Manifesto: On creative resilience

I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience lately. What it means to move through ordeals, opportunities and adventures with your energy and your enthusiasm for your work, and life in general, close to intact. And in the midst of it, to remain creative and focused. This week’s Monday Manifesto couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks to Brain Pickings as always for alerting me to it, and to illustrator Wendy MacNaughton and writer Courtney E. Martin for the wisdom.



Manifesto: On Writing

I miss writing. For the pure unconstrained joy of it. Not being aware of structure and arcs and rules and just freeing words from my brain and putting them down in some permanent way. In order to have that freedom again, I need to bring back the discipline and order. Sounds a bit like a paradox, but it makes sense to my synapses. In trolling for a manifesto on writing I came across these words for wordplayers  from author K.M. Weiland.

Happy Manifesto Monday to the writers of the world!

Writer Manifesto


“Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.” – Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of Writing & Creative Daily Routine


Commit. Create. Content.

I love the natural times in a year for a reset.

Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Birthdays, Anniversaries, unplugged vacations.

Those calendar prompts to reassess where your life is, and where you’d like it to go. To purge the unnecessary from your life; to open up to possibility; to identify the important; to free space up for serendipity.

A nod once again to Chris Brogan, whose post on his 3 Words a few years ago inspired a tradition for me.

It’s about boiling down the things I want to focus on to three words. Often you’ll find that they have a natural synergy with that long list of resolutions you may be writing up. And they are pretty dang handy for a mantra to keep within eyesight.

My 3 Words for 2013 | Commit. Create. Content.
(Can you tell I’m a sucker for alliteration?)

Commit I’m a master at passionately discussing a point, a side, an idea, an argument. But where I often fall short is committing to seeing it through. Yes, I’m a CEO and entrepreneur – so I must have followed through at one point! But nowadays my focus has been a bit off. My commitment to projects I believe in has waned. I want it back. Getting fit. Getting that book written. Taking that nugget of an idea beyond the brainstorm phase. I’m going to commit to them and more. Which leads me to my second word of the year…

Create I’ve been noodling over this idea for another IgniteBoise presentation – Why Every Business Owner Needs to Make Sausage. I do mean literally, make sausage (see photo evidence to the left.) It’s about the need for us desk jockeys and business owners to move beyond the email, the conference call, the office meetup and the strategy meeting. While all are important, many of us (author included) have moved away from the joy and satisfaction that comes in creating something tangible on a regular basis. At the end of every day, have you created something that will live beyond that day? That will live outside of you? That can be passed along and shared? Be it a poem, a meal, a painting, a sweater, a video, a photograph, a home improvement project or a blog post. And that takes me to the third word…

Content I’ve been fighting against this word in various ways for sometime. It sounds unsexy to me, uninspiring, unimportant. I much prefer ‘storytelling’. But I’ve come to realize it is not all about a story. Sometimes, it is about facts visualized, or a turn of a phrase, or complexity explained in common language, or an experience shared or a question answered… More than anything – this word encompasses what is most important to me and to my profession, and to where innovation is taking us. Beyond the channels, beyond the ‘social xyz’, beyond the technology… It’s about what we put out into the world – through images, video, audio, written word. It’s about the content. Come to think of it, it always has been. But we often stray away it – lured by the shiny object dangling in the distance.

So my mantra for 2013, my 3 words that will be my touchstone this year – Commit. Create. Content.

What are yours?




Giving Thanks for the Stress, Dips, Conflict and Nudges

I’ll admit, it’s cliche to pause once a year and reflect on the blessings we have and give thanks. We all know we should do it more often.

But I need a reminder…and the season is fitting.

While I’m eternally grateful for the love and support of my family and friends, this post is written with my small business owner hat on.

Too often business owners and entrepreneurs focus only on the step on the stairs right in front of them, instead of pausing on each landing to reflect on how far they’ve come, to take a breath, to appreciate the pain and the triumph and give thanks for it all.

Though uncomfortable, I’m thankful for the stomach-churning stress, it reminds me I’m still in motion.

Thanks too for the hives and sometimes feelings of panic, they reinforce the passion I feel for what I do and how serious I take it.

Thanks for the conflict and discord, the disagreement and discourse. Through sharing differences of opinion my colleagues make me think broader and deeper and better.

And to that point, I’m thankful that I’m not surrounded by yes-women and yes-men. The no’s and maybe’s and meh’s always nudge an idea in creation into something better.

While I’m in the midst of the ride I don’t really appreciate the dips on the roller coaster. But looking back – those down cycles sure make me realize how high the ups are.

I have gratitude for the hyperspeed nature of my industry, forcing me to be on my toes to keep up and try to stay ahead.

Thanks too for my competitive nature, which keeps me up at night when I feel like I’m falling behind and inspires me to try harder.

I deeply appreciate the close community of friends near and far, online and offline, who are there as sounding boards, focus groups, feedback channels and just plain-friendly-advice-offerers. Thanks for pushing, prodding and encouraging.

And I’m grateful that nearly five years ago I was forced out of my comfort zone. Without that nudge of a job disappearing, I may never have had the nerve or necessity to embark on an entrepreneurial journey.



The Rise & Reign of the Guru Geek

Full disclosure straight off the top.

As of November 5, 2012 I had never heard of Nate Silver.

File:Nate Silver 2009.pngThat probably makes me one of the only self-professed news nerds in the country to not have a pre-election brain crush on the man that has single-handedly changed the conversation about election analysis.

Per wikipedia, Nate Silver is an American statistician, sabermetrician, psephologist, and writer; author of the FiveThirtyEight blog and the book The Signal and the Noise.

Per thousands of Americans, he’s the guy that showed pundits their place and elevated analysis of math and stats to rockstar levels.

And I believe he’s one of many household names that will increasingly enter our consciousness as we seek those who can make sense of the noise.

As noted in the New York Times review of Silver’s book

What Silver is doing here is playing the role of public statistician — bringing simple but powerful empirical methods to bear on a controversial policy question, and making the results accessible to anyone with a high-school level of numeracy. The exercise is not so different in spirit from the way public intellectuals like John Kenneth Galbraith once shaped discussions of economic policy and public figures like Walter Cronkite helped sway opinion on the Vietnam War. Except that their authority was based to varying degrees on their establishment credentials, whereas Silver’s derives from his data savvy in the age of the stats nerd.

We no longer have Cronkite. No longer can we point to an authoritative trusted voice in the national media that a large portion of the country doesn’t think is biased in one form or another.

So no voice from on high, and more information than ever at our fingertips could lead to mass confusion. Where do we go?

That’s where the geeks come in and kick the pundits’ tuckuses. Over to you ReadWrite:

“This is about the triumph of machines and software over gut instinct.

The age of voodoo is over. The era of talking about something as a “dark art” is done. In a world with big computers and big data, there are no dark arts.

And thank God for that. One by one, computers and the people who know how to use them are knocking off these crazy notions about gut instinct and intuition that humans like to cling to. For far too long we’ve applied this kind of fuzzy thinking to everything, from silly stuff like sports to important stuff like medicine.”

That means there is an important shift going on in the workplace. A new emphasis on skillsets that rely on interpreting and analyzing more than pontificating and postulating.

“Data analysis is the process of finding the right data to answer your question, understanding the processes underlying the data, discovering the important patterns in the data, and then communicating your results to have the biggest possible impact. There is a critical shortage of people with these skills in the workforce, which is why Hal Varian (Chief Economist at Google) says that being a statistician will be the sexy job for the next 10 years.” (Jeff Leek via Coursera)

The Harvard Business Review’s October issue on Big Data emphasized that trend, noting that business leaders will need to harness the data scientists, ‘the people who can coax treasure out of messy, unstructured data’ while still maintaining the ability to articulate vision and bring human insight to the cold, hard data.

As communication professionals, the onus will be on us to identify, gather, interpret and showcase data like never before. To get used to talking in algorithms, graphs and visualizations, and collaborating with the guru geeks in our industries to tell the story. To take the outcomes from data scientists and craft communication around the results.

It’s no longer just about being the office wordsmith, the master of the deftly turned phrase. Communicating an idea will require the supportive structure of data to ensure that message resonates with more credibility and impact. Thanks to Nate Silver, big data and the increasing appetite for the truth in numbers, we will all be the wiser for it.

 (first published @ Red Sky PR)


It Is Not A Flippin’ Bandwagon

There is an anecdote making the rounds about a focus group where the moderator turned to an early 20-something and asked, “How often and when are you online?”

In response, the attendee gave him a confused look, pulled out her smart phone, “What do you mean? It is ALWAYS on.”

This is where we live now – and will live every day moving forward. A world changed by connectivity and access; to each other, to brands, to corporations, to issues, to elected leadership.

Articles like this one just published in the Idaho Business Review do a huge disservice to how we as a global culture are interacting, communicating and evolving. (Advertising, PR firms help clients make best use of social media - sorry it is behind a paywall.)

The piece starts off with, “As the social media landscape continues to grow, Idaho business owners may wonder whether they need to jump on the bandwagon. ”

It is not a flippin’ bandwagon.

To call it such minimizes the broader context of what is at stake.

Tools, platforms and technology emerge, grow, gain traction, evolve into something else or die. That is the product lifecycle that has existed since we became an industrialized world.

In the article, several peers in the communication space here in Idaho make the argument that social media doesn’t fit into every public relations strategy.

If you only think of it as a tool, you’re right.

If you truly understand the full context of how communication has changed globally, that is shortsighted and dangerous.

Every organization and individual needs a healthy respect and awareness of where your brand and issues are being built, looked into and attacked – and that is online and interactive. Just as any good business leader develops a business plan that evolves on a quarterly and annual basis and integrates multiple facets of revenue drivers and market opportunities, so should any progressive communicator develop a plan that integrates all aspects of where conversations are occurring. Every client and situation is unique. But all deserve the respect of knowing how the current communication dynamic incorporates so much more than it did 20, 10, or even 2 years ago.

Social media is no longer new or different or separate. It lives right there with you in everything you do. And it is on, 24/7

Now, does that mean every company needs a Twitter feed, an iPhone app or a Facebook contest? Of course not. To suggest that that is the only way organizations engage in our new normal is a bit, dare I say, old school.

Being engaged online means being aware and responsive to conversations occurring about your industry, your brand, your competitors, your trends. It is the ultimate corporate intelligence tool, SWOT analysis source and focus group resource. It provides insights and awareness you would never have otherwise.

Most importantly, if you aren’t aware of the vulnerabilities you fall victim to them.

Your reputation is not just shaped in the newspaper today – it’s being shaped instantly by (often) millions of people who were never exposed to your company even two years ago.  It’s about conversations, so companies and individuals need to decide how they are going to tell their story as part of the conversation and be aware of where those conversations are occurring.

Thinking that you have privacy these days is naive.

We are no longer gatekeepers. Acknowledging that is the first step.

But it is not just outward-facing, it has also changed the way internal/employee communication and recruiting is handled. Social media has become one of the biggest tools in the HR world.  If you are applying for a job, you WILL be researched online.  And, in most cases – if you don’t have a presence in some way, you probably aren’t going to be competitive in the job market or even in the business development game if you are an entrepreneur.   There is rarely a potential client that walks through our doors that does has not done an assessment on where we as a firm exist in the digital world – not just professionally, but personally.

Being a true business counselor to clients requires that we as communication professionals remain alert, at the forefront and progressive in our approach to the evolving landscape. It is our duty to be the devil’s advocate, to challenge assumptions and the status quo ways of doing things.

At the end of the day it is not about choosing this or that, old or new, it is about assessing all of what is at our disposal for the best integrated proactive approach.

- Jess Flynn

(A good friend and great brain, Tac Anderson, is writing about where he believes we are now – the Post Social Age. Take a gander at his blog )