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The children’s menu

"Here, eat this food you've eaten a hundred times before. These chicken fingers and french fries are just like what we have at home. And turn on your iPad and watch that movie you like so much…"

Of course, chicken fingers are just a symptom. If we want to insulate ourselves from new experiences, ensure that we never eat something we don't like, never engage with someone we disagree with, never have to hold two opposing ideas in our head at the same time—chicken fingers are a great way to start.

The new is a habit. It's a habit we can teach to our kids and it's a habit we can learn ourselves. 

Spend a few hours thinking and walking in that local park you've never visited. Go visit an online forum where you disagree with the worldview of those hanging out—but instead of arguing, listen. Play some opera while you're chilling out at home tonight. Try eating vegan for three days…

The children's menu is always available, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea.

References available upon request

 (and other things to leave off your resume)

Resumes are overrated.

Of course your references are available upon request. What are you going to do, refuse? 

If your references are amazing, don't offer them on request, include them. If they're not stellar, do better work and get some stellar references. Give me names and phone numbers and actual testimonies.

And that objective line? Objectives are a relatively new addition to resumes. Their original purpose was to show a big company that you had aspirations to move up the corporate ladder (their corporate ladder) in a specific direction. For a few isolated careers, this made sense.

But now, the objective line is either used as a narcissistic caption about what's in it for you (not me) to hire you ("to learn about what you do so I can quit and go do it somewhere else soon") or, far more common, as an exercise in say-nothing doublespeak that can best be summarized as blah, blah, blah.

Starting your resume with blah and ending with an obvious bit of boilerplate does no one any good.

“How was your bike ride?”

The answer has evolved over the last century…

It was great, I pushed myself and feel fabulous.

    It was okay, I came in fourth place in the race, but those other guys beat me again.

I did fine. My speed was 15.6 miles per hour, not my best average.

    Well, the computer says it was a personal best, and my heartrate approached max on the third hill.

The app says that I did that route the 159th best of everyone who has ever done it. A bust…

More information doesn't always make us happier. At some point, improvement turns into a game, something to be won or lost, completely losing the point of the project we set out to do.

It's no wonder that after a certain point, increased income doesn't usually lead to more happiness. If income becomes a game, not a means to an end, then people will distort their goals and choices in order to win. They'll cut corners, maybe even do things they're not particularly proud of, all because our culture has created a huge scoreboard, updated hourly.

The same thing is true with the quest to win the sports trophy at all costs, or to measure your office in square inches and compare it to the next guy's…

"How big was your bonus," is not the same question as, "how happy are you?" or even, "do you feel good about making a difference…"

Three marketing lessons from Broadway

Understand who it's for.

Almost all the casting, play selection and advertising done for Broadway shows is designed to appeal to tourists and to those that rarely come to the theater. After all, there are a lot more of them than there are the diehard fans who see three or four or nine shows a year. 

And so the producers focus on celebrities and popular topics. They run bus ads and reach out to hotel concierge staff. Makes sense.

Until you do the math. The math makes it clear that the people who go to the theater regularly are often the ones who fill the seats, pay the bills and spread the word. It turns out that activating people who already like you is far more productive and profitable than it is to spend time and money yelling at people who are ignoring you.

This one shift, a shift to building relationships between and among the core audience, to make plays for your audience instead of finding an audience for your plays, is the golden lesson that applies to just about every organization.

Understand the worldview of those you're trying to reach.

In this revealing article, we see SpotCo, the leading Broadway ad agency, working their way through the creation of an ad. The good news is that they were insightful enough to realize that this musical, with its lack of edginess or big stars, is going to appeal to the kind of people who have been coming to see it–older folks, mostly women, people looking for a reliable, pleasant night at the theater.

Broadway adHere's the ad they just ran. It completely misses the goal of telling a story that matches the worldview of those they're trying to reach. Instead of talking about what other people "just like me" have said, it quotes the awards it's won, but the skeptical theatregoer in this category has seen award-winning plays before, plays she hasn't liked very much. Bragging about all the awards makes perfect sense if you're trying to reach the people who have to see the plays that everyone is talking about, if you're trying to reach the buzzhounds and the completists, but that's not the worldview of this group. Worse, for the skittish ticket buyer, it doesn't tell us what the play is about.

Most of all, it fails to create a sense of urgency for those that share this worldview. In almost every non-essential situation, people are likely to choose, "later," as their response to a pitch. Why do it now if I can do it later? This group in particular, a group that doesn't need to go first, is likely to respond with 'later'. 

(PS If you end up making an ad that compromises enough that it pleases the committee you've been assigned but doesn't accomplish your real goal, I think it's better to frame that ad to hang on the wall and not waste the money actually running it).

Realize that you don't have enough ad money.

Just about every organization doesn't have enough cash to run enough ads to do what ads are best at. Overwhelming the chosen audience with a consistent, persistent message is how display ads do their job. (Absolut vodka). One ad, one time, isn't going to change much. That means that the cash-strapped ad buyer needs to obsessively focus and trim and find an arena where they can reach fewer people, more often. The New Yorker is not that place. One of the advantages of building and connecting a tribe is that you can talk to them directly, and honestly. The other advantage is that each time you show up, you don't have to pay $50,000.

Self assurance checklist for the anxious traveler

Travel has always meant possibility and change, and for some people, that means anxiety. Add to this non-refundable fares, tight connections and security theater courtesy of the TSA, and it's easy for the fun to turn into a literal nightmare.

There are people who will tell you to just get over it and enjoy travelling, but for some people, the real benefit happens if they can eliminate the things that trigger the biggest issues.

Some prophylactic measures to consider, extreme steps to transform your internal dialogue:

  1. Five days before you travel, lay out everything you intend to bring with you, all in a special section of your room. 
  2. You're not going to be checking bags (that's my dad's first law of travel), so, first, relentlessly trim what you laid out. Second, if it still won't fit in a manageable, small, wheeled bag, ship it ahead of time. Get the name of the person at the bell desk at your hotel, and ship the things you can't live without via UPS or Fedex Ground. Track them and you'll know that they've arrived before you even leave.
  3. Take a photo of everything you intend to pack, all laid out on the floor. In addition to helping you file a claim for some reason, the big bonus is that you never have to worry about whether or not you packed something, because you have a photo of everything you packed, on your phone.
  4. While you're at it, go ahead and get a duplicate of your favorite pillow. Ship it ahead. No, we're not moving in, we're not staying at this hotel forever, and no, it's not the way easygoing travelers do it. But hey, you're not an easygoing traveler, and getting a good night's sleep is worth the few dollars it's going to cost you to add a pillow to the box.
  5. Make a written checklist of everything you're going to do the day you depart. Include, for example, the phone number of the car service, checking the oven light and watering the plants. If it's written down, you don't have to keep it in your active memory so you won't forget it. And once you make the list, you can use it again and again, improving it as you go.
  6. Get your boarding pass the day before. I think every airline offers this now. Get it as a printout, not on your phone, because a printout is easy to check off and put next to your passport, more peace of mind. Print a few copies, why not?
  7. Use Yelp to find a restaurant within 4 miles of the airport. Go there for a meal a few hours before the flight is scheduled to leave. You'd feel stupid getting to the airport three hours early, but having a delicious bowl of tom yum three hours before feels just fine, and then you can completely forget about the issue of traffic.
  8. While on Yelp, check out the neighborhood where you are staying. My guess is that they have stores! Remind yourself that if you need a bobbin or a notion or even a toiletry, you'll probably have no trouble picking one up.
  9. When you park your car, put the parking ticket in your ashtray. After you lock the door, take a picture of where you parked, and email the picture to a friend. No worries about finding the car or the ticket later.
  10. You're thinking of bringing more stuff and checking it. Don't. See #2. Only bring the smallest amount of stuff with you, no giant bags to argue about fitting in the overhead and such.
  11. If you travel with people who get all uptight when they go through security, don't go through security with them. Let them go five minutes before you, and you'll have no issues.
  12. Your favorite necklace that's really hard to take off that freaks out the security machines? Leave it at home. And those boots with 100 laces? Leave all of it at home. 
  13. You know that scrum to get on the plane first? Skip it. You have very little luggage, and you can just sit there and relax. No prize for getting on first.
  14. You know that scrum to get off the plane first? Skip it. Particularly people who have trouble wrestling their bags, or racing down the aisle or who might need a wheelchair at the gate. Just let everyone else get off first while you take two minutes to check the email on your phone. No prize for getting off first.

So, there you go. For just a little extra cash and just a little extra time spent, you've eliminated fourteen of the things that get people all stressed in their rush to force reality to match their expectations (or to keep reality from matching their fears).

A bonus: Some people get peace of mind by hiring a car service to meet them at their destination. This always messes me up, because there's the hassle of figuring out where to meet the driver (upstairs? downstairs? which door?). I prefer the random access approach of finding a cab, but highly recommend you have Uber loaded and ready on your phone before you leave. It really does transform the way people travel. (Here's a free ride promo they're running for new users).

And another bonus: the now legendary wrinkle-free packing hack.

Have a good trip.

The existential crisis (and the other kind)

For some, crises are existential. The subsistence farmer, the parent without access to medical care, the person living in a makeshift shelter–this crisis might be the last one they ever encounter. Deal with this crisis or cease to exist.

As a result, crisis management became a cultural emergency, something we all focused on. High alert, drop everything, this is do or die, because if we don't get through this, it's over.

Now, of course, for those lucky enough to live in a well-off part of the world, insulated from disaster, few crises are actually this black and white—they merely feel that way.

The project might be in jeopardy, but you're not.

Don’t blow it (the secret of b2b)

If you sell to businesses, you're either calling on unsuccessful companies, who are panicking and afraid and don't have a lot of resources to spend on new things…

Or you're selling to successful businesses. And in those organizations, most people walk around with a three-word mantra imprinted on their arm: Don't blow it.

Far more points are awarded to people who keep things moving and defend the status quo. If you're the gambler, the one who risked and failed, well, it's understood at many places that this isn't good, that you're at risk and off the track.

So, the story that resonates more often than not is a story that's built around those three words. 

A review sprint

How many short book reviews can we assemble in one day?

Think of a book that's influenced you or made a difference in your life and write a short review on Hugdug. Just type in the name of the book and the site will tee you up to write a few words and share them with your friends.

To get you started, here are a bunch of popular authors and their books to choose from.

It would be magnificent if 1,000 people posted a review today. I hope you'll give it a try.

Sharing a book is (almost) as good as writing one.

Cat food is for people

So is this bag of gluten-free, kale, peanutty dog treats.

And the first birthday party for the kid down the street is for her parents, not her. And the same is true for most gifts we give people (they're for us, and how we feel giving them, not for the recipient, not really). And many benefits the company offers to its employees…

It's easy to imagine that the giver is focused on the recipient at all times. But, more often than not, the way the gift makes us feel to give is at least as important as how it makes the other person (or pet, or infant) feel to receive it.

PS if you think cat food is for cats, how come it doesn't come in mouse flavor?

The handyman, the genius and the mad scientist

The handyman brings attention to detail and craftsmanship to the jobs that need to be done. Difficult to live without, but a household name, not a famous name.

The genius, Thomas Edison, relentlessly tries one approach after another until the elusive solution is found.

And the mad scientist, Tesla or Jobs, is idiosyncratic and apparently irrational—until the magic appears.

Who do you need?

Who are you?