Just Another Cash Grab

I’ve left a
lot of money on the table.

When I think
back to all the projects, pitches, partnerships and potential opportunities I said
no to over the years, I’m it sure it adds up to a nice chunk of change.

But why
dilute the enterprise? Why create something just for the money? Why say yes to a
project just because it’s easy, popular or worst of all, monetizeable?

It’s just
another cash grab.

just because the path is paved with gold doesn’t mean the destination will make
me any happier. In my experience, the less passion it takes to start, the less
meaning it creates in the end.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m too picky. Maybe stubbornness is
getting expensive.

I guess what’s reassuring is, the more distance I get from
the opportunities I rejected, the more thankful I become that I held out.
Especially when I see the look of regret in the eyes of someone who got seduced
by the power of the quick buck.

That’s the
power of a positive no.

We are
identified by what we do, but we are defined by what we decline.

Most People Would Rather Hear No Than Nothing

The speed of the response is the response.

In an impatient world where everything
matters and everybody’s watching, the smartest thing we can do is get back to
people promptly, not just when we can.

Even if the answer is no. Even if the answer is I don’t know. That we actually
responded immediately is rare enough to be remarkable. That we actually showed
up and dared to care is enough to make most of us happy.

Most people would rather hear no than hear nothing.

Assume The Volume is Always Up

There’s an inverse relationship between size and surrender.

I learned this from my friend Devon, a veteran of the
landscaping industry.

He tells a story about running the marketing department of a
large organization. Like many corporate behemoths, his company leadership
scrambled to stay in control of what every employee said. Every time they logged
on, checked in linked up, there was always some manager looking over their shoulder, screening tweets and monitoring status updates for potential

Which might sound smart from a liability standpoint, but it
also sounds like a lot of work, constantly turning the volume up and down like

When the reality is, it’s easier to assume
the volume is always up.

To go about our days knowing that
everything matters, everybody’s watching and everything’s a performance, and
that we’re always in danger of becoming known for what we’re about to do.

That way, instead killing ourselves trying to edit every
word we publish, we simply act from a place of integrity and class, hoping that
our language will follow suit.

Peter Drucker was right.

Trust is always cheaper than control.

Breathe Rarified Air Into People’s Lives

Thought leadership is not an accident.

If you want to position yourself as a person worth paying
attention to, you have to bring some original magic to the table. Fearlessly
giving your gifts to the world,breathing rarified air into people’s lives,
through every piece of content you publish.

Start by having a
stance on why the world doesn’t make sense.
Take time each day to rant
about the injustice of the world. Start by doing so privately. Use dissatisfaction
as your ember of initiative. Then, make it worth publishing by attaching practical
suggestions to pessimistic thoughts. Otherwise you’re just complaining.

Continue by infusing a
modern sensibility into a classic context.
Show your audience something
they might reject instantly, but then tell them to look behind it. Build a
beautiful reminder of what could be,still capture the universal human
experiences we all share, and you’ll thrill people’s imaginations forever.

Accentuate by making
passion palpable and recurrent.
When you see something and can’t wait to
share it, don’t hold back. Through your online messaging, insist that a whole
new world is bursting forth and everyone everywhere can be a part of it. That’s
how you equip people to spot the new story with their own eyes.

That’s thought leadership, and it’s not an accident.

Because it’s one thing to have something to say.

It’s another to just have to say something.

Make Peace With The Pile

The pile never gets to zero.

When we choose to go our own way, take the road less
traveled and hire ourselves, there will always more to do, all the time,
forever, until we die. Or go out of business.

It’s an infinite regression. Like two opposing mirrors,
Parkinson’s Law proves that the list of stuff to do, things to learn and people
to contact will continue to refill itself in perpetuity. And there’s nothing we
can do to stop it.

Initially, it’s overwhelming. We feel like we’re never making
any progress with our enterprise, or, worse yet, moving in reverse. Not exactly

But over time, we learn to honor the pile. We make peace
with it. We even joust with it. And we give thanks to the small business gods
for it because, unlike most of the world, our job is rarely boring. There’s
always something to be done.

Certainly makes the day go by faster.

Passion Isn’t a Search, It’s a Checklist

I don’t remember not knowing what my passion was.

Since I was four years old, I always had
an honest understanding about what I loved, what I was good at and where I was born
to invest meaning. Unlike a lot of the world, passion was never something I had
to search for. It was just there. Waiting for me.

But it’s not because I was special, it’s
because I was surrounded.

my family,
who kept the door of opportunity open.
They created an artistic home life that fortified, fostered and challenged
creativity. And they never asked me to edit myself about whatever captured my

my teachers
, who spotted the trends early. They
knew I was motivated by multiple passions, and they always let me keep them in
play and in communication with each other. And they never told me that what I
was obsessed with was wrong or weird.

my mentors,
who took me under their wings. They saw something in me
that someone once saw in them, pulled me aside, pulled me in close and gave me
a front row seat to my own brilliance. And they never let me bury my music.

By my friends, who
nurtured my insanity. They affirmed and encouraged my most idiosyncratic
personality traits, even if it got us into trouble. And they never asked me to
be anyone other than me.

That’s why I never had to look far to
find my passion.

The people who surrounded me crushed
the walls that usually obscured it.

They helped me remember who I
was before the world told me who I was supposed to be.

Because of them, passion was never a search, it was just a

Are You Worth Being Tired For?

There are four words we need to hear.

“It was worth it.”

Whether we’re interacting with customers, employees,
students, vendors, fans, readers or listeners, the ultimate goal is to be worth
it in their eyes.

Worth noticing, worth crossing the street for, worth
standing in line for, worth taking a picture of, worth paying extra for, worth
showing off, worth socializing around, worth blogging about, worth sharing with
others, worth being tired for, worth getting yelled at for, worth being sore
for, worth sitting trough traffic for, worth coming back for, and worth saving

Is your brand worth it?

The Belonging Sessions 014: Brian Lemond from Brooklyn United and Brooklyn Digital Foundry

A division of Brooklyn United, Brooklyn Digital Foundry directs and produces engaging video and visualization pieces to connect brands with online and offline audiences.

I sat down with Brian Lemond and posted three crucial questions on belonging:

1. Good brands are bought, but great brands are joined. Why do you think your employees join yours?

Both of our businesses,Brooklyn Unitedand theBrooklyn Digital Foundry, have grown up as DIY operations. They were
founded on simple things: curiosity about the marriage of design and
technology; a desire to make something; and a commitment to busting as much ass
as it took. The key thing supporting our brands’ growth, both from a
client-side and a recruiting/retention side, is we’ve stayed true to those
origins, that ethos. That consistency allows us to be very sincere when
presenting the companies, and our audiences recognize that sincerity and want
to connect with it.

We often say in the studio that today’s marketplace is about showing off your
true self, and having faith there’s an audience for that. We’ve translated that
into a handy catch-phrase: Be You. Be Loved. 

2. The great workplaces of the world have soul.
What do you do to humanize your culture?

The most visible thing on this front is, ironically, a dog
named Oscar. A lot of offices in theNew York Digital District(NYDD), aka DUMBO, Brooklyn, are pet-friendly,
but we wouldn’t trade Oscar for anything.

More officially, we humanize the studio culture by treating people well. We
recognize our employees have two agendas: doing a good job for us and realizing
their own dreams. We produce better work and have happier employees the more we
know about both sides of that equation. So communication is a huge concern for
us and we’re always looking for ways to improve our dialogue within the studio.
We encourage sharing of information both formally and informally, we make sure
periodically the team puts down their mice, laptops, and tablets and chills
out, but most importantly, we ask questions and listen to the answers. I think
as a result the studio ends up being a reflection of everyone in it; the
culture is grown rather than passed down from the top.

3. Belonging is a basic human craving. How do
you remind employees that they’ve found a home?

We want to be a part of something, but we want that something to be going
somewhere or accomplishing something. In our studio, the indicators/reminders are the very things that define any
community — shared experience, recognition of individuals, historical
awareness, celebration of accomplishment, and so on. That’s the macro view. At
a more granular level, that translates into the simple things like actually
caring about each other. When you ask people questions, they can tell when you
don’t care about the answer. I’ve worked in offices and with people where that sense
of community, that interpersonal connection, was not present. Guess what? I’m
no longer at those places and I didn’t bring those people with me.

We spend a great deal of time and energy, much of it just being extremely
patient, looking for the right people to join our team. When we find them, we
do our level best to let them know we don’t take them for granted. My hope is
if we’re clear and open enough about how much we value them — their ideas,
their time, their contribution — they’ll feel they’ve found something like a

Thanks Brian!

Start Together, End Together

When I was twelve years old, my dad taught me how to play music.

One of the first lessons he taught me
was, it doesn’t matter how good the song sounds, as long as you start together
and end together, you’re still a rockstar.

And whether you’re playing music, pitching
a customer, telling a story, professing your love, giving a speech, firing an
employee or giving any kind of performance, this approach works for a few

the bookend keeps you safe.
By knowing exactly
what you’re going to say at the start and finish, you never have to worry about
weak openings or flat endings. Most people only remember the first and last
words out of your mouth anyway. May as well make them memorable.

the bookend gives you permission.
By setting
parameters on the performance, you create space for the material to breathe.
This creates room for spontaneity, leaves the door open for lightning to strike
and allows you to respond to the immediate experience. That way, the
audience isn’t just another stop on your route of rote.

Third, the bookend
keeps you focused.
By owning the frame, you keep yourself within the
allotted time. This helps you manage the clock, add material when needed and
cut material when necessary. That way, when it’s time to wrap things up, you
can move right into your close.

Start together, end together.

Let the middle take care of itself.

That’s how you become a rockstar.

The Power of Acute Sales Pressure

I started my business the day I graduated college.

And unlike many of my counterparts, I had no debt to cover,
no spouse to support, no kids to feed, no employees to motivate, no coworkers
to support, no community responsibilities to fulfill and no social obligations
to juggle.

Sound liberating? It
And I’m eternally grateful that I was in that position for so long.
Certainly sustained my productivity.

The only drawback was, it made me less hungry. It made it
too easy not to care. If I didn’t make a sale, nobody’s life suffered except my
own. If I didn’t bring in new business, the repercussions were nominal.

Meanwhile, my older colleagues with looming mortgage
payments and recurring pediatrician bills were scrambling to close deals, lest
their families lose faith in their breadwinning abilities.

That’s why I didn’t make any money for three years – I
didn’t have to. There was never a deep-seeded motivation to develop that

If I had to do it again, I think I would have installed more
acute sales pressure early on.

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