Wrestling With Pigs

Wrestling with pigs, Emerging from Hell

I’m about to emerge from nine months in hell. I’m not out yet – there’s still work to be done – but I’m at least back in control of this aspect of my destiny.

It was a simple thing, really; all I wanted to do was fix some issues with this blog site design. The original designer tinkered with some code, which made updates impossible and crashes common.

So I was recommended to another fired-up firm who would definitely be able to help me. (I won’t blast them publicly here – that’s not my style. I will gladly steer you clear of disaster upon request. My good friend who recommended me to this firm has also pulled all of his work from this firm for similar – and worse – problems. ‘Nuff said.) (more…)

Nothing less than insanely great work

Several years ago I visited with management thought leader Tom Peters  at one of his seminars and received this inspirational note from him. The message sits on my worktable even today.

Does it ever make sense to do less than insanely great work? Maybe it’s how you are cut, but I don’t think so. When I feel I’m not doing my best work, I crank things up and get it to a level I can be proud to put my name on. Anything less than that doesn’t see the light of day.
I had a project recently where my final report was, well, OK. It wasn’t where it needed to be and I was disappointed in myself. What I was missing was some specific insight to give the document the edge that it needed. I couldn’t deliver the document as it was; mind you it was a good document but wasn’t “insanely great”. I dug deeper and reached out to a couple of colleagues with the right questions, found that insight and brought the document up to my personal standard of excellence. Beyond owing it to the client, I owed it to myself .

If we’re ever in a situation where we’re not doing our best, it’s a good time to ask ourselves “Why?” Why are we holding back from giving our absolute all to a situation? What are we waiting for? As Hugh MacLeod writes in his book Evil Plans , if the situation isn’t enough to drive us to excellence, perhaps we need to find something else; find the opportunity that makes us want to give our all.

We all need that Broadway show we’re in where every day we give it everything we’ve got leaving our souls on the stage for the audience. Everyone has talent of some kind and to fulfill his or her life’s purpose needs to use that talent to deliver insanely great work. Nothing less.

Is your “Evil Plan” ready?

I’ve been grappling with the seemingly odd mix of my professional life: strategy consulting, photography and creative workshops. How they fit together – or not. I find myself answering the question “So what are you doing these days?” with “A mix of marketing strategy and photography – two separate parts of my life.” But I’m learning that they’re not separate – they’re part of a whole and absolutely interrelated.

I credit a number of folks helping me sort through this recently: my good friends DK of Mediasnackers and Jay Liebenguth, designer Zoli Reczey, and, most recently, the book “Evil Plans” by Hugh MacLeod.
Each of these sources of inspiration has shown me that there is an umbrella to what I do: offer a new perspective to all of my projects. Stand on my desk (or your desk) and see things in a different light. Whether it’s marketing strategy, a creative thinking workshop or my photography the common link is that of my perspective. How I approach strategy for a business or conducting a workshop or composing an image is one and the same: to bring a unique and meaningful alternative perspective to the subject.

This sorting out is an evolutionary process with many “Ah-ha!” moments tossed in to keep the momentum going. It’s a journey and it’s not just about the destination but taking in the scenery (and lessons) along the way as well. My plan is coming together – it has been over the past few years – and within the span of the past couple of weeks the vision has become significantly clearer.

What is an Evil Plan? As MacLeod writes, it’s the determination to “make a good living doing what [you] love, doing something that matters [and] becoming the person [you] were born to be despite the odds.” (By the way, this is one of the few books in recent years that I could not put down until it was finished.)

We all have the capacity to develop an Evil Plan – it just takes determination, listening, learning and a lot of hard work.


Look where others aren’t

The fun part of creating art is seeing what no one else sees and sharing your unique perspective. Much like the Wall Street adage of “when folks are buying, see who’s selling” – when others are looking up, you should be looking down.

The Pantheon in Rome is one of my favorite buildings ever. Beyond the sheer concrete engineering feat that was accomplished nearly 2000 years ago, it’s simply a captivating building. As one walks into the vast rotunda (as tall as it is wide), one can’t help but gaze skyward at the oculus, an opening in the center of the dome. Rain and snow come in through this 30-foot diameter hole in the roof.

And sunlight.

Only light from the entryway and the oculus illuminate this temple. Given its vast interior and the role the oculus plays, one’s eye is naturally drawn upward toward the opening and the sunlight streaming in through it

Once, as I followed the light from the opening to the floor, I wondered where it went afterwards. The answer came in the image here. The light bounces off of the floor and illuminates the wall opposite creating a whole new experience in this wonderful building.

Are you looking where others are and if so, why?


Looking sideways

I was in LA last week for some meetings and had time one
morning to walk around before my other activities began. Without hesitation I
set out to see the Walt Disney Concert Hall – the Frank Gehry work of art that
doubles as a concert facility.

I’d seen the building in countless images, movies and
magazines but never in the flesh. Or steel, rather. I spent the better part of
an hour just walking around the outside of the building, wonderfully
constructed to be appreciated from all sides. There’s no back alley with dumpsters
and it’s not backed up against some other building. Instead, it’s a
three-dimensional sculpture with gardens that allows one to touch the building
at all times. What a concept!

About three-quarters into my journey around the building a
staircase appeared, inviting me to take the “skywalk”. Why not? The building
had me captivated in its approachability and accessibility, so I had to climb
further up and further in.

Music - three layers
 One thing I’ve learned in photography is always to look up,
look down, look sideways and look behind. Looking ahead is natural and once one
is behind the viewfinder, the world shrinks to what the lens offers. It’s too
easy to neglect what’s around you when you’re looking ahead through the lens of
a camera. The human eye has a field of vision of about 120 degrees, which
shrinks when looking through a lens, leaving at least 2/3 of what’s around us
out of sight.

As I climbed the stairs to the skywalk, I paused and turned
around. There, behind me, down to my left was the image I have here. On my
first run through the photos from that day, this is one that jumped out at me.
It may well be the best image I got that day out of the several hundred I shot.

My nature was to continue to climb, to get to the platform
of the skywalk and see what was there. My experience told me to pause, turn
around and see what was behind me. Being one who tends to look forward rather
than backward (as a life practice and philosophy), this move did not come
naturally. Yet, because I went against my nature and listened to the voice of
experience, I caught this slice of music.

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