Tag Archives: Marketing

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.

 

On Moving Forward

“Oh, What Now?” “Egads,” or just “Errrrrargh!” These are but a few of my Mother’s expressions of frustration. Whenever there’s an obstacle, she’ll put all 4 foot 11 of her being into one of these exclamations. I frequently find myself doing the same. Not these expressions per se, mine are a tad spicier. OK, a lot spicier. more like a sailor whose arm has just been severed. But, you get the picture. It’s something we all do.

UnknownIf you are aiming high enough, there will always be something in your way. If your path is always smooth, you are either not trying very hard or you see dead people. In every endeavor, in your career or your relationships, you have a choice. You can retreat, you can move ahead or you can try to maintain your current position by standing still. The reality is that there is no such thing as standing still. At any given moment, you are either moving forward or backward.

Sometimes the obstacles are situations like lack of money. Sometimes it’s a business or personal relationship. But, whatever it is, fear is involved. Fear of failure, fear of confrontation or even fear of success.

Our primitive brain and our instinctual responses equate any failure or confrontation with survival. Any change in the status quo will trigger our brains into fight or flight mode. With that trigger comes release of adrenaline and increased heart rate. Even thinking about an obstacle that will create change will pull that trigger. The net result is stress, and that stress is what makes us freeze. And in our frozen state, we think we’re just standing still or delaying. But, the world keeps turning, which means we’re being left behind by the simple laws of inertia.

The fear of success is even trickier. So many people think that means you’re afraid to be richer than your friends or more successful than your parents resulting in them seeing you as suddenly different. But, I don’t think that’s it. Being successful means increased work, increased commitment, constant thinking, constant doing and constant expense of energy. The thought of working harder and maintaining forward momentum can be exhausting in and of itself, never mind actually doing the work. So, many people just curl up on the couch instead and watch the world spin. But, they also wonder why they don’t get anywhere.

Put the fear aside. Put the triggers aside. Put aside things, relationships and habits that no longer serve you. Put your laziness aside and move forward. What you will find is that the process of moving forward is invigorating. it doesn’t sap your energy, it increases it. If you can get through the fear, you’ll find your mind engaged. You’ll wake up excited at what can be accomplished and what you can create today.

Say it with me: “Oh, what now? egads, Errrargh.” Your frustration means you’re passing obstacles and moving forward. embrace it, have a life well lived.

F#@$ The Status Quo

Steve-Jobs-Apple“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
― Apple Inc.

I love good advertising copy, and this is about the best there has ever been, with the possible exception of “That’s a some spicy spicy meat-a-ball.”  Apple built a whole brand on taking the assumptions of design, product lines and marketing and throwing it all out the window.  I don’t believe for a minute they were certain any of their ideas would work. But, they were certain that doing things everyone else’s way would be boring and unfulfilling. So, they were willing to take risks, and as they say: with great risk comes great reward.

More than this, they were unwilling to sit on their laurels.  They kept moving forward. For them, the status quo doesn’t exist. They continually stay out in front, finding new areas to compete in and developing products that people want.  What’s interesting is that the products are not even necessarily the best products out there, as other companies catch up and eclipse them. But, with a culture of constantly moving forward, of bucking the status quo, they are looking to eclipse themselves as a daily practice and many of us are willing to go along for that ride.

As I was contemplating this today, I received an email from Linked In asking if I wanted to follow Ari Emanuel, CEO of William Morris Endeavor. I found his philosophical statement so compelling I signed right up.  There was so much I wanted to say on this subject, but found that Ari just summed it all up.

timthumbFrom Ari Emanuel’s Linked In profile:

“Next” doesn’t sound like a motto to live by. It doesn’t make for an epic battle cry or moving political campaign slogan. But it was – and still is – an Emanuel family mantra that my father used every day when I was growing up. Sitting around the kitchen table after school, my brothers and I would spin our day’s success stories. Our father’s response? “Nu” (Hebrew for next).

So why am I telling you this?  Who gives a shit what my father said?  I’m sharing this with you because it’s a philosophy that has carried me from the family dinner table to where I am today.  While I acknowledge that you can learn a great deal from historical precedents, I think we all spend too much time and energy looking backward.  The successes or failures of your past don’t define you.  It’s the ability to turn the page to the next, better chapter.

Take my career as an example.  If I had paid attention to my “career indicators” – bad grades, dyslexia, ADD, non-Ivy League school (I could go on, but my parents would prefer I didn’t) – who knows where I would be.  Certainly not here, sharing my opinion on life.

And when a few of my colleagues and I decided to leave one of Hollywood’s most established talent agencies to start our own, above a burger restaurant, there were plenty of reasons (families, mortgages, expense accounts) to stay put.  But we weren’t satisfied.  We could see that the business was changing.  We knew that in order for our clients to play in this new landscape, we had to form an agency that fit our vision of the future. Even when Endeavor became a formidable competitor to the Big 4 talent agencies, my father’s voice once again rang in my ears.

What was going to be the next great leap forward for our clients and our company?  The answer was merging our startup with a 100+ year-old institution, a risk that many warned against, citing countless failed mergers.  Again, it was that same question: “What’s next?” It forced me to keep moving forward, and now WME is just getting started.

My point is, if you’re looking for an excuse to fail, you will always find one. Don’t get me wrong – I have no problem celebrating the wins.  They instill the confidence that propels us forward.  Just don’t trip on your victory lap.

To some, “next” may come off as a dismissal. To me, it’s the catalyst for endless possibilities.  As an agent, my job is not done when the deal is closed. It’s about constantly watching  the road ahead.

OK you’ve heard enough from me…..next.

– Ari Emanuel

That’s a pretty awesome statement. One can argue that perhaps Ari’s next with the William Morris merger actually propelled Endeavor backwards and made just made them into another iteration of the big 4.  But, that would be missing the point.  Wherever the “Next” took Ari, it took him in a direction that will spawn another “Next” and another and another….  Some will go forward, some backward.  But to have the opportunity to move forward, you have to risk going backwards sometimes.  To do nothing, to stay put is just maintaining a status quo.

What’s your status quo? How can you shake it? Can you gird your loins and take a step forward with the risk of taking two steps back?  If you can’t, maybe it’s time to ask yourself what you’re afraid of. And, if you’re afraid you’re not alone. Being afraid doesn’t make you weak, it makes you smart. But, move anyway….. and move now.

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.

I’m Back!

Hello again, it’s me. Back from my self-imposed or should I say self involved sabbatical.  I ran out of things to say there for a while (I find we all do that sometimes) and faced with reprinting other people’s material, re-treading my own, or clamming up I chose the latter for three months. I must admit some guilt every time I passed my computer on my way to watching football or playing my guitar, but never enough to actually sit down and write something.  So, here I am again, with a (hopefully) simple message.

Once upon a time I had a girlfriend who told me about how her father got hit by a trolley car when he was a kid.  Obviously, he was OK as he grew up to father children, but the story goes like this:  he and his mother had just come from the shoe store where he had gotten a new pair of shoes.  He was enthralled by how shiny they were and kept looking down at them.  His mother implored him to  pay less attention to his new shoes and more attention to where he was walking. They came to a busy street corner, he stepped off the curb whilst looking at his shoes and …. well you know the rest, he got hit by a trolley car.

Why do I bring this up now? WPA, the company I started with a great group of intrepid and committed people just celebrated its 1 year anniversary.  The enterprise is going gangbusters and dare I say, is more successful in one year of operation than my previous company was in ten years. I could attribute this to any number of factors and there are a lot at work here.  But, when it comes right down to it, it’s about the people involved.  They all have vision, commitment and ambition, both personal and collective. As a group, we’ve flourished.

There have been challenges for sure. There was and still is a learning curve of how to work together for the common good. There have been control issues (mostly mine) and the fits and starts of implementing a new and innovative team system of representation and corporate culture. I’m very proud of everyone involved and what we’ve accomplished together.

What does this have to do with shiny new shoes?  Only everything. It would be so easy to sit back, look at what we’ve done and be delighted.  But, to keep staring at the glow of our shiny shoes would be to invite a trolley car to run us over.  So, instead we are looking ahead.

“Yesterday’s home runs won’t help you win today” – Babe Ruth

Too true. As we start to plot a course for 2012, we’re asking ourselves a lot of questions. What were the successes and why?  Where did we fall down and why? Both sets are tough to answer, but are equally important.  I personally have been taking a lot of time to plot goals and strategy.  Here’s what I have found: I’ve been very bad in the past at plotting goals and strategy. Here’s why:  I haven’t ever spent enough time doing it.  I’ve always just sat down and written it out, then moved on.  This time, I’m writing, considering, coming back to it a few days later, suddenly adding insight when I have an inspiration.  It’s been a process of several weeks now and I can tell I’m not done yet.

Setting goals are one thing. Adding a detailed strategy to achieve them is quite another. I just read “Great By Choice” by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen. I found it to be a fantastic system of goal setting and strategy.  The basic techniques are: set your goal, figure out how you’re going to get there with a SMaC recipe. These are actions to be taken that are Specific, Methodical and Consistent (SMaC) and are then formed into what they call a “twenty mile march.” A march you do day in, day out, week by week, year by year.

It has opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about goals.  In short, there’s an accountability mechanism built in. Because, you’re either marching or you’re not. You’re either advancing on your goals or you’re not. You have a specific list of actionable steps or you don’t. I recommend this read.

So then, what’s next for WPA?  You’ll have to keep reading. I can tell you we won’t be caught staring down at our shiny shoes.  This is Hollywood, the trolley cars don’t just pass by, they’re aiming for you.

Typical dress for a hollywood Trolley Car.