Lane Becker:

One of the reasons why people are so adverse to the concept of luck is because we're taught to believe that following certain rules is the way to achieve success. Yet time and time again, we see people who follow the same route end up and in totally different places. We'll often hear that one of those people "got lucky" while the other didn't.  If we look more closely, we'll see that what this really means is that one of the people was better at taking advantage of "chance happenings" that occurred throughout their life.

I love the author's metaphor of the hotel lobby as the essence of planned serendipity. As someone who used to travel massive amounts on my own for business, I loved sitting in hotel lobbies for hours watching this kind of thing happen.


Before You Draw That Line

This isn't even remotely the proper way of thinking about correlation and causation. But it's how I think about it. Regardless ...

I see it happen every day in debates ranging from the serious (vaccinations, global warming, parenting, gun violence) to the relatively benign (celebrity, neighborhood gentrification) to the totally benign (sports).

I can be just as guilty of it as anyone. Thinking about it helps avoid doing it.

It's Like Tying Your Shoes ... But On Your Neck

I was recently at a black-tie wedding. All the men fell into one of four categories:

  1. Those who could tie their own bow tie by practicing beforehand
  2. Those who tried really hard but ultimately (and humbly) had to ask for help
  3. Those who didn't try and (unapologetically) asked for help straight away
  4. Those who wore a clip-on

Kind of a metaphor for life.

By the way, it's really easy to learn.


[Update: Great special edition of the NY Times Magazine about this very topic.]

I walk. A lot.

Apparently so did Steve and Ludwig and Charles and others. 

In the driving rain.
Sweltering heat.
Snow up to my knees.
And of course on perfect spring days.
To work.
Home from the gym.
To the grocery store.
Wandering on a lazy Sunday.

My car often seems like more of a chore than anything. Monthly payments. Maintenance. Car washes. I do love road trips. But those are relatively few and far between.

Walking is one of the last vestiges of my decade+ living New York. 

A lot of people say the beauty of walking a city is experiencing and appreciating things up-close and unexpectedly. That's very true, and happens often to me.

But mostly I prefer walking because I can be in my own head. I don't have to be hyper-aware of other cars or traffic lights or pedestrians. I can get completely lost in a podcast or song or thought. If you haven't experienced that in a while, try it. It's worth it.

I'm driving 250 miles today for meetings. I'll make up for it over the weekend.

(I love this photo. I imagine he's got an important destination; but he's getting there thoughtfully and on his terms.)

CC //  @thebmag  // "You'll Never Walk Alone"

CC // @thebmag // "You'll Never Walk Alone"

Front of the Traffic Jam?

My dad likes to tell a story about me as a kid. More of an anecdote. We'd be stuck in a traffic jam and I'd ask, 'Who's the very first in line?' I guess he found it amusing since he tells it 30+ years later. Never asked him why. I will.

Of course no single person was first in the traffic jam. I learned that eventually, but even read a book about it a few years ago to fully wrap my head around it. I *think* Marc Schiller recommended it, if my memory serves me right.

I've always been interested in first. Not necessarily first place. More like, who was the first person to ever _______? Because the person who did _______ first was probably nuts in all the best ways.

It's why the Guinness Book of World Records fascinates me ... it's theoretically a chronicle of things no one else had accomplished (I use that word loosely) until that point ... tallest, fastest, longest nails, most time in a tree house.

CC / "One" / @   Andrechinn

CC / "One" / @Andrechinn

But first gets really boring when it really just means before you ...

  I discovered that hot new restaurant. (no)
  I heard this band before anyone else. (you)
  I'm doing this new workout that only monks in rural Mongolia know about. (did)
  I bought a home in this neighborhood before any of these yuppies. (not)

Boring because it doesn't mean anything. No accomplishment to be in awe of. Nothing inherently interesting. Trust me, being before me on most anything is not a feat worth bragging about.

Chuck Yeager. Neil Armstrong. Sandra Day O'Connor. Mark Spitz. Harvey Milk. George Washington. Althea Gibson. Ricky Nelson. These are real firsts. They were literally the car at the front of the line - not a single person had ever come before them. That's worth bragging about.

We're Only Human

You probably burn more calories taking a sip of water than clicking the endorse, like, or retweet button.

Brands know it. People know it. Yet we still value and measure it.

It's human nature to want to be loved (or at least liked or respected). Whether anyone admits it or not.

I'm totally fine with that. It doesn't make you/me/us bad or shallow. Just human.

State of Blogging: Not Dead

Declaring the "death of blogging" is like declaring the death of TV. It's one of those hysterical proclamations people make, often and ironically, to drive readers to their blog in an effort to squeeze a few more $$ out of advertisers.

Blogging isn't dying. It's just taking a new form.

LinkedIn. Medium. HuffPo. Even Facebook or Instagram. Blogging is alive and well, albeit different.

CC / "Alive Letters" / @  kaneda99

CC / "Alive Letters" / @kaneda99

What's dying is the ability for gen 1 bloggers, with gen 1 mindsets, to easily monetize their writing.

The best writers I know are writing - blogging - more than ever. They just do so to establish a platform for other business ideas that are far more viable from a financial standpoint.

Instead of bemoaning the death of blogging, they're embracing its next iteration.

As for me, I've always said I started this blog in 2007 as nothing more than a way to collect and save things I find interesting - be it my things or others'.

V Is For Vulnerability

I'm renting a (comfortably modern, in case you were concerned) farmhouse with my kids this week. Perusing the owner's book collection I came across a Seth Godin title (which reminded me of our beef from a few years ago).

Illustrated by Hugh MacLeod, V Is For Vulnerable takes the form of a children's book but addresses big topics like creativity, generosity, joy and fulfilling dreams. I'd not heard of it. And really, it's perfect in that almost-annoying way Godin has of capturing complex topics really simply.

Vulnerability is serious business. Even with cartoon googly eyes. It's not something I consciously thought about until I watched Brene Brown's incredible TED Talk a year or two ago. It's really worth the 20 minutes. Now I think about it often.

What Came First: The Narcissist Or The Selfie Stick?

It's true: we're sharing more than we ever have; and the way we relate to our physical world has changed dramatically. And it does feel really narcissistic. And sometimes really troubling.

But here's the thing. The idea of narcissism far pre-dates Kim Kardashian. Its origins go back to Greek mythology. So I fundamentally disagree that we're any more narcissistic than before (before whenever). And I don't think technology is the enemy (just like the printing press, radio, TV, Elvis and Polaroids weren't the enemy). 

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Purpose = Permission

Honey Maid's response to Indiana's "Religious Freedom" law demonstrates one thing really clearly: Brands that stand for something - that have a purpose beyond their product - can join the conversation on timely social issues in a genuine and meaningful way.

Honey Maid's #ThisIsWholesome initiative (which I previously wrote about here) is far bigger than advertising. It's a foundation (a purpose) on which everything the company communicates can sit. Nicely done.