This Is Non-Negotiable

As I was walking down the long hallway of the first floor this morning, I started thinking, “Man… I really don’t feel like taking the stairs today.” It was a rainy Monday morning and of course I didn’t feel like taking the stairs to the third floor – especially when there was an elevator Right There, waiting to give me a lift.

That’s when my inner voice took over and said, “Take the stairs. This is non-negotiable.”

What? Non-negotiable? Where did that come from?

As I plodded my way up the stairs, the question kept tumbling around in my mind. I started thinking about what happens once we consciously decide to do (or to not do) something. It’s no longer up for debate. It just is what it is.

What’s interesting about this to me, though, is that rather than feeling as if shackles have been placed on me, I feel… FREE. This one little part of my life has been simplified by a decision I made two years ago when I started working here. “I will take the stairs each morning because it’s good for me to get the blood pumping before I sit down at a computer for several hours.”

So, now when the ol’ lizard brain (as Seth Godin calls it) tries to get me to make a different choice on a rainy Monday because it feels lazy, my higher self steps right in and says, “No. This is non-negotiable.” Taking the stairs in the morning has become a habit. It’s what I do (even on those days that I don’t feel like doing it).

Sometimes I find it hard to make a decision. I worry about how it will affect… everything. When that happens, I tend to postpone making the decision, which just means I get to drag around the weight of the guilt of not doing what I need to be doing.

Sure, sometimes there is a need for research and weighing options before a good decision can be made. I’m not talking about those times. I’m talking about the simple things that you can decide right now – today – that will make tomorrow easier for you because you won’t have to think about it. “This is non-negotiable.”


Summer’s Setting Sun


While it may be hard to believe, Summer 2015 is drawing to a close. Family vacations have been checked off the list, the kids are heading back to school (watch those school zones!) and football season is about to kick-off. It’s time to sit back and coast into the holidays… right?

Not so fast there, Santa. We are only half-way through the 3rd Quarter! There’s lots of year left for your business. Now is the time to dust off your business goals and marketing plans for 2015 and make something happen! From contacting clients with whom you lost touch during the summer hiatus to addressing your most important goals for 2015 to determining which projects should be pushed to next year, this is the prime time for action.

The smart folks at Inc. magazine identified 4 ways to dominate the 4th quarter (well, they didn’t call it that… but they should have!). I found these to be incredibly useful and think you will, too!

If you thought this summer went by fast, just wait and see how quickly the rest of the year goes! Get started today so you don’t find yourself “under the gun” during the festive holiday season.

“Every Monitor Is Slightly Different”

An interesting thing happens when you work from your office in your home (especially if you happen to have an inquisitive 9-year-old daughter studying your every move)… You get to re-learn some important things.

I was reviewing some logo designs before going to a client meeting last week. I opened the files on my laptop and then dragged them to my large monitor to see them more closely. As the window moved from one screen to the other, my daughter blurted out from behind me, “Hey! Those colors just changed!” I didn’t think much of it and simply responded, “Yeah… every monitor is different, honey.”

What do you mean ‘every monitor is different’?

Each monitor displays an image differently.

This led to a quick lesson in how each monitor displays colors slightly differently and the need for a system such as the Pantone Matching System to standardize colors so that we all know exactly which color should be used. She’s a bright girl and understood the concept immediately. I, however, was just starting to re-discover what this means on another level.

People are like computer monitors in this sense. We each have our own lens that alters the way we perceive the world around us. What I envision a beautiful deep blue to be is different than what you envision, but we both know what PMS 294 is. And this is a good thing!


The artist in me sees this analogy as what makes life a beautiful pallet (embracing and appreciating the differences between us). And, that’s cool. However, from a leadership standpoint, this isn’t exactly the best news. When a CEO says, “We need to increase sales”, each individual isn’t supposed to have a unique perspective on what that means. It’s pretty cut and dried: WE NEED TO INCREASE SALES!!!

My friends at Phase 2 Interactive addressed this point very well in one of their Five Guiding Principles (never mind that the first one is “Everyone you meet is Brian Blake”!). They call it the Dub Grissom Rule:

It is not enough to communicate to be understood…
you must communicate in such a way as to not be misunderstood.

While each person has a personal lens through which they interpret the world, an effective leader must find ways to cut through these lenses to effectively communicate and ensure each team member does not misunderstand the message. Unfortunately, there is no single, correct way to accomplish this task.

Part of being a leader is being able to accurately assess your situation to determine the best way to accomplish your goals. Obviously, communication is the crux of this solution. Just remember, every monitor is slightly different.

The Power of a Network

your personal network

In the marketing world, we talk about networking… a lot. We go to luncheons, happy hours, conferences and trade shows to “network”. We maintain a presence in various social media channels to build and strengthen our networks. The hope is that by increasing the size of one’s network, we improve the chances of getting more business through referrals. Does this really work, though? Is it worth your time and effort to actively build a personal network?  Definitely.

I recently found myself unemployed (well, under-employed might be a better description). Being a seasoned marketer, I decided the best thing I could do would be to get the word out that I am actively looking for a job – both as a full-time, salaried marketing executive as well as project work for B2design. I wrote a simple blog post about my situation, published it on my LinkedIn profile and shared it on Facebook. My hope was to spread the word to my network quickly. I had no idea how powerful this could be, though!

For a solid week, my phone has been blowing up! Seriously. Within minutes of clicking Publish, I began receiving a barrage of texts, emails, comments and “likes”. Apparently, the focused efforts I have put into connecting with people both here in Oklahoma City as well as across the country is coming back to me now. And it’s not just words of encouragement (which are wonderful, BTW!). I’m also getting leads on job opportunities as well as projects ranging from social media campaigns to graphic design work to blogging opportunities. It is an absolutely amazing experience.

All this activity. It’s straight from my network. What does that mean, though? “Network” just kind of seems like a buzz word. What is a network, really? Well, I went to Merriam-Webster for this one:

definition of a network

“A group of people or organizations that are closely connected and that work with each other.” Well, that about nails it. So how do you go about creating a network that will go to work for you?

You don’t.

My network has evolved from a multitude of authentic interactions. These are people with whom I want to be connected, they aren’t just notches on my MacBook. I have connected with friends, business associates, clients, prospects, thought leaders, great speakers, featured writers and people who I just thought seemed cool because of a blog post or an article they shared on LinkedIn. It has never been about what any one of them could do for me.

Sure, I have learned a great deal from my connections… and I have received business referrals and recommendations from my network, but I contribute, too. A lot. In fact, I give much more than I ask in return, and that is why my network has stepped up to support me in my time of need. These folks are happy to offer a helping hand to a hard working member of their networks.

There is great power within a strong network, but that’s the thing… It takes work (it’s not called a “neteasy”, after all!). By putting in the work, though, you receive the benefit when you need it most, and this is the power of a network.

A New View

Change is good.

Sure… it’s easy to say those words. It’s the doing part that can get a little tricky. Sometimes, however, change is thrust upon us and we have to face those “ch-ch-ch-changes” (thank you, David Bowie!). That’s where I’m finding myself today: facing BIG changes.  changes

For the last four and a half years, I’ve been happily employed at ROBYN Promotions. It’s a great company, managed by smart, caring people. I was given the opportunity to try new, exciting types of marketing; I was encouraged to be creative and to push the envelope; I had the chance to attend amazing conferences across the country and to meet some of the real rock stars of the marketing world… and it was awesome.

On Monday, July 6th, however, all that changed. The company’s senior management has decided to change their focus and keeping a full-time Director of Marketing on staff does not fit their future needs. So, today, my work space has a new view.

Change. Yep, it’s here. And it is good. I have fired up my B2design business (1 new client and one hot prospect already!) and I am actively looking for my next great opportunity for full-time employment. On the off-chance that one of my dear friends might hear of something, here is my LinkedIn profile.

It’s a kind of scary time (uncertainty tends to do that to us), but it is exciting, too. Just like reading a good book, I can’t wait to see what happens in the next chapter. I’ll be sure to document it here, though!

Just Keep Going

We’re just days away from the annual Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. Now, I’m not a great runner (I could never run 26.2 miles in a row!), but I do my best to do a 10K leg in the marathon relay. This year, however, I’m behind on my training… big time.

You see, my company isn’t sponsoring a team this year and no one I asked was too interested in doing it, so I kind of wrote it off. Not this year, I thought. No biggie. Then, my daughter’s teacher from when she was in preschool asked on Facebook if anyone was interested in filling in on her team. Done. I’m now an official member of team Liquid Courage. I couldn’t be happier (or more scared!).

As I was running this morning, the fear started creeping up on me… I’m not ready… I can’t do this… My body is hurting at two miles, how on earth can I do six?! All this was going through my head when I passed my favorite spot on my morning run… the pond.

Image“Just Keep Going”

That’s what I heard as I saw this beautiful sight. Just as the sun creeps up from below the horizon, burning off the morning clouds and the mist on the pond, just keep going. Through the nagging pain in the left knee and the heaviness of each breath… keep going.

It got me to thinking (which is a great way I distract myself from noticing the aches and pains of running!)… This is a good metaphor for life, too. Sometimes it hurts: unresolved issues at home, business concerns, disagreements with friends, financial problems… Whatever it is, just keep going.

Somehow, almost magically, things do get better… if you don’t give up. Sure, you might have to make adjustments to make it work. When I’m running, sometimes I have to stop and catch my breath… or tie my shoe… or change the tune in my headphones. These little tweaks and improvements get me through my run. And, after a hot shower, I always feel better about the day ahead because of the morning run.

It’s the same way in life. The adjustments you make, whether it’s working on being more thoughtful, saving for the future or reading more about an emerging industry, these are the things that help you to get through the immediate struggles. And, once you’ve cleared these hurdles, it’s refreshing to look back and see what you have accomplished.

Just keep going.

Why Are You Here?

Sunrise in Oklahoma

I was going for a jog the other morning. It’s July in Oklahoma, which means getting out really early, before the blistering sun begins to bake everything it can touch. This year, however, Okies have been blessed with a rather mild summer… and it’s awesome.

Anyway, as I was running my standard two-mile route, I passed the pond on the main road. This day, however, it was different. It was absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. So much so, in fact, that I stopped to take the photo above. Nice, huh? Seven minutes later, when I passed this same spot on my return trip, it had changed completely. Sure, the sun was still rising and the water was still silent, but the pink hues, the perfect reflection the silhouette of the houses and trees… they were different. That magical moment I captured was gone.

This got me to thinking… “Why am I here?”. Sure, that’s a big ol’ heavy topic, but I wasn’t thinking in a metaphysical sense (at 6 am, with sweat gushing from every pore of my body, I’m not in ‘deep thought’ mode!). I was thinking more along the lines of the immediate space around me. Why am I here?

Sometimes, things click so well, you know without a doubt why you are in this space at this time. Sometimes, it’s not so clear. You’re going through the same motions you did a week ago, but it’s different now. Not necessarily better or worse. Just different. So, why are you here?

Last month, my wife and I took our 7-year-old daughter to see Despicable Me 2 (don’t judge me!). It was a matinee and there were lots of kids there. At the climax of the movie, the woman in front of us (who had several kids of various ages) jumped up and started screaming, “Help me! Help me! Help me!”

I quickly ran to where she was and noticed two little legs sticking up from one of the chairs that was folded shut. She screamed, “My baby is in there! Don’t let him die!”

Wow! That was unexpected. I was just enjoying an animated film and now this?!

I pulled out my phone and used the light to see where the little guy’s head was. Yep. It was stuck. A second later, another man was there to help… and this guy actually had a flashlight! While I held the light and pushed on the chair, he tried to get the baby free. Another guy joined us in the effort and within two minutes, we had the baby out.

After the movie, I shook hands with the first guy and said, “Great job, man.” To which he responded, “I guess we know why we were here today, don’t we?”

Double wow!

I think he was right. That was the reason I was there. Sure, the movie was great, but I can watch it on Netflix next year. I was in that theater for a bigger reason, just like I was running down that road for more than just a morning jog. I was there to catch a moment of perfection… A beautiful sunrise that I may never see again.

We may not always know the why of our situations, but we can be certain that it is there… even if it’s to play a part in someone else’s story.

So… Why are you here?