What Would I Tell a 22-Year-Old Today?

Fail fast and often.

IMG_0044Everyone your age gets lots of advice. And you’re not even asking for it, are you? Well, here’s the deal: when you ask for advice, you’re pretty much tapping into the stuff you already know, deep down inside at the gut level. You know it. Yes. You know it.

Here are five things I’d like to tell you. It’s a short list—so I hope you’ll read it.

  1. Be kind.
  2. Fail fast and often (like Michael Jordan!).
  3. Read (or listen) voraciously.
  4. Smile widely.
  5. Don’t forget to have fun.

We could go on for paragraphs. Write books (there are lots). And make long speeches. But those are the five that matter today. If you want my advice, see what books, speeches, podcasts, and  TED talks exist to expand on each of these ideas. Or not. Just having these five to think about should do it.

P.S. If you’re not 22, it’s okay. You might also consider the five suggestions above.

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” ~ Michael Jordan

Seeing With Fresh Eyes

Everyone from marketers to writers to web designers needs Fresh Eyes. Find out why and how.

Seeing with Fresh Eyes

I don’t like to edit. Well, I like to edit other people’s stuff, but not my own. I like what I write. Or I wouldn’t be a writer. That said, everyone needs someone to edit their work.

 

EVERYONE. (Including moi).

Fresh Eyes are other people’s eyes. Or they’re your own eyes after a good night’s sleep.

Fresh Eyes are your eyes after 24 hours away from the project. Maybe 8 hours. Or 2. For longer works, Fresh Eyes, if they’re your own, require time and a blink-worthy dusting (think powdered sugar here) of amnesia.

Stephen King says Fresh Eyes are needed between book drafts. In his writing craft memoir On Writing he says, “How long you let your book rest—sort of like bread dough between kneadings—is entirely up to you, but I think it should be a minimum of six weeks.”

Fresh Eyes could be called “vu-jà dé” … (I stole this from Adam Grant’s TED Talk at minute:second 10:57 into the talk. Thanks Adam! J). It’s like the opposite of déjà vu, where instead of already having seen it before, you’re seeing it for the first time.

Fresh Eyes bring someone else’s perspective into your life, onto the project.

Fresh Eyes sing new tunes and bring new rhythms.

Fresh Eyes understand there are more ways to approach the problem, write the story, paint the picture, take the photo.

Fresh Eyes are untainted by prejudice. Fresh Eyes are unclogged by confirmation bias.

Fresh Eyes are often “focused” by listening ears and open hearts and reading out loud.

Fresh Eyes are gifted by a willingness to admit you’re wrong. A possibility that you made a mistake. The welcoming of another opinion, instead of an anxiety about being criticized.

Fresh Eyes are not fearful, nor are Fresh Eyes to be feared. They are your friends.

For your writing project, your film, your new product, your idea, your company, or your invention or daring marketing scheme, take a moment and a deep breath. Take two steps back, or take a walk around the block. A trip around the world. A night away. Take in a movie or a play. Read a book.

Then return with Fresh Eyes. And when “Did I really say that?” escapes your lips, you can thank us. Or thank Stephen King. He’ll be glad he could help. I’m sure.

Artwork by Katie Phillips

 

Voice, Tone, Style and Brand

I hear you! You’re saying…voice, tone and style are writing terms. What are they doing in a business blog? Lots. Voice has to do with who you are. It’s your identity. Your music. It’s your immutable, unalterable you that shows up in your speech, but also in your writing…in your emails, your message to the shareholders, or the correspondence to the members in youNew Voice and Styler club and on your website for gosh sakes! Voice is the name on your door. You are your voice. Your voice is you. The rhythm of your words, the cadence of the sentences, the word choices—they are all you. Using contractions like aren’t and haven’t will send one message. Or having no contractions in your messaging makes quite another statement. They all contribute to voice. Your “voice” defines your brand.

Ever heard of a writer with a strong voice? That’s someone with an identity that you can recognize… almost like recognizing a cartoon character by the human’s voice: Woody in Toy Story is Tom Hanks. You recognize his voice. Dory in Finding Nemo is Ellen DeGeneres. In the book Seriously…I’m Kidding written by Ellen DeGeneres, you hear her voice, not because you hear it, really, but the word choices sound just like her! Ellen DeGeneres is a human brand.

Tone defines your writing, your communication, your delivery. “Don’t take that tone with me, young man.” Oh how tone matters! Is your writing tone breezy? Erudite? Cozy? Funny? The tone of your life affects the tone of your writing, your website and um, your brand! Upbeat? Happy? Silly? Serious? Academic? Professional? Sad? Writing tone can send a company’s brand down the tubes or up to the clouds. Continue reading “Voice, Tone, Style and Brand”

Ghostwriting

Work that is written by someone other than the nominal author is ghostwritten. It’s purposeful and you’re hiring a ghostwriter because you either suck at writing, you don’t have the foggiest idea of where to start, or you simply run out of time.

Word has it that Aristotle was busy at the Lyceum and ran out of time. He had some great ideas, but he didn’t have time to sit down and write, so he hired a ghostwriter to capture his thoughts. It was quite difficult for the ghostwriter.

Ghostwriting
Image by Katie Phillips

Paper or papyrus (invented in 3000 B.C.E.) was still pretty sketchy during Aristotle’s time (circa 335 B.C.E.). Drafts were penned by hand, and erasers weren’t going to be invented until 1770. They used breadcrumbs or bread crusts as erasures back in Aristotle’s day. It was a great side business for the moms whose kids didn’t like crusts on their sandwiches. Anyway, you’d be surprised to know how much is ghostwritten these days.

Celebrities, politicians, business executives, professors, doctors, entrepreneurs, and website designers all use ghostwriters for their

communications. The range  can be from an essay to a magazine article, a memoir to a textbook, a piece of music, a speech, a press release, a blog, an RFP (Request for Proposal) and more.

Is ghostwriting (sometimes called ghosting) okay? Absolutely! In fact, it’s better for society because we would rather read well-written pieces than something a non-professional would create. We would prefer to see a professional tennis player than a high school tennis team player, unless of course it’s your son or daughter. That’s another reason. If the CEO has his mom read his book, she loves it. Moms love everything we do, but sometimes they’re not the best judges—right? Ghostwriters take longer works and organize them so they read well, so the pacing is better (not too fast, not too slow), and so the style and voice reflect the author better than the author may be able to do themselves. It is also nice for the author to give some credit to the ghostwriter, either “as told to” or in the credits.

Ghostwriting Trend Alert

As people become busier and busier, you will see and need more ghostwriting. There are ghostwriters that charge $50,000 for ghostwriting a book. Research shows that Barbara Fineman was paid $120,000 for ghostwriting Hillary Clinton’s book It Takes a Village. On an entirely different level, we find that many executives use writers to “ghostwrite” their email answers. Of course, famous speechwriters have ghosted for presidents throughout the ages, and a company’s annual report has ghosted articles and analyses if not from contract ghostwriters, then surely from internal employees that act as ghostwriters.

There are certificates now in ghostwriting, too! Ghosting is legal, moral, and non-fattening. It’s also much easier with computers than it was with papyrus and bread crumbs. And it’s on the upswing.

Success Is About Showing Up

 

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Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Showing up is one of those things that results from “should” winning the argument against “shallow.” Shallow says, “I’m so tired. I worked so hard this week. I need to stay home and rest up for the next week. I deserve a break. If I don’t go, I can stay wrapped around this book, bowl of popcorn, martini, television program, etc.” Showing up is about digging down into the hard dirt, and doing what you should do.

Here’s an example. A friend of our son’s is a pianist. The pianist has a younger brother who is an actor/singer. My husband and I attended both boys’ performances. Each event turned out to be hugely entertaining and beat out sitting in front of The Tube a thousand to one. But the best part of both evenings came when the boys saw that we had come. It’s not that we are fast friends. We are just parental units whom they know through our sons. But it made us all feel good. Enough other people showed up so that together, seated around stages in darkened rooms, we became audiences. Audiences make it worthwhile. Audiences witness. We want witnesses. Continue reading “Success Is About Showing Up”

Trust

Trust is the new barter system. We trade dollars, but we really work on trust. Trust says, ”My word is my bond.” Trust says, “I’ll work  to help you grow.” Trust says, “I believe in the Golden Rule.” Trust says, “If you really, really want this dream to come true —this book to be written, this business to fly —it will be done.”

Trust is the partner of hope. Trust finds power in the Universe. In fact, it draws power to us from the Universe. Not God, not Buddha, not anything religious, per se. It’s a piece of The Force from Star Wars. It’s the belief that we can win. It’s the David of David and Goliath. It’s belief in oneself. It makes the world work: babies are born with it, companies spawned from it, ideas spread through it. In this increasingly soulless, weary world in which we live, trust is the safety net we crawl into — a hammock that lets us sleep at night. Let’s protect it by trusting in someone or something today.

“Dishwasher Fairy”

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERADon’t you just love it when she comes?  Somehow she sneaks in, and poof! She has emptied the dishwasher without your knowledge. You mosey into the kitchen, the scowl of “I have to empty the dishwasher” furrowing your brow and curving the corners of your mouth down. But imagine your surprise!  Hah. She came.  A smile sneaks across your face (just like she tiptoed into the kitchen) and your day has suddenly improved from wherever it was.

First happy: You have a dishwasher! Second Happy: The dishes are clean! BEST HAPPY: I didn’t have to put them away!

So if you don’t own a dishwasher, be the happiness fairy in your home. Do something else that will make the world turn more smoothly for someone else in your life. Take out the trash, make the coffee, sweep, mow, wash, sing, dance, or make a towel animal.  It’s so much more fun.