The Mayor Of New York City Can Never Be A Fan Of The Boston Red Sox

Screen shot 2013-10-15 at 10.43.07 AMSomeone just brought something to my attention that I find very disturbing. That mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio is a Boston Red Sox Fan. What? Really? Impossible. This must be some kind of joke. The man who’s leading in the polls and has a very good chance of leading New York City is a fan of the Red Sox?

What has this world come to?

Let me remind you what that means. October 2004, Bill De Blasio is stilling at home watching Curt Schilling take the mound for Game Six of the American League Championship Series versus the Yankees. And he’s rooting for Schilling. He’s sitting at home wearing his Jason Varitek jersey and going crazy when Kevin Millar scores.  He curses the Bambino when Bernie Williams hits a home run. And he laughs at Alex Rodriguez when he’s called out for interference. And when Tony Clark strikes out to end the game, he sits around with his Sam Adams Boston Lager and is thinking “Why Not Us?”

Do I have to ask if Bill owns a 2004 American League Champion Boston Red Sox t-shirt that was given to him by his buddies Johnny Damon and David Ortiz who both homered in Game 7? Was he the guy who made millions over the ‘reverse the curse’ t-shirts. Was that Bill sitting at the Stadium in a Red Sox hat laughing at Rudy Giuliani? Was he the guy who has a framed copy of the Daily News in his office? You know the one with the headline “The Chokes On Us?”  And this guy wants to be our Mayor?  Really?

Let’s rewind to 2007. You remember, Bill De Blasio screaming like a mad man as the Red Sox nipped the Yankees by 2 games to take the American League East. You remember Bill; he’s the guy laughing as the Red Sox swept Colorado in 4 straight games. I think he was probably the guy who made millions off the ‘Who’s Your Daddy Now” t-shirts.

We shouldn’t forget that as soon as the election is over, Bill is probably going to grow a beard just like every other Red Sox loving fan. And he’ll claim it’s for Mowvember to support a charity – but we’ll all know better. He’s growing it to support his favorite team. The Red Sox.

Now I don’t live in New York City. And I don’t get a vote. But I know plenty of you out there DO live in New York City and DO get to vote. So I’m starting a protest, right now. The Mayor of New York City can not – can never – ever be a Boston Red Sox fan. Imagine our mayor sitting in the Stadium wearing a ‘Come back Mo, we need another blown save” T-shirt. Imagine him laughing as Derek Jeter hobbles around shortstop next year. Imagine him cutting off funding for ticker tape parades when the Yankees win the World Series (again).

If he’s a Red Sox fan, does that mean he’s also a Patriots fan? A Bruin fan? A Celtics fan? Are we going to elect this guy? (And by we, I mean you.)

This cannot happen.

I could accept a Mets fan. I could even accept a Dodgers or Giants (baseball) fan – as they can claim some family heritage to the New York team.  But in the words of Taylor Swift – I can never ever, ever, ever accept a Red Sox fan.

Don’t comment here. Comment with your vote.  Read the attached link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/21/nyregion/de-blasio-gingerly-acknowledges-red-sox-allegiance.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0

R

10.15.13

I (don’t) miss the movies

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I used to go to the movies all the time. I can remember first dates, last dates, special occasions and rainy days. I remember my first movie and taking my children to their first film.  But lately, movies have fallen out of my routine. Partially because I’m doing a lot more ‘other’ things that I never did before. Partially because my wife and son don’t crave going to the movies. But mostly, because I’ve lost interest. Whenever I look at the listings, there’s nothing I’m excited to see.  Even when I look at the movies on cable, there are very few times when I say “Gee, this would have been much better if I saw this in the theatre.”

I’m trying to remember the last movie I saw in a theatre. I think I took my son to see Avatar in IMAX 3-D. I’m pretty sure that we the last one. But to be honest, I’m not 100% sure.

So I decided to look at the listing of the movie theatre near my house to see if there was anything that caught my eye. Hmmmmm let me search. Ok, here are the choices:

Captain Phillips – Hmmm, Tom Hanks vehicle. I’m sure he plays a really nice guy caught up in a tough spot. And everything comes out OK at the end.  IMDb rating of 8.1, which is pretty good. This one goes on the maybe list. The fact that its PG-13 means I can bring my son. Although the Somali pirate thing scares me off a bit.

Gravity – Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. I like them. IMDb rating of 8.7, which is excellent for 56,000 users.  Metascore of 96/100. Also PG-13.  This has real potential. I may have to go see this.  Gravity seems like a movie made for a big screen.  OK, this one is officially on the must see list.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 – Pass, I think I’m past going to kid movies.

Insidious: Chapter 2 – I didn’t know there was a Chapter 1. IMDb rating of 7.1. Looks scary. I don’t think so.

Rush – Isn’t that the Ron Howard directed movie I see on TV commercials every 5 minutes? It got an IMDb rating of 8.3, that’s pretty good. Better than Captain Phillips. But for some reason, I have no desire to see a movie about racecar drives. I guess “Days of Thunder” spoiled the entire genre for me.  Pass.

Baggage Claim – never heard of it.  IMDb rating of 3.5. Wow, I didn’t know that ratings went that low. I spend too much time in airports. Nope. Pass.

Don Jon – the poster says its ‘Stellar’ ‘Hilarious’ ‘Genuine’ ‘Emotional’ – That must mean it sucks.  IMDb score of 7.3, Metascore of 66/100. The write up says, “A New Jersey guy dedicated to his family, friends and church, develops unrealistic expectations from watching porn.” Hmmm, this is a comedy & drama? Yeah, I don’t thing this one is for me.

That’s it.  Those are my choices.

Going by everything I just read, I would say Gravity is my next movie. Except I have no time to go to the movies. Which means it will have to still be in the theatres in November when I have time.

But by November all the Oscar hopefuls will be flooding the theatres, and I’ll have a whole new batch to choose from.  Ahhhhhhh!

Well, I’ll let you know if I get to the movies. In the meantime, if you’ve seen any of these and would like to give me you encapsulated reviews, just leave them below.

Thanks, and happy viewing.

R

10.14.13

I’m sorry I can’t possibly hire you – and other interview horror stories

If you read this column often, you know that I meet a lot of people. I interview, on average, 2-3 people per week. It’s part of our corporate culture. “Always know where your next great hire will come from,” is a mantra we all follow. I meet people who are coming out of school months before they graduate. I meet people who are running agencies. I meet people when I don’t ‘currently’ have a position for them. I meet people because I’ve heard good things about them.

But when you meet so many people, there are bound to be a few horror stories.

Here are a few.

You Created THAT?  I met someone recently. I had heard amazing things about him. Great with people. Great mentor. Really great work. The entire package. Then we started talking about work. He proudly mentioned a campaign that his agency created.  He told me that he was the driving force behind the idea and how hard we worked keeping it alive through multiple rounds of testing and client comments. The issue. I hate the campaign. In fact, in a recent speech, I used this campaign as an example of ‘old fashioned bad healthcare advertising.’ I think it’s one of the worst campaigns created in the last 5 years. And the worst part, he knew I hated it the second he mentioned it. My poker face betrayed me. He asked, “You don’t like it, do you?” I decided to tell him the truth. “Actually, I hate it. It feels dated and wouldn’t get approved to take to the client if you worked here.” As he tried to defend the campaign, I knew I could never work with this guy. Great guy. Not on my team.

Just come in from the bar? I remember being 25-years-old. I remember going out and having a few drinks with friends in smoke filled bars. I remember getting home so late that I decided not to go to sleep before going to work. But I never did that the night before an interview. This guy comes into my office. Clearly hadn’t slept. Clearly hadn’t showered. Was wearing whatever was on the floor and close to his bed. He smelled like beer.  No resume. No portfolio. No business card. Instead of my usual line of questioning, I decided to go for the quick exit. My first question: “Do you have any questions about us?” His answer: “Not really, everyone has already told me a lot about you guys.” I came back, “And you think this is a place for you?” He had the perfect answer, “I’m still not sure.” I stood up, held out my hand “Thanks for coming in, I’m not sure either.”  With that, he picked up his cat hair covered sweater off my sofa, and walked out. Never to be heard from again.

Could your skirt be any shorter?  I tell this to every female college senior I meet – don’t wear skirts that are too short on job interviews. It makes you uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable because I can tell you’re uncomfortable. I recently met a junior art director for an interview and she made the biggest mistake of wearing something completely inappropriate for an interview. Way too low. Way too short. And way too dressy for an agency interview. It was something I’d expect someone to wear to a dressy school social. For the next 30 minutes, all she did was fuss with her dress. And the pity, she had incredible talent. We may still offer her an internship in the spring or summer. Maybe she’ll learn on the job.  But she’s certainly not ready for prime time.

Are you always this boring? The biggest faux pas you can make is being downright boring. I shouldn’t have to struggle to have a 30-minute conversation with you. And lets face it; this should be the easiest conversation ever. You’re talking about yourself. You’re talking about your work. You’re talking about things your passionate about. But just last week, I met someone who almost put me to sleep. One-word answers. I would ask questions about his work, and this guy actually said, “I think its self explanatory.” Really? That’s your answer. It must not be self explanatory, since I had a question. Perhaps you should rethink that response.  Next question “Why are you thinking of leaving your current agency now?” His response, “I don’t know, you HR lady called.” Now that was at least a full sentence. “I see from your resume that you worked in Brazil, what was that like?” “Hot” OK, let me try a different way in. “I see you went to the SVA in New York, did you like it there?” “Yea.”  That was the end of the interview. I stood up, shook his hand. Said “bye.” If you’re going to be a part of my team, there’s one thing that you can’t be – and that’s boring.

Bad work. Beer guy. Skirt girl. And boring me to sleep.  Yup, another interesting week at the office.

R

10.08.13

 

300 songs in 2 days

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This weekend I had a goal.

I wanted to play every song I had ever learned to play on the guitar. I would play each song once, and move on to the next song. I would start with the song that I am currently learning (Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight’) and end with the first song I learned. (The Beatles ‘Hey Jude’)

In my estimation, over the 2-1/4 years, I’ve learned about 300 songs. I didn’t come close to playing them all.

I sat down with my music on Saturday afternoon. I cranked through about 20 songs pretty quickly. Eric Clapton, Beatles, Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, The Eagles, Pure Prairie League, The Allman Brothers, The Rolling Stones and even solos from John Lennon and George Harrison.

But I couldn’t play each song only once.

I found myself trying to improve small mistakes and difficult parts. I would go back and play a certain section over and over. Then I’d tackle the entire song again. I found myself trying to fuse together acoustic and electric parts together into one mega part – so I could play all my favorite parts of a song.

I started experimenting with playing songs in different keys, to make them easier for me to sing. (Down ½ step from standard tuning seems to be my magic key.) And of course, I played with different guitars, depending on the song, to see if I liked the way one guitar sounded over the other.

By the time that I realized that I was breaking my own rules, I decided that I was never going to make it through all the songs I’d ever learned.  So I started cheating. Tunes that are basically the same musically over and over again – I would play about ½ the song. Verse, bridge, chorus. Done. Maybe I’d play the ending, if it had an interesting change at the end.  But mostly, I’d just stop.

By Sunday morning, I had made my way through about 75 songs. I will admit my hands were tired. Somewhere I decided to figure out some interesting ‘walk up and walk downs’ to a song to give the impression of the bass line while playing the rhythm part. I switched to an hour of finger picking (which I’m not very good at doing, and I just wanted to force myself to do something that’s not easy for me to do.)

After a huge break to watch a football game, I got back to it after dinner on Sunday. At some point, my son joined me and started jamming with me on the drums. That was fun for a few minutes.

And then it hit me. Somewhere in the middle of playing a Neil Young song I realized that I didn’t have to finish. Pink Floyd would have to wait until another day. As would Lynard Skynyrd, Mountain and Boston and The Yardbird and The White Stripes, The Youngbloods, ZZ Top and dozens more.

But I did play ‘Hey Jude’ to end my weekend. I think it was a perfect song to finish on. It was the first song I learned. The song that got me hooked. The band that made me fall in love with popular music.  And I could sing along without changing the key.

What could be better.

I’m looking for more song suggestions. Please comment below some songs you think I’d enjoy playing.  Thanks and have a great week.

R

10.07.13

 

 

 

 

Let me introduce you to ‘Brian’ from the Hotel Skylar

Did you ever meet someone who instantly ruined an entire experience with their attitude? You know, someone in a position of power who thinks it’s their job to tell you they’re in charge? If this sounds familiar, then you’ve met someone like ‘Brian’ the front desk clerk at the Hotel Skylar.

Yesterday, I was in Syracuse, New York to speak with the advertising students of Syracuse University and help them learn from my experience and provide some wisdom about advertising. Tips on how to get a job. Introduce them to the wonders of healthcare advertising. You know, helping them see what’s possible in their future.

My first meeting with the students was at 5 PM. When I arrived at the hotel at 2:05 PM, Brian informed me that I couldn’t check-in, since check-in time began at 3 PM.  He didn’t look to see if my room happened to be ready. He didn’t even ask me for my name. He just saw someone approaching the front desk with a suitcase and decided that I must be trying to check-in.

I told him I would wait, and sat quietly in the corner of the lobby reading and responding to e-mails.

After 10 minutes, he came over and asked if I’d like something to drink or eat. I thought, OK, maybe he’s not a total jerk. I told him I’d love a bottle of water. He pointed to a little room, where they sold drinks and snacks. “Water? We sell that, help yourself and I can charge it to your room.” He continued, “we also sell premium coffee or you can have the cheap stuff for free.” Isn’t that special. He’s trying to up sell me on drinks while I’m waiting to check in.

“Ahhh, no thank you.”

It’s now 2:20 PM, Brian comes over again and suggests I walk around campus while I’m waiting. “Wouldn’t you like to stroll around campus? It’s just outside the front door.” I once again declined. I was happy to sit and read e-mail. Even though I was getting very thirsty.

Fifteen more minutes go by. 2:35 PM. Brian comes over and informs me that my room is now ready for early check-in, if I’d like to check-in now. I told him I’d be over in a minute, once I finished reading e-mail.  At 2:40 PM I came over to the desk. Filled out the paper work. Got my room key. Then Brian said something incredible.

He said, “Mr. Levy, we’re going to waive to early check-in fee for you today.”

Excuse me? You were going to charge me an early check-in fee for 20 minutes? Really? I can’t believe how kind he was. I’m shocked that he had the authorization to make that call on his own. Perhaps we should check with senior management at the hotel just to make sure we’re not getting poor Brian in trouble.

So I decided to call the 800 number to check the policy.  Sure enough, the woman on the phone told me that there was indeed a 3 PM check-in time and there would be no exceptions. But then I asked, “Lets say I showed up at 2:30 PM and the room was available, could I pay to check-in early?” She thought for a moment then said, “Sir, I’m sure if the room was available, we’d let you check-in” And the cost? “Sir, there would be no additional cost to you.”

So Brian, what were you trying to pull? Did you think that by giving me something for nothing, I would feel better about my experience? “Wow, that guy let me check-in 20 minutes early, and didn’t charge me.”

I can’t let this go. Brian, I can’t let you waive the mysterious check-in fee. So, I’m going to pay for my 20 minutes. Since the room was $189/night – with a check-in at 3 PM, and check-out at 11 AM – that means the room is mine for 20 hours.  That’s $189, divide it by 20 hours, and you get $9.45/hour. Since I’m only using the room for and additional 20 minutes, you divide again by .33 and get $3.12.

Yes Brian, I’m sending the Hotel Skylar a check for $3.12. I will write you a personal note of apology. I don’t know what I was thinking, you know, trying to check-in early.

I also plan to write a little review on TripAdvisor.com and any other website that asks for hotel recommendations. So how was the hotel? It was fine. How was the service? Do you really need to ask?

Oh, and by the way – I think my speech was great.

R.

10.02.13

 

800 Post-It Notes. 75 Campaigns. 6 Countries. 3 Days.

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What happens when you get creative teams from six countries in a room together and ask them to solve a global creative problem?

In a word: magic.

For the past few days, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some incredibly talented people. We gathered in a conference room at the Westin hotel in Hamburg, Germany. Creative teams from the United States, Germany, Italy, France, Brazil and Argentina were represented. Planning and Account from the USA were also on hand. I was the host and session moderator.

We began with a simple briefing. Our creative brief was easy to understand and everyone instantly got it. The charge was given. Then the exercises began.

We began with a post-it note exercise that everyone felt was silly. We did this for what seemed like an eternity. Nobody was sure what we were trying to accomplish. “Trust the process,” I kept saying. “It will all eventually make sense.”

Next we took our 800 post it notes and divided them into categories. The stranger the name of the category, the better. Think outside the box. Stop thinking logically. There was lots of laughter. An equal amount of confusion. “Trust the process,” I asked. “It will all eventually make sense.”

Next we chose random post-in notes and wrote stories. The stories were interesting and revealing about the type of work we would create. My favorite story was titled “The Silence of the Dolphins” about a woman who works with hearing impaired dolphins.  Almost 20 stories were written. “Trust the process,” I said again. “It will all eventually make sense.”

But now the fun part began. Take everything we’ve created. The categories. The brief. The stories. And whip them into a brand manifesto for our product. I could see it in their eyes. It was beginning to make sense. Everything we had created to this point had a purpose. To add dimension to the brief. To give it a tone. To give it language. To give it passion. Now, we were about to give it a point of view.

The teams went off to work. Over dinner that night, we read our manifestos to each other. We drank wine. We sang opera. Reading manifestos in a 17th century, candle lit, wine cellar in Germany was surreal. You could feel the passion. You could feel the stake being planted in the ground. You could feel ideas beginning to be created.

But most of all, you could feel a team coming together.

Over the next 36 hours, we created over 75 campaign ideas. They came from the brief. They came from the categories. They came from the manifestos. But mostly they came from the  brilliant minds of the teams.  But not just the creative teams. Our planners jumping in with teams to create. Our branding director drew ads. The account leads wrote headlines, too. And yes, even I threw in an idea or two.  We laughed. We worked. We presented. Eventually we voted.

15 campaigns made the next round. We refined a little. We pushed. We pulled.

Then we presented to the clients. Nine clients from four separate global regions. We presented for almost two hours. We talked. We agreed. We disagreed. And in the end, we all aligned on 5 concepts to move forward.

We all stepped back and said, “The process worked.” I smiled as it all really did make perfect sense.

At the end of the three days, we did more than create a lot of work. We created global bonds that will help us stay on course as the work progresses.  There is a lot yet to do. The timeline is very short. But we’re confident in where we are heading.

Thank you to everyone who participated.

Thank you to everyone who worked over the weekend to help out.

And thank you to our client who trusted a process that they have never done before.

It was a fun few days.

R

9.26.13

SIDE BAR:  A meeting like this is impossible to coordinate. We brought in a professional meeting planner from our of our companies. Everything ran like clockwork. Amazing job. Holly – if you’re reading this – you were the secret weapon. Thank you so much!

 

 

 

I just got a gift: 45 minutes

The greatest thing just happened. Someone booked a meeting for 90 minutes and the meeting ended in 45 minutes. So I was given a gift of 45 minutes with nothing scheduled. If that doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, it only means one thing; you are not in meetings all day long.  For me, it was a huge break in my day.

I am in a meeting from the moment I arrive until the moment I leave. As an example, on Monday my calendar looked like this:

8:30 – 10 AM

9:30 – 11 AM (Yes, I was double booked for 30 minutes)

11 – 11:30 AM

11:30 – 12:30 PM

Noon – 12:30 PM (Double booked again)

1 – 2:30 PM

1 – 2:30 PM (Double booked again)

2:30 – 3:30 PM

3:30 – 4 PM

4 – 5 PM

4 – 5 PM (Double booked again)

5:15 – 5:45 PM

5:30 – 6 PM

6 – 6:30 PM

My meeting calendar has gotten so bad that I’ve begun scheduling 15-minute meetings. Get in. Get out. Made a decision. Move on. While very efficient, it’s not very personal.

I have tried to keep every day from noon – 1 PM free from any meetings to allow myself time to meet with people one-on-one. But something always pops up.

So I have to start doing something differently. I need to stop scheduling meetings in my office, as there are days when I never leave my personal space. I need to get off my backside and walk around a bit more.  But mostly, I need to insist on shorter meetings. A shorter meeting will mean more holes in my schedule and more time to do other things.

Now you may be thinking – “I have an idea, I’ll book Rich into 60 minute meetings when I only need 15 minutes, and I’ll be a hero.” Please don’t. That only means that I’ve schedule other people on other days to provide you with 60 minutes.  So now while I may have a few minutes free today – tomorrow is shot to hell.

And I do want to compliment two people who have figured out the how to get in to see me without an appointment. One person shows up at 5 minutes before the hour or 25 minutes after the hour hoping that what ever meeting I was in ended 5 minutes early. And virtually 100% of the time he’s right.  The other person has taken the time to book lunch with me once every few months. No agenda. No bitching. Just lunch. And I can’t tell you how nice it is to have a real lunch and a real break in the day.  I’ve had three lunches outside of the office in 2013. Two have been with her.

So, what did I do with my 45 minutes?

1)   Had a phone call with a freelance team about an upcoming project.

2)   Spoke to a client about a workshop I’m hosting next week.

3)   Met with three creatives about a new training program.

4)   Did my timesheets.

5)   Approved expense reports.

6)   Went to the bathroom.

7)   Answered 17 e-mails (By the way, I get hundreds of e-mails a day).

8)   Met with a member of the account team about a competitive campaign.

9)   Registered for a seminar.

Oh, and I did one other thing.  I wrote this post. But now I have to go, I don’t want to be late for my next meeting.

R

9.17.13

I’ve created a fantasy football monster.

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I introduced my son to Fantasy Football.  Now we have two people addicted to the score and stats of the NFL. Him and me.

The fantasy league actually began several years ago by my nieces and nephews.  They thought it would be fun to have a custom league that is made up only of family and friends.  After a few years, I was invited to join.  And I will admit, it is a lot of fun. And while the football part is competitive, the real fun is the smack talk between family members and the funny team names people give their individual teams.

Some of the names that have appeared in the league over the past few years:

Tebowners

Tampon Monsters

Dan’s Pillow Biters

Vaginal Infectionist

Baron Uterus

Green Bowl Packers

Beeej’s JOO’s

Atomic Punk

Aggravated Mayhem

Hold Mah Vick

Thunderlips

Electric Boogaloo

& I Did Big Ben

I know, low-ball humor (no pun intended) – but what can you expect from a league named ‘the cumbacks.’

But now that my 11-year-old is in the league (named Max-imum Velocity), I’ve noticed the names have calmed down a bit. But the smack talk has not let up a bit. In fact, my son is about to go 2-0 on our league – and he’s dishing it out.

The other thing I’ve noticed is how excited and nervous he gets on game day. Yesterday, after the first 3 minutes of the 1st quarter, my son announced to me that he was ‘benching Aaron Rogers next week, and playing Eli Manning instead.’  Of course by the end of the first half, he was claiming how brilliant he was for picking Aaron Rogers.  (Rogers-54.20 points, Manning-21.73)  He also was talking about cutting his tight end Jermichael Finley – right up until he starting catching passes and a touchdown.

I’ve also noticed he’s a shrewd GM. Last week, he picked up the Kansas City defense because they were playing Jacksonville. And what happened?  KC promptly has 6 sacks, 2 interceptions, and a defensive touchdown.  All while holding Jacksonville to 2 points.  In the entire Yahoo Fantasy universe – only 4% of people started the Kansas City defense.  My son scored 34.00 points.

But now, in typical fantasy football team owner – he’s taking it a bit too far. He’s beginning to look ahead. “Dad, I play Atomic Punk on a week when New Orleans has a bye week – so he has to sit Drew Brees. I think I can win that game….”

Right now, all is good in the world.  His team is undefeated. He’s sitting at #2 in the league. The schedule looks good for the next few weeks.

That is until week #9.  That’ll be the interesting week. That’s when Max-imum Velocity plays Tastee Sub Shop.

Yes, that week – he plays me.  Let the smack talk begin.

— to be continued.

R

9.16.13

The Blank Page

Much has been written about the blank page. Many people fear a page that is completely empty. I can’t understand that. To me, a blank page is the beginning of a great adventure. You’re ready to go, you’ve made all the plans and now all you have to do is walk out the door. And the best part, you don’t know how or when it’s going to end.

How did I get over my fear of the blank page?  It wasn’t easy. I had to learn to just begin writing words on a page. What words I write almost don’t matter. Just write something. I don’t leave the page blank. I don’t plan on where I’m going. I just write. And eventually something comes out that I think is interesting and I erase everything that came before that thought.

For example, today’s post didn’t begin as a story about the blank page. It began about the excitement I’m feeling about our new company website that will be launching in a few weeks. And how exciting it is to watch something grow from nothing into something. Somewhere in writing that story was the phrase ‘and it all started with the imagination of two people and a blank page, actually many blank pages.’  I stared at that sentence for a long time and realized that for every person who looks at a blank page as the ultimate opportunity, there’s someone who looks at the very same page in fear.

I’m going to Syracuse University in a few weeks, and will be speaking about blank pages. And how to fill them with amazing ideas. So I decided to ask a few people what comes to mind when I say the phrase ‘the blank page.’  Here’s a little of what they said.

“A blank page is exciting. It’s begging for an idea to be sketched, developed.”

“A blank page is the opportunity to truly leave a mark”

“I always think – wow – what can I do with this opportunity. I have complete control. It can now be my vision. A blank page is always positive.”

“The smell of sharpies and finger puppets”

“Terror”

“An interesting progression; nothing, void, stark, stuck, free, limitless.”

“A chance to do it better.”

“Overwhelmed & infinite possibility”

“Opportunity”

“In my mind, I’m half way there, on paper I haven’t started.”

“Scared to death in the first 30 seconds”

“The beginning of something (hopefully) brilliant”

“Creation, Possibility, New Beginnings.”

“@#$%#!”

“I avoid the blank page. Sometime I’d even just write my name, or doodle, or a not-so-relevant poem, just to avoid the blank page.”

“I hate the blank page. The way it looks at you, sneeringly, questioning your creativity, challenging you to fill it. A blank page is my nemesis – I know I have ideas in me somewhere. Great ones, too, if they would just come forth. What’s the trick this time around? What insight will spark me? Invigorate me? How long do I have to wait? Finally, you pull on the right twig and the dam comes crashing down, a deluge of ideas.”

I find these responses so interesting. Hope. Possibility. Terror. Fear. These are responses from people who always deliver amazing ideas. These are people who haven’t failed on a project in years. In fact, some have probably never failed. And yet the blank page still gives them a pit in the middle of their stomach.

I have a simple proposal. Let’s stop thinking about a blank page as blank. The artist Michelangelo once said about a block of marble “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”  Therefore, the words are there. The story is already on the page. Your job is to write enough to set it free.

Dorothy Parker may have said it best, “I hate writing, I love having written.”

Embrace the blank page. For within it, there is beauty, truth and a whole lot of fun.

R

09.28.13

Three Things You’ll Need To Accept

If you are going to read my blog, there are several things you’ll have to accept. After getting hundred of comments, I’ve decided that no matter how hard I try, I can’t change these three things. So, you’ll just have to know that these things are probably never, ever going to change.

Ready, here they are.

1) Typos.  I try. Really. I do try. I do read what I’ve written and I do try not to have any typos in my blog. But in virtually every post there’s a typo. It drives me crazy. And I know it drives you crazy.  Of the hundreds of responses I get, 80% are about typos. In my last post, someone didn’t even bother telling me if they liked what I wrote. But they did tell me there was a typo in the last sentence.

I’ve tried all the usual tricks to avoid typos. I read what I’ve written line by line. I read the post backwards. I read it out loud.  And nothing helps. In fact, I bet you there’s probably at least one typo in this blog post already.  I’m sorry. All I can say is that I really try. My excuse is that I’ve spent my entire career with a proofreader looking at my work, so I’ve gotten lazy about proofreading. Guilty as charged. My fault. My bad. Get over it.

2) I think the company where I work is @#$%#@ing amazing. I look at other healthcare agency’s work and I think their work is OK. I look at our work and think we’re great. I know we haven’t cornered the market on creativity. I know there are a lot of amazing agencies and amazing work. But day in and day out, the work we do around here is just better. In my opinion.  And that’s the thing about advertising, it’s 100% subjective. What I think is great, you might think it sucks. I know people show me work that they love and I hate.  Doesn’t mean it’s bad work. It just means that for some reason it doesn’t have the special ‘something’ that makes it stand out.

When I look at our body of work, I really like what I see. So you’ll just have to accept that when I write about my company, I’m going to say nice things. A lot of you write to me that you disagree with some of the things I like.  I’m glad. I want the work we do to have an edge that some people will love and some people will hate.  Work that is so boring that nobody has any problems – is just that – boring.  (Any typos yet?)

3) I hold a grudge forever. I know that’s awful. I know how wrong that is. I know that I should be a much bigger person. But I have a hard time letting things go. If I feel like you intentionally did something to hurt my family, my friends, my co-workers, or me you are now dead to me.  Someone says something bad about healthcare advertising in an interview. Dead. Someone questions my integrity. Dead. Someone takes advantage of someone because they can. Dead.  There are several people in my past who make me want to vomit every time I hear their names. I’m sure they know that I probably don’t like them. But they probably don’t know how much I don’t like them.  In fact, there’s one person who recently sent me a Linkedin update – and I was shocked.  I couldn’t believe after everything that we went through, this person wanted to ‘connect with me.’  Are you nuts??? No way. Why, so you can look at my connections and recruit people? So I can help you find a job? I’m sorry. There are a few people I can never forgive. And this person happens to be one of them.  (By the way – I get over 20 Linkedin requests a day. I have a simple rule, if we’ve never met, I don’t accept your request.  So, if I have accepted your request – don’t worry – the person I described probably isn’t you.)

Now there are hundred of other things about me that are never going to change. I’ll always love the Yankees and the Colts. (My father’s favorite teams) I’ll always defend New Jersey. (I grew up there – exit 10) I’m loyal to my creative teams to a fault. (And I expect it in return) I love the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and everything Motown. (The soundtrack of my youth) And my family is talented and amazing. (Of course)  And you don’t have to accept any of that. But typos, my company and my grudges, well, you’ll just have to let me have those.

After all, you don’t have much choice.

PS: Please feel free to point out all the typos in this post. I promise not to hold a grudge.

R

8.21.13