Tag Archives: Education

It’s a New Year and I’ve Been Thinking

UnknownOnce again, it’s a new year.  OK, a little past New Years.  I’ve been kind of busy lately (I’ll get to that in a blog post next week). Anyway,  Is it going to be a fresh beginning?  Is it going to be more of the same?  Well, that’s always the question isn’t it? Maybe not for some people, but I think that if you can’t point to lessons you’ve learned and acknowledge that wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you’re learning. If you are paying attention, you can avoid making the mistakes of the past.  If it seems like you’re not learning, you’re just not paying attention.

Over the holidays, I take time to reflect.  Not just on the last year, but I think about what I’ve done over a course of many years to get where I am (wherever that is). It’s a process and there have been victories and mistakes.  Every once in a while you have to take stock and hone things down to a few concepts you know have worked for you.  In that spirit, here’s what I’ve been thinking about that has worked for me.

Invest in Yourself.  Here’s why: no one else is going to do it. At least not in the long term.  People will invest in you so long as their short term needs are being met and so long they maintain their profit margin.  So, be an owner, and if that’s not possible yet work towards being an owner.  How do you do that? Invent your job and when you’re done inventing your job, reinvent it.  You do that by doing way more than your job description. Own your position and commit to your evolution within it.  I’m not just talking about business. Invest in your physical well being, your mental well being, your spiritual well being. Own it all.  If you are not doing the investments, own it and change it.  If you are doing the investments, own the process, own the failures and successes equally.

If you’re already an owner, a freelance entrepreneur, an Artist: Examine your investment.  Are you constantly making it more valuable with everything you do? Or are you undermining it with time wasters, vamping, avoiding issues or excuses? Be honest and make sure you are on track.

Casals

Study and Be Curious.  When the world famous cellist Pablo Casals was 90 years old, someone asked him “why do you still practice 4 hours a day?” he replied: “because I think I’m making progress.”

When I’m not studying I notice.  When I’m not studying I have the nagging feeling I am falling behind.  Why do I care so much? Because this isn’t a frickin dress rehearsal.  I’m on stage right now. My career is happening right now.  I’m mentoring those around me right now.  I’m building a business right now.  

What are you trying to accomplish?  Are you seeking out the best information to accomplish it?  Are you stretching your mind and your skill set?  People who know me well, know that I am a big fan of listening to business books on my commute.  I am always looking for new ideas.  If I could do it all over again, I would have started and maintained my discipline of studying whatever endeavor I was involved in a lot sooner than I did. If you are not constantly bringing new ideas into your life, if you are not practicing what you choose to master, you run the run the risk of maintaining your own status quo.  Essentially, status quo doesn’t exist.  It’s against the laws of physics to stand completely still.  You’re always moving in one direction or the other.  Make sure it’s forward.

Trust Your Gut – When people say “my gut is telling me…” they are usually right.  You’re gut is the outward extension of your subconscious.  Our subconscious is much more in tune with how we are really feeling, because it’s not susceptible to the constant brain chatter we engage in.  The key with gut feelings is to separate them from excitement and fear.  After you work through your reasoning on a decision, take a moment to breathe and be silent and let your gut weigh in.

Feel Like an Imposter – I am driven by fear, I admit it. I’ve also found that it’s a good place to be.  So long as fear doesn’t paralyze you, it’s good to worry that you might be “found out.”  It’s good to feel not as smart or talented as people think you are.  It’s the trait I find most prevalent in successful artists.  It makes you humble and focused. Fear handled correctly will make you study harder, practice harder and be more driven. Confidence is great, over confidence breeds mistakes.

6a00d8341c630a53ef013480b8a92d970cTake Risks  “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – Wayne Gretzky.  Usually attributed to Michael Jordan, but indeed he stole it from Gretzky.  This one is very tough, especially if you have a lot of responsibility.  It’s easy to stay where you’re at, do the things that got you to where you are now and maintain. You have to force yourself to step out of your comfort zone and try things that just might not work.  We have two parts of the brain, our modern brain, which reasons and our primitive brain which controls our fight or flight response.  Our primitive brain hates taking risks, because back when we were living in caves, if you took a risk that didn’t work out,  you usually died.  Our primitive brain doesn’t know the difference between a lion and making a cold call.  You have to push through the physiology and risk failure. You also have to fail a lot to succeed.

In my youth I knew the theater impresario Hal Prince quite well.  He once told me that only one third of the shows he produced over his career made money.  It wasn’t lost on me that he he had to produce 9 shows to get 3 successful ones.  He had to work on every one for years to find out if it was a success or a failure.  That is commitment to process.  That is knowing the math and accepting it.  So, accept the math,  get out there, take some risks, fail a lot and start realizing some successes.

Road-Perspective

Look to the Horizon – When I was learning to drive, I remember the instructor teaching us the concept of looking as far down the road as you can see and let your peripheral vision handle what is directly in front of you.  That way you can see problems as they develop long before they reach you.  This also pertains to opportunities.  I’ve always been interested and excited in the future.  The excitement of what’s coming.  I’ve always looked down the road, it’s just now that I’m realizing how well it’s served me.

Have Some Things in the Pipeline – This is the game of what’s next? In the music industry, you can have a song, an album, a tour, but you’ll never get a record deal if you can’t tell the label what else they can sell after they’re finished selling what you have now.  For every deal I’ve got, I have two more that are gestating in the background. For every move I make, I have two more long range ones that I’m working on. Some will work out in the long run, some won’t, but that’s not the point.  Things worth the trouble take a long time to develop.  You have to put in time on a variety of options and that’s hard when you’d like to have some instant gratification.

And Finally…….

The truth never lives in what you say, the truth is always found in what you do – This is the most important one of all.  People say a lot of things.  I say a lot of things. Sometimes I’m thinking or fantasizing out loud.  I do a lot less of that now, because as a leader, people tend to believe me when I say something and they expect it to happen. So, when I say something I have to back it up with action or lose my credibility. I’ve found it’s very powerful to put yourself in that position. The need to act based on my words will eat at me until I throw down and do something about it.  Declarations may set a standard to be held to, but what you take action on is how you will be judged. What you take action on will determine your success.  What you take action on tells the world your values, your standards and your true intent.

Good luck out there this year.  Make some magic!

There is no Magic Bullet

I’ve spent my entire career looking for a magic bullet.  Yes, it’s true, I admit it.  It’s naive, it’s purposeless and the laws of physics pretty much don’t work that way. The kicker is that I know better.  Sorry, we all look for one, but there is no magic bullet.

bullet_5I’m not a behavioral PHD, but my personal feeling is that the reasoning mind works so diligently to find solutions to any problem put in front of it, that at any point, the mind feels that it will find a permanent solution and move on to solve something else.

Lets take something completely inane.  Say you have a coffee maker that you have to put water in every morning to make coffee.  You hate that. I know I do.  I just want coffee first thing, I don’t want any extra work to do.  Eventually, you’re in Starbucks and notice they never have to put water in their machine.  Why is that you ask?  simple answer: they have it hooked up to a water line.  You think, I can do that at home. So, you call a plummer, run a pipe from the main line (at great expense) to the coffee maker, problem solved permanently.  I will never have to put water in the coffee maker again.  You are totally satisfied, It’s a magic bullet. Until the coffee maker breaks. Then there’s a new problem. If I could only find a coffee maker that lasts forever and never breaks.  Good luck with that one, I’m happy if I find one that makes it to New Years from Christmas Day.

We look for the magic bullet everywhere.  The next project, the next relationship, the next business idea, the next job.  Nothing solves permanently.  At the risk of alienating my religious friends I’ll say that religion offers a magic bullet of permanent peace, permanent salvation, etc., etc.  But, as the saying goes: “Jesus Saves,” not “Jesus Solves.” No matter how committed you are, there is still a lot of work and adjustment to do while walking around earth.  Eternal life?  That sounds like a magic bullet.  I don’t know, I guess we’ll eventually find out.

images-1 Even the magic bullet in the movie JFK had a lot of work to do.  As Kevin Costner kept reminding us. “Back and to the left. Back and to the left.  That was one magic bullet.”  If the magic bullet itself has to work so hard to be magic, what makes you think there are any shortcuts for you.

Every project is another opportunity to advance your skill set.  It’s never a breakthrough in and of itself.  Your success is not just out of reach.  It’s happening right now.  Success is the never ending process of realizing there is no magic bullet. This project leads to the next project.  One challenge leads to another, so learn to take joy in the process of moving challenge to challenge. Do the best you can, find your way to the next one, and the next and the next.

Relationships are not any different.  You are finding the way to the next moment. But, what moment are you finding your way to?  Are you sculpting the moments or are you just watching them arrive and pass?

Since there is no such thing as a magic bullet, overnight success, perfect relationships, what are we to do to move things forward in our careers and life? The idea of creating conscious value.  If you ask yourself in any situation, job, task, relationship, am I creating value now?  The simple act of asking the question puts you much farther ahead than looking for a magic bullet.

You see, looking for the magic bullet is the act of looking for the world around you to bring something to you that will solve all your problems.  But remember, a bullet’s trajectory, no matter how magic, will eventually succumb to gravity and end up in the dirt.

Unknown-2Creating value is the act of bringing something to the world around you which is a far more powerful position. For to create value is to break through the challenges and the transience for one shining moment of clarity and success.  String together many moments of creating value and you will create a life well lived.

 

The Purpose Fairy

Happy Tuesday Friends,

I came across this website today http://www.purposefairy.com If you’re out there and need a boost of inspiration (we all do) you should check it out.  Sometimes a little bit of a different perspective can be just what you need!

http://www.purposefairy.com/3339/15-powerful-lessons-ive-learned-from-life/

What Would Oliver Do?

In the summer of 1970 I met a man named Oliver Butterworth.  As school was off, I was just sort of hanging around the stores at the center of town.  Butterworth, a quasi famous children’s author was campaigning on the street for Joe Duffey, a very liberal anti-war Democrat who was running against Lowell Weicker for one of Connecticut’s Senate seats. It was during Vietnam and Oliver was handing out Duffey buttons and peace movement leaflets out of a VW Minivan. He had rigged a makeshift awning and had a card table with lemonade.  He was like a character out of  “Alice’s Restaurant.”  Kind of an old Hippie.

As I was just hanging around with nothing to do, (I realized later, he worked as a local teacher and was just hanging out during the summer too) he invited me to hand out buttons and leaflets.  He explained the anti war movement and how much was at stake in the coming election, and how it’s up to the people to change things.  I have a picture somewhere of me standing in front of that van with Duffey for Senate buttons all over my shirt trying to look informed and ready to fight for the people.  I wasn’t informed or ready to fight.  I was eleven, but I had a cause.

Butterworth had written a children’s book named ‘The Enormous Egg.’ It was about a New Hampshire farm kid (Nate) whose chicken predictably lays an enormous egg.  When the egg hatches, not a chicken emerges, but a Triceratops whom Timmy names Uncle Beazley.  As soon as this is discovered, all who had been laughing at the kid with the enormous egg develop their own agendas.  As the dinosaur grows amid media hoopla and opportunists trying to profit on the find, they need to ship Uncle Beazley off to the National Zoo in Washington DC, because he’s basically eating the farm.  Eventually, Congress, appalled at how much the Dinosaur is eating at the Zoo decides to declare it Un-American (Oliver wrote it in 1956 and was trying to turn 8 year olds everywhere against McCarthy.)  Timmy goes on TV and rallies the masses to petition Congress to “do the will of the people” and accept Uncle Beazley as a permanent resident at the Zoo.  They all live happily ever after.

During that summer and fall, Oliver would tell me where he was going to park the van and I would show up there, hand out stuff and get a civics lesson.  Did my Mom know I was out meeting an old guy with a van? Yes, and she didn’t think anything of it.  It was a different time and we didn’t assume everyone was out to molest us.  I’m sure she thought “well, it’s not like he’s a Catholic Priest or anything, so what the hell.”  Oliver only molested me with anti-war rhetoric and a far left liberalism (in retrospect socialism) that I think I still retain today. Actually, he was pretty cool.

Lowell Weicker sticking it to Nixon

At the end of it all, Joe Duffey lost the election by 90,000 votes.  Lowell Weicker went on to become the moderate Republican that swayed everyone against Nixon and forced his resignation.  In the end,  it pretty much worked out the way Oliver wanted it to. Oliver wasn’t a big Nixon fan.

After the election was lost, Oliver called me and told me we had stood for what we believed in and in taking a stand there are no regrets.  Not long after, he mailed me an autographed copy of the Enormous Egg which I still have.

Hollywood offers up many fights, competing agendas and deception so thick, Nixon would be proud.  Honor sometimes can be scarce.  The higher the stakes, the more ruthless people become.  Perhaps it’s just human nature.  I’m not complaining mind you.  By and large I find it fascinating, and those around me find my righteous indignation in the face of it a constant form of entertainment.

What I find myself fighting sometimes is the regret.  If I had only done this, or if only I had done that I would have gotten the result I wanted.  I always try to do the right thing and believe it or not, doing the right thing around here sometimes gets you screwed. I have a nasty habit of obsessing about that stuff long after the fight has ended.  I’m learning to let go.

For 2012 my main resolution is: WWOD (what would Oliver do.)  He had fought the good fight, done what he could, mentored where he could, spoke his truth in public, moved on from each fight with no regrets at the outcome.  He trusted that goodness would prevail, which it eventually does in one way or the other, and that setbacks are temporary.

It’s a funny thought. What WOULD Oliver do in Hollywood?  I guess I’m going to find out.  Stay tuned.

Snapshots From Bydgoszsz

Downtown Bydgoszsz

I Just returned from Poland. Bydgoszsz, Poland to be exact.  It’s pronounced (bid-goe-sh.) Yeah pronouncing it took a while.  For the longest time before my business partner Richard and I took the trip, we were just calling it Badonkadonk. We were there for Cameraimage, the international cinematographers film festival.

It took four planes to get there. Halfway through the journey I was trying to figure out exactly why we were going in the first place, especially on the last plane, a small prop plane that was pitched around in the winds and seemed like it was going to land upside down. Oh yeah and the plane before that which Richard proclaimed looked suspiciously like the one from the movie ‘Alive.’

Looking forward to the post flight meal.

With any trip to a culture that is completely foreign, the answer doesn’t come until you’re there. I checked out some travel sites before we went, one of which proclaimed it was unclear why anyone would want to go to Bydgoszsz, but if you did, after a few day you would find it charming.

You see it’s a rather strange place where the sun rises at 8:30am and sets by 3:30pm and they are not even in the shortest days of the year yet.  It’s cold, (see Richard’s over compensating coat) and the architecture is a mix of new post Berlin Wall, Soviet era cheap housing and pre WW II buildings, some stucco’d over in places to hide the cracks of age and  bullet holes.

That being the case, I found that Polish people seem to rely heavily on three things: 1) Vodka, 2) Various dumplings and 3) Cold cuts. Those of you who know me know I am not a drinker.  However I can attest that the dumplings and cold cuts rock. Richard assures me that the Vodka rocks as well.

The people are not what you would expect.  After decades of Soviet propaganda, you would think they would be either be wary of Americans or downright hostile. Not the case at all.  It seemed to me that only about a third knew how to speak English.  When I found myself trying to communicate with a non english speaker, they would hurridly look around to find someone to translate, dragging them over, genuinely and happily wanting to speak with me.  No one was put out that I dared to come to their country not knowing the language.

The short day messes with your internal clock and produces an active nightlife.  Not a big city at all, the Bydgoszsz Holiday Inn (yes, there was a Holiday Inn) came alive and blossomed into a huge party at midnight.  So, when the sun went down, there was a tendency to retreat to nap for a few hours, grab a late dinner, then hit the Holiday Inn.  People proceded to stay up until 5 or 6 am, then grabbed a few hours sleep until the sun came up at 8:30a and started their day. I’m pretty sure they didn’t do that every night, but you never know.

Richard and our French colleagues Vanessa and Magali about to get on the prop plane from Hell.

The festival itself was pretty cool.  Films from everywhere in the world and more importantly, the people from everywhere who made them.  The whole experience reinforced in me the importance of people.  We talk about great films, great performances, great technical innovation, great distribution platforms. But, it’s groups of committed people, coming together and finding ways to communicate a vision.  First to each other and to the world.  Any endeavor depends on this. In the information age when you would think communication advances would bring us closer together in meaningful dialogue, we seem instead to be dumbing down the quality of our collaboration.

I used to talk on the phone to people all day everyday.  Now it’s all email and iChat and a few calls a day.  It’s faster, more efficient and creates a communication economy of scale.  But, direct conversation creates a deeper bond and a more visceral truth.

Renown Cinematographers from all over the world came to teach master classes. Young Cinematographers came to take them.  There was a spirit among the teachers and students alike of:  “I may know a certain amount, but there’s always more.” In that lies a creative delight.

Ah yes, then there’s truth.  In Bydgoszsz there was a lot of talk of truth.  Films that were “true to character, true to story, true to vision.” That comes back to people gathered around a camera face to face, deciding to achieve that truth.

So, if I learned lessons in Bydgoszsz they were these:

1) Cold Cuts can be a dietary staple and are delicious.

2) If your day is more like night, learn to live in it.

3) Just because a plane looks like one that crashed into a snowy mountainside in the Andes, doesn’t mean you’re going to end up dining on a stack of pancreas and someone’s foot.

4) Popularity does not define successful art, truth does.

5) True masters realize that there will always be more to learn and they take joy in teaching others the art of trying to understand this.

6) Nothing beats face to face communication.  Even if you don’t speak the same language, the effort of pursuing mutual understanding  in any form is worth going halfway around the world for.

Learning To Persevere

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – Calvin Coolidge

We live in a world of instant gratification, where success looks easy.  I don’t have any trouble making that statement.  If you watch TV at all, then your days are filled with instantly white teeth, instant and inexplicable celebrity and seemingly easy financial success. And we fall for it every time.  Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Sarah Palin and of course my favorite, freakin  Snookie. They all have the same things, white teeth, unexplained celebrity and financial success.

But, they also all have three other things in common: Head scratching mediocrity, an ability to manipulate us with our own desire for overnight success and that they only play one note. When we tire of that note, they are gone and the next one comes along.

You Betcha!

It is truly not them though, it is a very skilled media who chose them to hold up as examples of what we desire for ourselves. In many ways, they were just convenient.  In the right place at the right time when a hungry dream machine needed fresh fodder. Or, in Palin’s case, a fading and cynical political campaign’s need for a woman, a black person, anything to appear relevant to an increasingly diverse electorate. They really didn’t care much that they were promoting a half wit who thinks Africa is a country and the French Revolution a ballet step.

OK, so where does that leave the rest of us?  Well, personally, my sex tape didn’t really take off and my reality show “The Real Goys of Hollywood” didn’t get past the pitch phase, so to succeed I’m left with persistance, determination and hard work.

“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragement and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” – Thomas Carlyle

It’s hard to grind it out every day. I get that. At some point you may ask your self why keep going? The answer to that question is purpose. It’s the purpose of loving your art, loving your family and loving those that work next to you. It’s the purpose of contributing to something bigger than yourself and creating a legacy. That’s what keeps you going. That’s what keeps you looking forward to the next step.

But what makes for purpose? Author Guy Kawasaki gives a simple equation in his book ‘Enchantment.’ He uses an acronym: ‘M.A.P.’ which stands for mastery, autonomy and purpose. He explains that in any endeavor, if we are given the opportunity to master a skill and receive autonomy in doing so, all we have to add is our unique purpose of something bigger and we will have no problem finding the energy for persistance and determination.

I find his equation not so much a recipe for success as a formula for joy. As we all have, I find I have reinvented myself numerous times. Life just unfolds that way. If you really look closely at it, what makes change interesting and purpose easier, is the simple act of learning new things. When your interest is held, you become persistent in your pursuit of practicing the new skills you are acquiring. That feeds your purpose and vice versa.  That’s right, what I am suggesting is that constant progress is the result of persistence, and persistance is the child of constant learning and expanding your skills. Mix it all together and you manage to support your purpose.

For myself, my learning consists of downloading a steady stream of audio books from iTunes.  I have a 45 minute commute each way and I have decided to fill it with learning.  In the past year, I’ve listened to books on business culture, leadership, happiness, purpose and entrepreneurship to name a few subjects.  My current title is: The Talent Code, Unlocking The Secret of Skill by Thomas Coyle. It’s a remarkable  study of where our physiology and habits meet to propel our talents. It’s all about how we learn, how we are coached by others and how we should coach others.

The bottom line is this: In pursuit of my purpose I have become extremely determined and persistent when it comes to learning. Even this blog is me learning. I’ve come to realize that no matter what I’m doing, I’m learning something.  Even when doing nothing I’m learning something (how to do nothing.)  For me, it’s become a question of what do I need to know to make my business better, my relationships better and what excites me and makes me want to get up in the morning.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now” – Chinese Proverb

Do you want  (or need) to be more persistent, tenacious, determined? Those traits want constant fuel to keep them ignited.  Even if you just surf the net, something as benign as Stumbleupon.com will help you learn.  It’s great. You just plug in your interests and the website randomly sends you to other websites that contain articles and information on the subjects of your choosing. As a matter of fact, just last night on Stumble I learned of a new concept: PLN or Personal Learning Networks. Groups of people that share what they are learning through Twitter.  They point out blogs, videos and articles.  Kind of what I’m doing here. I learn, I share, I learn some more.  It’s made me better at all facets of my life.

So, what are you learning about for your career? How is that translating to your life.  What things spark your passion, make you persistent and determined to push farther?  I want to know!  At this point I want to do more than throw words out into the blogosphere. I want to start a conversation! I want to start a PLN.

I’ve been writing this blog for over a year now.  In that pursuit I have been determined and persistent.  Learning new things has been the vehicle to spark my imagination to try and communicate new things and that’s my epiphany. What’s yours?

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn to do it”  – Pablo Picasso

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Want to share this idea with your own Twitter network? Here are tweetable bits.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now” – Chinese Proverb http://bitly.com/lF4tfb @agentonloose

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.” – Calvin Coolidge http://bitly.com/lF4tfb @agentonloose

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragement and impossibilities: http://bitly.com/lF4tfb @agentonloose

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn to do it”  – Pablo Picasso http://bitly.com/lF4tfb @agentonloose

Customer Service

When I was 12, I had a paper route.  I worked for the Hartford Courant, a morning paper.  I was pretty good at getting up early and delivering the papers. But getting paid for my work was another matter.  In those days, the paperboy would have to go every week and get paid from the customers individually for the week of papers on Friday night. Then on Saturday morning, I’d have to go to the paper’s offices and pay the wholesale price for the newspapers I had delivered during the week.

So Friday evenings were an important time for paperboys to work.  But, it was also an important time for 12 year old boys to go to the local skating rink to hang out with their friends and pretend girls were remotely interested in them.  So, invariably I would go and collect just enough money to pay my newspaper bill and get into the skating rink, thinking I would make it back sometime on Saturday to get the rest. Never quite worked out that way and created some customer service issues for me.

In one instance, there was a Mrs. Gaudette who was on a strict weekly budget and insisted I come every Friday night.  After a few times of missing a collection and the ensuing reprimands, then missing a few more times, I just stopped going back out of fear.  I kept delivering papers for 2 years and just didn’t get paid for that house.  What can I say? I was twelve and she was mean, but she was the customer and she made her expectations known.

On the other side of the coin, there was Mrs. Buckley on the next street.  It was 1971, she was alone and her son had been killed in Vietnam early in the war.  She would invite me in while she got her $1.10 together and then talk to me for an hour about her son.  Brutal, but I was polite and I felt so sorry for her.

When we think of customer service, it seems we think of some person on the phone sitting in the midwest or India or my favorite “Peggy” in the Capital 1 commercials.  Basically they exist to listen to our complaints and offer some kind of mediocre or inadequate fix to our problem (whatever it is.)  So really, we think of the worst job in creation.  A never ending array of complaints and demands and anger.

In reality, customer service is one of the most simple concepts in business and at the same time the most complex. Especially for Artists, who are just more interested in the creative elements of the business.  There are Mrs. Gaudettes who intimidate and then are happy to get stuff for free because of it (no, I’m not bitter) and Mrs. Buckley’s who are needy and take a great deal of time.

But, customer service needn’t be the extremes and can be broken down.  First of all, customer service implies or assumes that you already have a customer.  Once someone is a customer, only then can you worry about customer service.  Before that it’s called marketing.

Once you have a customer, the whole drill can be boiled down to one concept: REPEAT BUSINESS.  For all the fancy business rhetoric, charts, facts, figures, personal development and techniques, this is the only real measurement.  How much repeat business are you getting?  If you have consistent repeat business, you are doing something right.  If you don’t have enough, you are doing something wrong in your working process.

Customers do not forget a great experience and they do not forget a bad experience. But, they do forget an average experience or even an above average experience. So, what’s the fix? Give them a great experience, first time, every time.

What is that supposed to mean? It means giving great care to the entire process. In the book ‘Purple Cow,’ author Seth Godin puts it simply: “be remarkable.” The premiss of the book is that if you’re driving through the countryside and you see some cows grazing, you notice them and may think they’re cool.  But, as you keep driving and you keep seeing different versions of brown cows, eventually they just blend into the background. However, if you see a purple cow, now that’s something you’ll remember for a long time. Because, lets face it, a purple cow is remarkable.

Customer service is a lot of things, but mostly it’s going way way beyond what is expected. Way way beyond starts with listening to the customer about their goals, but listening even harder to their concerns and expectations. Nothing can be beneath you to address, no matter how ridiculous and no lengths are too far.

In Tony Hsieh‘s book  about the culture of Zappos.com “Delivering Happiness,” the CEO recounts the story of how he once goaded a client into calling the the Zappos customer service line in the middle of the night to ask “can you tell me where I can order a pizza in Santa Monica and get it delivered at 1am? Remember, Zappos is an online shoe store.  They put him on hold, found the information and gave it to him. That’s customer service!!

It’s preparation, it’s execution, it’s follow up. But, it’s not THAT you do these things consistently, it’s about HOW you do these things. Do you do some of these things begrudgingly? DO you become stressed and yell at subordinates in the heat of battle?  Are you onto the next project after and do minimal follow up?  It’s all seen and it all counts.

A few years ago I heard a great and challenging quote by the speaker and author T.Harv Ecker.  It goes: “how you do anything is how you do everything.”  I think that deep in each of our minds we are programmed to reason: “once I see someone do something, that’s how they do it every time.” That simple concept has kept me from all sorts of laziness, half measures and half cocked stress related mistakes.

So how do you do things?  Are you inconsistent in your marketing?  Do you shy away from the business end of being professionally creative? Is repeat business alluding you?  You have to ask yourself the tough questions to begin to move forward.

After all, with no customers, there’s no point in thinking about service and with no service there are no customers.  It’s a tricky ‘Catch 22.’ What are you going to do about it?