Don’t You Want To Be Around People Who See You?

“So many questions behind your eyes.” My nametag is my filter. It’s what’s I use to make sense of the people I meet. Yesterday I met a prospective client at their office. After we all exchanged intros and shook hands, the woman to my left asked about my nametag. I told her I always wore it. She smiled and asked, “Really? What’s behind that?” As usual, I offered up the ten second version of my story, we all had a nice laugh, and the meeting pressed on. But I couldn’t help but reflect on her question. What’s behind that? I’ve been wearing a nametag for five thousand days, and I rarely hear those exact words. That’s a leader’s question. That’s pure curiosity. That’s someone with a lot of practice making people feel heard. Sure enough, I found out she was the executive director of the organization. Proving, that if you ever want to know who the most powerful person in the room is, just listen to people’s language. Inspired by a passage from Dead Sleep.

“There’s nothing like being
tossed into necessity to figure out who you are.” 
I’ve moved across the country twice in my life. The first time after college, the second time a decade later. And both experiences taught me volumes about who I was. There’s
something about the gravity of physical displacement that invites your truth to
bubble to the surface. Proving my theory, that the best way to find
yourself is to freight yourself. But here’s the distinction. The first time I moved, I was
alone. Nobody to depend on but myself. And that solitude exacerbated the level
of emotional, existential and mental pain. The second time I moved, I was with my wife. Radically different
experience. Our partnership may not have prevented any storms, but it certainly
gave us a surfboard when the waves of anxiety came crashing in. The point is, there are no truer mirrors than the ringers we
squeeze ourselves through. But the reflection is a million times easier to look at
when somebody you love is standing at your shoulder. Inspired by aninterviewwith Maria Popova.

“Don’t you want to be around people who see you?” Historically, home wasn’t just the place people stood under. It was the place people were understood. It was the community that extended the spirit of belonging through the
practice of psychological visibility. A few thousand years later, not much has changed. We still need to
be seen. We still need our lives to have witness. But we seem to have lost our
ability for analog connection. You know, that whole thing where we look people in the eye and
touch them with our hands and actually talk to them with our mouths? Nothing but a quant relic of the past. This bothers me because I know how much it hurts not to belong. As
someone who never really fit in anywhere, I know of the permanent damage alienation can
do to the psyche. So when it comes to hospitality, I kind of overdo it. Not just because it’s part of my personality
and value system, but because I believe in giving what you need.

“Having a way with people is a lost art.” We can’t exactly list generosity on our resume. Same goes for warmth, encouragement, bravery, empathy, initiative
and all the other intangible arrows in the emotional quiver. Our culture has simply conditioned itself to value the
calculable. If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense. Which is too bad, because quite often, what can’t be
measured, matters. It is the unquantifiable component of the human repertoire
that has the biggest impact on the people around us. I once worked with a girl who had more brains in her pinky finger
than I had in my whole head. We’re talking genius level thinking here. And the cool part is, that wasn’t even her strongest skill. Sure, she was smart. But we’re all smart. Kelly had a way with people. And there’s no advanced degree for that. You either have it, or you don’t.

Let Me Suggest This: 156 Rants, Riffs and Real World Strategies on Business, Branding, Belonging and Believing

Interaction is the agent of human decision.

If someone decides to pay attention to, press the like button for, buy something
from, become a follower of, or tell others about your brand, it’s likely because of an
interaction they had with another human being.

Because real marketing isn’t about what you do to people, it’s about what you enable
people to do to each other. It’s about creating social meaning above and beyond your
product or service.

If your brand is the instrument that connects the disconnected, gets them joyfully
interacting with each other, persuading each other to step out on the dance floor,
influencing each other on your behalf, telling each other about what you do, and
ultimately treating each other as the final authority of trust, you’re the hero.

Because it’s not who you know. It’s not who knows you. It’s whose life is better
connected to other people because they know you.

I wonder what would happen if, in addition to selling a great product, your brand
helped satisfy the underlying social need within each of us to belong. 

*  *  *  *

You can buy this book for $4.99 on Amazon here.

You can download this book as a free PDF here.


Three Brags About Engineering Genius Kelly G. Hering

HELLO, my name is Scott!

But I’m not here to talk about me. Today I want to introduce you to my friend and colleague, Kelly Hering.

For the last three months, Kelly has been a Creative Strategy intern at POKE New York. She and I worked closely on several projects. Sadly, her stint at our company is coming to a close.

But not before I do a little bragging about her performance.

1. Kelly is a utility player. She’s part strategist, part designer, part writer, part thinker, part developer, part engineer and part project manager. She has more arrows in her quiver than anyone I’ve ever come across. And she hits the bullseye ninety percent of the time. Case and point:

2. Kelly is an initiator. The rarest quality of all. The stuff that leaders are made of. Kelly Hering practices agency. Action. Movement. She doesn’t wait for directions. She doesn’t allow ambiguity to slow her down. Although that curly afro can get in the way sometimes.

3. Kelly is world changer. We’re an innovation company. We spend a lot of time researching people whose ideas change the world. In the next ten years, Kelly Hering will be one of those people. Guaranteed. People like her don’t come along very often. And when they do, look out. She changed our world at POKE. I wonder what world she will change next…

We’re going to miss Kelly. She’s not only an engineer with a right brain, she’s an engineer with the right brain.

If you want to learn more or connect with her, go here, here and here.

And if you have any questions about her work at POKE, email me anytime.

Zen and The Art of Wearing Nametags: How I Achieved Social Enlightenment Through A Silly Experiment

Hello, my name is Scott!

I wear a nametag twenty-four-seven.
Yes, even to bed. And in the shower. 

But we’ll cover that later.

As the world record holder of wearing nametags – yes, I actually hold that prestigious title – I’ve
spent the last five thousand days of my life on mission: 

Not to convince the whole world to wear
nametags, but rather, to remind the everyone that they already do.

That’s what people say to me: “I wish everybody wore nametags!”

But that’s just it. We already do. All of us. Every one of us wears a nametag every day.

It might not be a sticker on a shirt or a badge at a conference. But it’s there. Whether we like it or
not. As human beings, it’s impossible to walk through this world without broadcasting who we

A nametag is a celebration of identity, an invitation for openness and a declaration of social
belonging. It’s an acknowledgement, a human equalizer and a distance reducer. A nametag is a
choice to label ourselves before others get a chance to.

And so the question isn’t, “Should you wear a nametag?” but rather, “What’s written on it?”
“How will you choose to wear it?” and “What will you do when people try to rip it off?”

Sound like an ancient proverb?

It is.

*  *  *  *  *

You can buy this book on Amazon for $4.99 here.

You can download a free PDF of the book here.


A Lot Of Talent But An Equal Measure Of Temperament

“Any field requires imagination if you want to be good at it.” Everyone is creative. Everyone. Even lawyers and accountants and republicans. Creativity is the dominant feature of the human endowment, the only common currency our species has and the highest example of what it means to be a person. And what drives me crazy is, the people who claim they aren’t creative. Bullshit. What they’re really saying is, they had it beaten out of them. Or they were taught not to value it. Or they buried their creative urges under a thousand pounds of cynicism. Or they chose to let their imaginative muscles atrophy from lack of use. But nobody isn’t creative. That’s like saying chocolate isn’t sweet. 

“People are always trying to shake my faith, as if the foundation weren’t already flimsy enough.” It costs nothing to encourage. That I knew. But I had no idea how powerful encouragement was until I actually had people to encourage every day. Holy crap. It’s like oxygen to people’s souls. When someone we care about is clearly questioning their own value, beating themselves up for not being useful to the world, the best gift we can give them is encouragement. And it doesn’t matter how they receive it, either. Not everyone is good at accepting a gift like that. What matters is that we make the effort. Not just to encourage people to become more of what they are. But to empower people to become what they never thought they could be. To help people believe that something bigger is possible for them. That’s magic. Inspired by yoga doubters.

“It’s not a flaw, it’s a feature.” The moment we discover someone isn’t like us, our first response is to round down and label their behavior as a negative. But most of the time, it’s not a weakness or a flaw or a liability, it’s just who they are. I have a friend who’s a complete asshole, but he knows it, he owns it and most importantly, he uses it to bring out the best in others. When he questions every idea you have, it’s not a personal attack, it’s just his way of making you search for another answer. Maybe even a better answer. And that’s hard for some people to handle, but once you understand who he is and how he operates––plus, how valuable his brilliance can be––you start to appreciate his assholery. Inspired by a sassy librarian.

“Comedy takes a lot of talent but an equal measure of temperament.” Polarity fascinates me. The yin and yang of life, the simultaneity of two opposing forces pulling at each other like taffy, I just think that’s interesting as hell. And I came across another example this week. The trouble with being persuasive is, you can compel yourself into a corner. Being an exceptional presenter goes a long way, but if the theater of the idea is better than the idea itself, the integrity of your creative foundation collapses. Conversely, the trouble with being gifted is, your genius can go unnoticed. Being brilliant is an great asset, but if you’re not as convincing as you are talented, you’ll always be winking in the dark. Inspired by a fascinating interview with the man who knows everything about nothing.

The Knots Grow Tighter On The Ropes That Bind Us

“Who we are at seven is who we are forever.” When I was a kid, I was always the first one done with the exam. After fifteen minutes, I’d look up from my desk and realize everyone else was still on the second page. Woops. So my teachers cocked their heads. They figured I was either cheating, rushing or didn’t care. And my classmates rolled their eyes. They thought I was either kissing ass or showing off. But neither was true. I’m simply wired to work fast. Velocity is part of my genetic package. And it’s a pattern that’s persisted in every phase of my life. Both positively and negatively. As an entrepreneur and artist, speed is blessing. There’s nobody to slow you down and there’s an infinite pile of work to do. Bam. Done. Next item. But as a team member, you can become a victim of your own efficiency. Working with different personalities at different velocities, speed can create friction. What’s the holdup? Doesn’t everybody here work fast? Why can’t you be more like me? And that comes off as impatient and unempathetic. When it’s really just a difference in wiring. Maybe we should call an electrician.

“Who cares what you got on the test if you have a superpower?” The great human irony is, you’re always the last one to recognize your own value. You’re simply too close to yourself. You don’t have the eyes to see your highest abilities. So you need people in your life to be mirrors and witnesses and encouragers. The ones who make sure your potential doesn’t go to waste. Today a friend of mine spontaneously and nonchalantly demonstrated a skill he’d been practicing his whole life, but didn’t realize it was a superpower. So I started asking him about it. Wait, what did you just do? Where did you learn that? Is that something you do all the time? Can you teach me how to do that? Johnny chuckled a bit, but only because he was just being himself. Doing what he does. And he had no idea how valuable that really was. 

“Every day the knots grow tighter on the ropes that bind us.” For ten years, mindfulness meditation was my daily ritual for maintaining sanity, managing anxiety and motivating creativity. Without it, I’m not sure I would have survived my twenties. But like many of life’s endeavors, meditation reached a point of diminishing returns. The buzz wasn’t having the same affect anymore. And that totally bummed me out. But despite my efforts to cling to this thing that was so magical and intimate and useful, I knew I had to let it go. Which, I suppose, is the whole point of meditation anyway. And on the upside, not needing to meditate isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s like what comedians always say. You know you’ve made when you’re not doing comedy anymore. Inspired by abook on depression every artist should read.

“People are in love with you, but then all of a sudden, they can’t wait to watch you fail.” In my hall of fame of songwriting, there are a handful artists whose work is so brilliant and inspiring, that when I listen to their music, I actually get angry that I’m not as good. To the point where I press the stop button, go grab my guitar and songbook and try to improve my own work. Leonard Cohen, Bright Eyes, These United States, Tom Waits, just to name a few. And that’s the difference between jealousy and envy. Jealousy is healthy. The root wordjalousie translates to “enthusiasm, love and longing.” Which means you have something I want, that upsets me, and now I’m motivated to work hard and get the same for myself, so thank you. Envy, on the other hand, is dangerous. The root wordinvidere translates to “casting an evil eye.” Which means you have something I want, that diminishes me, and now I’m determined to knock you down to feel better about myself, so fuck you. Interesting comparison. Inspired by an interview withDennis Crowley.

Three Reasons Your Company Should Hire Johnny Sciortino

HELLO, my name is Scott! 

But I’m not here to talk about me. Today I want to introduce you to my friend and colleague, Johnny Sciortino.

For the last three months, Johnny has been a Creative Strategy intern at POKE New York. He and I were desk buddies and worked closely on several projects. Sadly, his stint at our company is coming to a close.

Which means your company has an opportunity hire him.

And I’ll give you three reasons why:

1. Johnny is a brilliant communicator. The man writes with the precision and eloquence of a professor. The man speaks with the charisma and comedy of a performer. The man argues with the lucidity of a trial lawyer. Most of today’s colleges graduates don’t even know how to talk to people with their mouths. Case and point:

2. Johnny is a actual gentlemen. That’s a rare breed these days. Especially in a big city. Somebody who acts with manners, class and maturity. That’s Johnny. His trademark bow tie isn’t just a style, it’s a symbol of a value system. And it needs to infect your company.

3. Johnny is a worker. I’ve heard rumors about this generation of young professionals. Supposedly they’re entitled, lazy and unempathetic. Not Johnny. He’s the first person in the office every day. Except that one week he broke his toilet. But we gave him a pass on that one. Shit happens.

We’re going to miss Johnny. His presence, his personality and his brain.

But your company doesn’t have to.

Get in touch with him here, here and here.

And if you have any questions about his work at POKE, email me anytime.

I Want To Be A Surprise, Not An Expectation

“I’d much rather be the one creating things that people react to than be the one just sitting back reacting, too scared to make anything.” My first album wasn’t exactly my finest work. The lyrics were laughable, the singing was tolerable at the guitar playing was passable. But the best part about the record was, it was done. I could hold it in my hands. I could share it with my friends.Which meant I was a real life songwriter, not just a bundle of teenage aspiration. To me, that’s what mattered most. Prolificacy over perfection. And what’s crazy is, fifteen years later, that same philosophy still guides my work. Whether it’s writing blogs, performing music, drawing thinkmaps or publishing books, I’m not interested in having the best batting average. I don’t care about being the most valuable player. I just want to play every game. And I want to stay in the league until I collapse on the mound into a pile of dust and sweat. Who needs quality when you have continuity? Who needs accuracy when you have volume? Thanks for the inspiration, Shepard Fairey.

“The place where we can be most human, articulate and alive.” One of the reasons we moved to a new city was, we needed to live somewhere that was big enough for us. Big in geography, where there was a diversity of landscapes to explore. Big in ambition, where there was a shared sensibility to harmonize with. Big in opportunity, where there was a permissionless platform to build on. Big in conductivity, where there was a current of creativity to plug into. And big in acceptance, where there was a inherent level of openness to commune with. Maybe size matters after all. Inspired by Vincent Van Gough and his lifetime of blues.

“I want to be a surprise, not an expectation.” I remember a great moment with one of my clients years ago. He said to me, “You kind of sneak up on people.” And I took that as both a compliment and a reminder. Because predictability has its place. When we sit down with a people, there’s a certain amount of box checking that has to happen. Clients have to believe they’re getting the brand they thought they were getting. Otherwise, there’s always that mental wall standing between us and them. But ultimately, surprise is what separates us from the competition. Surprise is what compels human interest. Surprise is what creates anxiety in the air, and that’s best time to give someone new ideas. If all we ever did was check people’s boxes, our interactions would lack the magic and meaningfulness that inspire people to break out of them. Sparked by a beautifully written profile.

“What you’re good at, you’re bad at.” Attention deficit disorder affects millions of people each year. And it results in a great deal of emotional pain and disappointment. But the other side of the fence isn’t always a picnic.I’m one of those weirdos with hyperfocus. Intensely engrossed with the task at hand, to the point where all emotion drains from my face, I lose awareness of my surroundings and different points of view don’t dare cross my path. Which sounds like a superpower. And in a way, it is. But one time I was so zoned out during a writing kick, I spilled hot tea down my pants and didn’t even notice. The point is, there are two sides to every cognitive coin. And whatever side of it we’re on, we should find a way to leverage our limitations, not medicate them. Inspired by celebrities with diseases.

We’re Getting An Education Without Realizing It

“We’re not supposed to be one thing in life.” Peeling the human onion is one of life’s great joys. Any time we get exposed to a new layer of someone we know, it’s always a fascinating moment. Like when the guy we see at the gym every week releases a new documentary. Or when the girl we sit next to at work launches her own line of stuffed animals. We never look at those people the same way again. Our experience of them grows richer with every new layer we peel back. They do, in fact, contain multitudes, and we are fortunate enough to witness a small part of that. That’s the way human connection should be. Organic, piecemeal and enduring. Incrementally availing ourselves to the people in our world. It makes life more interesting. It keeps humanity on the balls of its feet, always begging for more. Inspired by tough shit.

“The sharing economy is evidence that people still depend on each other.” When I started my business over a decade ago, there was no social media, no smartphone technology and no video conferencing. All we had was email, instant messenger and landlines. Which got the job done, but it made collaboration less accessible and more expensive. Plus, the only people we could count on were our friends. Fast forward to today. Now that it’s easier than ever to connect with each other, it’s also easier than ever to depend on each other. Elance, for example, made me a more trusting person. The vendor I took a chance on did outstanding work and I’ve rehired and referred him multiple times. That’s a huge win for our species. I’m all for any tool that brings out the inherent goodness of people and restores my faith in humanity. 

“Tearful friends who forgot what they were worth after years without a paycheck.” Something very real and scary happens in your psyche when you stop earning for an extended period of time. You feel useless because you’re not contributing financially. You feel devalued because you’re not earning a living. You feel limited because you’re not in a position to spend. You feel guilty because your time isn’t spent productively. And you feel lethargic because you’re not engaged in meaningful work. I’ve spent two summers unemployed, once in my twenties and once in my thirties. The only difference was, the second time, I had a supportive partner to keep the shit at shoe level. Makes a massive difference. Inspired byopting in.

“We’re getting an education without realizing it.” Impatience has officially become our national pastime. We’ve conditioned ourselves to expect everything to arrive yesterday. Modern technology has shifted our expectation from “good, fast and cheap” to “perfect, now and free.” But the bigger problem, the collateral damage of this explosion, is that we’ve all become assholes. Spend twenty minutes in any airport, and you’ll experience humans at their jerkiest. Listen to a customer service phone conversation, and you’ll hear people at their wit’s end. Not because they’re bad people, but because their expectations were violated. And companies don’t have the bandwidth to cope with that magnitude of emotion. Ten years ago, three-day shipping for a new shirt would have been seen as a minor inconvenience. Today, customers would totally blow something like that out of proportion. They’d fly into rage over the completely inconsequential, generalizing a small frustration into a broad, unrestrained sense of anger that simmers for days and effectively ruins the whole family’s entire weekend.

Even If There’s Only One Butt In The Seat

“True life comes when we’re willing to admit that we’ve
reached the end of ourselves.” 
When I decided to retire from entrepreneurship, there was a noticeable grieving process. Which makes sense, since grief is the human response to the death of something we’ve formed a bond with. And if you ask anyone who’s ever owned a business before, that bond is like none other. For most entrepreneurs, it’s hard to tell where they end and the enterprise begins. So in a way, a career transition is like a death. The death of a job, the death of a lifestyle and the death of a mindset. And I remember all of the stages of grieving manifesting themselves. First I tried to deny it, holding onto beliefs that were too convenient to be killed. Then I became angry, beating myself up and harboring resentment for others. Next came bargaining, in which I scrambled around with a hammer, trying to turn everything into a nail. Then came depression, where getting out of bed was a legitimate challenge. And eventually came acceptance, when I wrote a letter of resignation to myself and experienced a euphoric lightness of being. Inspired by drops like stars

“Customers develop solutions for their communications problems that we never thought of before.” Contrary to cynical opinion, smart companies like Twilio aren’t using social media to get other people to do their job. They’re taking a risk by being vulnerable, collaborative and honest. They’re getting the best out of users, not by telling them what to do, but by creating a space for them to do it. I’m surprised more companies didn’t learn that lesson four years ago when Jeff Jarvis first wrote about being a platform. It’s not about going digital, it’s about enabling people. It’s about making it easy for them to build value. And it’s about getting out of the way so they can make use of everything they are. The cool part is, once organizations start viewing themselves as platforms, not companies, the collective posture of their culture changes for the better.

“Yearning to be heard and remembered in the face of so much annihilation.” Performance is second nature to me. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been motivated by a captive audience. Even if there’s only one butt in the seat, I can’t help but put on a show. And overall, that predisposition has served me well both personally and professionally. On the other hand, my greatest strength is often my greatest weakness. And sometimes the need to perform backfires. Sometimes it even ricochets. Like when I’m so focused on being funny, I forget to be honest. Or when I’m so excited about writing eloquently, I forget to communicate clearly. That doesn’t just affect me, it affects the people around me. That’s what happens when you see people as audience members, not human beings. Inspired by a book about friendship during the recession.

“Later is like the horizon, it recedes when you approach.” The key to time management is assuming there’s never a good time to do anything. Once you operate on that assumption for a few months, you quickly knock out most of the productivity excuses that get in the way. Because it’s not about finding time, it’s not even about making time, it’s about stealing it. Grabbing tiny moments from the crowded day and making a meal out of them. How do you think I write all those books? Once sentence at a time. And that’s not a cliche, either. I literally write sentences, all day. It’s the essential act of my profession. And if you do the math, it adds up quickly. Five words a sentence, twenty sentences a day, thirty days a month, twelve months a year. That’s thirty thousand words. That’s a book. Inspired by a mindfuck of a book called Dead Sleep.

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