"We gather knowledge faster than we gather wisdom." - William Bell

The Argument Against Fighting For Creative

Posted: February 19th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Pitching Ideas | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Imagine the following scenario – you’re looking for a pair a jeans. You’re in a store trying on a couple pairs and the salesperson is heavily pushing you towards purchasing a specific pair. But for some reason, you’re not into them. The style just isn’t you. It’s not easy to explain, but you’re just not feeling them. They don’t make you comfortable and confident. They’re too out there.

Then the salesperson decides to start assaulting you until they get you to give in and buy the jeans they suggest. You leave the store batter and bruised. You’re never going to shop there again. And you are sure as fuck never going to wear those jeans.

It’s an extreme example, but a lot of people think that the aforementioned approach is the correct thing to do in a creative industry. You’re told to to “fight for the creative.” That’s stupid. And that’s wrong.

You don’t fight for creative. Fighting implies that there is a winner and a loser. Someone who just lost a fight will never be happy enough to buy your product. You forced it on them. It’s not a choice. And people like to make choices.

Fighting creates a nemesis. You don’t want your customer to be your nemesis. You want them to be your ally. You want them to be excited about your vision. You want them to partner with you in making great work. You want them to take up the torch and spread the word about how amazing the creative is.

You do that, not by fighting, but by igniting passion. You leverage the excitement, the fight and the passion that you have for your creative and you infect them with it. You get them to join your revolution. You show them how the jeans that you’re suggesting will make their ass look amazing. And how it’s they are stylish in a way that will get people to compliment them, boost their confidence and generally kick ass in the world.

Become an ally. Not an opponent.

- Christian

The Golden Rule Of Good Storytelling

Posted: December 18th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Pitching Ideas | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

I have been in the room when someone is able to capture an audience of hundreds of people by telling an amazing story. People creep to the edge of their seats in intense focus. An entire room feels inspired. That’s what happened the first time I watched the Lion King. I have also been in the complete opposite situation. Last week one of our friends told an awful story. Seriously. It was brutal. The room glazed over with disinterest. We all started pulling out our iPhones and giving the obligatory “un huh” response as he told us about some supposedly pivotal life event.

It made me realize that there is a big gap between good storytellers and the vast majority. It’s strange, because we have all been telling stories since we were young. It’s how we communicate. It’s how we connect with people. It’s how we teach. It’s how we learn. It seems as though we would have perfected this skill at a much younger age. But just like running, there are very few people who are taught the correct technique. Most people learn what works for them through trial and error. But just like someone’s running form, a few small adjustments can make a world of difference. One piece of advice that I’ve been trying to employ over the past couple of years to great success is something that I call The Golden Rule Of Storytelling.

The golden rule is simple – know your audience. Too often people are so focused on what they want to communicate from their story that they don’t stop to think about the people listening to them. The key is to figure out if your audience even wants to hear the story that you want to tell. Why do they want to hear it? Are you being self-indulgent and enjoying the sound of your own voice? Or does it bring value into their life? If not, shut the hell up.

When we are talking about the value in story telling, the opportunities are simple. There are three basic ways that a story can bring value to someone:

  1. Entertainment (The story is funny, dramatic or enthralling.)
  2. Information (The story teaches you something. Maybe a fun fact about a place or an insight into someone’s character.)
  3. Inspiration (The story is about something so awesome that it inspires people to try.)

Obviously, the value that someone gets out of your story is based on their relationship to you. If you’re a complete stranger, chances are that they won’t be interested in hearing the tales of your emotional problems at work. It’s awkward as hell and uninteresting to hear that stuff from someone that you’ve just met. If you’re are close friends with someone, hearing about their emotional state and current situation may be incredibly valuable to you as a friend. You may find inspiration in their story and how they’re poised to overcome their obstacles. You care about the characters in the story and are rooting for them.

Audiences also tend to be different depending on their environment and personalities. A group of doctors at a medical conference would be much more inclined to hear a story about the latest breakthrough in oxygen therapy on cancer tumors. Additionally, some people are genuinely interested in learning about strangers. Those tend to be the people who are able to make the best connections and develop deep relationships with people in a short amount of time. However, the majority of people don’t really give a shit about learning about the innermost workings of a complete stranger. These are all of the factors that you have to consider when thinking about your audience.

Consider your audience when telling a story. Whether you’re making a multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster or trying to teach your kids about the importance of hard work, think outside yourself and your own personal interests. Try to understand where the people listening to you are coming from. Why are they listening? What value are they looking for? Do they want to be entertained, informed or inspired? Then figure out how you can tailor your story telling to cater to them. That’s what makes a great story teller and a great experience.

The key is focus on how the story makes your audience feel instead of how it makes you feel.

- Christian

The Danger Of Unspoken Contracts

Posted: December 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Life | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to be in a situation where I was casually dating an awesome girl. Or at least I thought that we were casually dating. At the time, I thought that as long as I was adept enough to avoid “the talk”, things would remain casual. Her thoughts were different. From her point of view, we had become serious right away. Needless to say, it was an extremely awkward situation when it became clear that we weren’t aligned in terms of the rules and expectations of the relationship.

And that’s when I found out about the danger of unspoken contracts. An unspoken contract is what happens when a lack of explicit verbal communication allows for each party to apply their own assumptions to a situation. A nonverbal contract, if you will. If those assumptions on the contract are not the same, there is friction as both sides begin to realize that the other party isn’t exhibiting the expected behavior.

Unfortunately, my relationship with this awesome girl didn’t work out. And as I’ve matured, I’ve realized that an honest discussion of your expectations at the beginning of a courtship saves a ton of drama and heartache.

The same theory applies to the workplace. A manager who isn’t able to clearly communicate her expectations to the people she’s managing will always be frustrated. An employee who isn’t able to communicate his goals to his boss a couple of months before his review risks being disappointed by the outcome.

Unspoken contracts are also dangerous in athletics. If a teammate is expecting someone new to the team to run a specific route when faced with a zone defense, it should be communicated. It should not be assumed. Otherwise you risk not having your receivers running the patterns that allow you to break the zone.

So why do these situations occur? The answer is simple. We assume that other party is able to figure out what our goals and expectations are. We think that the environment, our personality and our behavior are enough to indicate our intentions.

And we are either too embarrassed or too shy to express our thoughts verbally. So we rely on subtle non-verbal cues to hint at our intentions, hoping that they are enough. But the truth of the matter is that the other party is not psychic. They can’t know exactly what’s going on in our heads without us explicitly telling them.

The best way to avoid unspoken contracts is to communicate your goals and expectations clearly and early on. If you want a promotion in 6 months, say so. If you want to casually date and have fun, be explicit. If you are looking for a long term romantic partner, don’t be afraid of “scaring people off” by being honest about it. In fact, I would say that it is even more important to let your potential partners know early on. As the stakes increase, so does the necessity to be brutally honest about what your expectations are.

I have been fortunate enough in the past 12 months to have friends and mentors to push me to be brave. They have pushed me to have the awkward conversations early on and not be embarrassed about admitting what I want. And in 90% of those “awkward” conversations that I’ve had, the other party is refreshed, impressed and grateful for my honesty. I know it’s not an easy step to take, but it does save a lot of frustration. Good luck!

- Christian

The Face Of A Champion

Posted: November 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration, Life | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

This is the face of a champion.
It’s not pretty.
It’s beat up.
It’s bloody, scarred and bruised.

You’re not given respect.
You have to earn it.
You earn it through the grind.
Through training.
Getting kicked.
Testing yourself.

Testing yourself against the best.
Putting yourself in situations that make you better.
Taking your beatings.
Learning from them.
Adjusting your game plan.
Trusting your experience.

Not giving a shit that you’re bloody, battered and bruised.
Because that’s what a champion looks like.
The scars are experiences.
They are reminders, stories and motivation.
And they are what made you the champ.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get tickets UFC 154 in Montreal. The experience was amazing. It was raw. It was animalistic. It was poetic. Kudos to all of the fighters for being so accessible, athletic and entertaining. But the main event – the Welterweight title fight – was where the champion was made. You see, once you enter the ring, it doesn’t matter that you’ve been a champion before. That belt was taken away from you the second you stepped in the ring. And you have to earn it back.

Seeing George St-Pierre fight Carlos Condit through a full five rounds was one of my personal highlights for 2012. It was technical. It was brutal. It showed tremendous heart. It also taught me a lot about life. You have to fight to be on top. The road is never easy. You have to grind it out with hard work.

We are not infallible. As dominant as we may have been a year or two ago, things change. You have to constantly improve yourself in order and bust your ass to create your legacy.

But most of all, you have to keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid of getting kicked in the face. Scramble, get back to your feet and earn your championship.

- Christian

What Inspires Me

Posted: November 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration, Life | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a massive blank canvas. The intention was to create some home made art for myself. I wanted something for my bedroom that would inspire me each and every day. I’m a gentleman who is in love with words, so I gravitated to my favourite quotes. Out of the ones that I had scribbled down across various notebooks and scraps of paper, I found my top five quotes for consideration:

  • “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” – Walt Disney
  • “Bad decisions make great stories.” – Unknown
  • “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” – Francis Bacon
  • “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
  • “You have to do stuff that average people don’t understand, because those are the only good things.” – Andy Warhol

I mulled over these for a couple of days, trying to figure out which one I liked the best. Which would put me in the best mood day after day? Which quotes could be applicable to the challenges that I would face that day and put them in perspective? Which ones would be applicable to work, athletics and relationships?

It wasn’t until I was talking with my sister that I had a striking realization – none of these quotes work. Why? Because none of them were funny. Sure, they tote heavy life lessons that I should try to remember every day. They’re words that encourage taking risks, learning from your mistakes, pushing the boundaries and appreciating your experiences. But they’re not funny.

Humour inspires me. It’s the trigger that makes me happy. It puts me in my most productive mindset. Silly humour washes away worries, insecurities or concerns. It’s like a warm hug from a giant teddy bear. It makes me feel safe. It makes me feel like anything is possible. And that’s what I need to crush the day.

Some people get inspired by tragedy. Some by hope. Some by deadlines. Some people get inspired when they see all of the amazing shit that other people in the world are doing. For me, the most consistent trigger that works day after day is humour. Something silly. Something to make me smile.

Now I just have to paint this fucking thing …

- Christian

Don’t Underestimate The Importance Of A Partner

Posted: October 23rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Life | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of catching Jay-Z’s live streamed performance at the newly minted Barclays centre in Brooklyn. The concert itself blew me away. It was the celebration of a hustler, artist and entrepreneur realizing his dream. What made the concert so impactful was the look of genuine joy on Jay-Z’s face. It was the happiness you see when a kid wakes up on Christmas morning. There was no more anticipation, worry or work. His decade old dream was now real.

But as the entire borough of Brooklyn had their eyes on him, there was one set of eyes that beamed prouder than any others. His partner. As cheesy as it may sound, Beyonce joining him on stage for final performance and the two of them walking out together highlighted a universal truth – the importance of a great partner.

There are different partners for different elements of your life. You can have a partner in business, in creativity, on the sports field, in life and in love. If you’re lucky, you may find all of those things in one person. But the role of a good partner is the same – it’s to make you better.

The best partners allow you to elevate your game. They’re a person who will allow you to slice through the defence with a no-look pass. They’re a creative sounding board to bounce ideas off of. They’re a critic that will call you out on your bullshit when everyone is too polite to do so. They’re the person standing there, holding your hand when you’re about to leap into the unknown. They’re the one who is genuinely excited for you to realize your dream.

All of this – honest feedback, support, trust and unspoken understanding – is what raises your game. It pushes you past limits of what you can achieve on your own. The right partnership can turn you from good to great. And we all want to be great.

Finding the right partner is challenging. The reason being is that everyone’s perfect partner is different. It’s not about checking off a list of specific qualities. Every person needs something different. The key to a successful partnership is that they complement your style and personality. In the words of Jerry Maguire they “complete you.” Often, it’s not about finding someone who is exactly the same as you. It’s about partnering with someone who has the talent that addresses your blind spots.

But as I mentioned, this is different for everyone. Each person has different blind spots and different needs in a partnership. The most important criteria for a partner is that they make you better. They don’t drag you down. You are a better athlete, creative or person when you’re with them. They bring a positive energy that allows you to exceed your personal potential. Choose the right partner and life can be awesome. Choose the wrong one and you’ll spend too much time worrying about the partnership instead of enjoying life.

The benefits of a great partner are simple. You produce better work. You are more productive on the field. You accomplish more in life. You are happier with the time that you’re spending together. In the simplest form, a good partnership elevates your game.

The support, the honesty, the inspiration and the motivation that they provide puts you in a better mindset. The better mindset produces a better lifestyle. The best part? Once you’ve achieved those goals, you have someone to share a beer with.

- Christian

Friday Inspiration

Posted: October 5th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Jay-Z proving that you can achieve anything, with a killer photo of him standing on the roof of his childhood home at 560 State St. He went from living in the Brooklyn projects to owning the town’s NBA franchise and building their arena across the street.

- Christian

The Importance Of Words

Posted: September 26th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Life, Pitching Ideas | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

The words you choose are important. They are not just throwaways used to express your brilliant thoughts. They are open to interpretation. Their meanings change depending on the context. They are the difference from someone thinking you are awesome or an asshole. Brilliant or idiotic. Trustworthy or sketchy.

Words trigger emotional reactions from the recipient. Those reactions are based on the context that the listener has constructed. Things like memories, the situation and other people in the room all influence that context. The emotions formed from those words interpreted in that context influence how people perceive what you’re saying. It can work for you. Or it can work against you.

The words you use define the tone of the conversation. And that tone influences how receptive people are to that communication. Are you being combative or collaborative? Are you being manipulative or sincere? Are you being straightforward or rude?

Let’s take an example of starting a conversation with a stranger. You ask, “How’s it going?”

That’s a pretty basic introduction. You’re asking someone an open ended question that could lead to a conversation. But then, what if you opened with “What’s crack-a-lacking?” It provides the same open ended opportunity as before, but it adds personality and charm. It gives this complete stranger a sense of who you are as a character as well as the tone of the conversation that you want to engage in. Instead of being awkward and polite, the tone is now lighthearted and fun. With a different choice of words, you are able to communicate the same message but with a vastly different tone and outcome.

Words are the key tools used to communicate your message. Make sure that you’re using the right ones. Don’t try to hammer a nail with a shovel – it may work eventually, but not the way you want it to.

- Christian

29 Things I Learned Before Turning 29

Posted: August 13th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Life | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

1. I thought I would look cool with a mustache. I was wrong.
2. Need an easy appetizer to bring to someone’s party? Baked brie. Always a hit.
3. The best way to show that you love someone is by baking them a giant cookie.
4. You should not rely on wearing funny t-shirts to be funny.
5. Emotions are contagious. If you’re happy, everyone around you starts to feel it. If you’re bummed out, same thing.

6. The world is full of awesome strangers. Talk to them.
7. Drink Gatorade to cure a hangover. Actually, drink Gatorade before going to bed to prevent a hangover.
8. If everyone else is crying at a funeral, you probably shouldn’t. One person needs to be the rock for others to lean on.
9. Sometimes you can’t prevent people from making their own mistakes. But you can be there to pick them up when they do.
10. Listening allows for better conversations

11. Work hard to find a job that you love. Or one that’s going to get you the job that you love.
12. Being proactive at work allows you to create projects you want to work on.
13. The only person who gives a shit about your career is you. Not your boss. Not your company. Only you.
14. If you want something, ask for it. Not everyone is can read minds.
15. Groups naturally need a leader. Whether it’s your friends trying to pick a restaurant or your team on the field, man up and be the person to make decisions.

16. The rule for casual dating – an honest talk about what you’re looking for at the beginning will save you drama down the road.
17. Date when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely. (Something an older kid told me when I was 15)
18. Don’t try to fix the person you’re in love with.
19. Try to fall in love with people who already love themselves.
20. If you’re living with a partner, always close the bathroom door. That shit is nasty.

21. At 9 years old, poop jokes were hilarious. 20 years later? Same thing.
22. Parents may have the best intentions, but not the best perspective.
23. Ladies, if you want your man to change his wardrobe, just tell him he looks handsome when he wears what you like.
24. Your best friends are the ones that made it to your wedding.
25. Bow ties are awesome.

26. You can’t make friends with salad. (I tried)
27. All women love french fries. Make sure to share.
28. Anyone can be creative. It takes two things: the bravery to start and the willingness to keep going
29. Weird is just awesome that everyone else hasn’t figured out yet.

- Christian

Life Lessons From “Born To Run”

Posted: August 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration, Life | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

One of my friends at work gave me the book “Born To Run” to read a while back. It sat on my desk collecting dust for about 6 weeks until I had a long flight to Germany and I started reading it. It’s written by Christopher McDougall who sets off on a quest to figure out the secrets from the greatest ultra distance runner in the world.

And it’s not just a boring technical running manual. It’s a story with incredible (real) characters, amazing insights and solid science. But above all, it inspired me to get off my ass and go for a run. Not because I felt guilty about it. It inspired me to rediscover the fun in running. To run with a smile on my face.

The deep dive into the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico, the cutting edge science and the human psychology lend themselves to uncovering a lot of lessons. Here are the top five that I gleaned from the book:

1. Humans are born to run. Love it. Do it. Leverage it to make your everyday life better. Don’t let your body atrophy because of a desk job and a sedentary lifestyle.

2. Life should be fun. The Tarahumara runners are some of the distance runners in the world. Why? Because they smile when they do it. Because they’ve been taught that it’s fun to run since and early age. And they never lost it.

3. Age is but a number. Sure, the prime age for a distance runner is 27 years old. But a 60 year old runner can still run as fast as a 19 year old. Your peak athletic ability descends at a slower rate than it ascends as you age. Especially if you train your body and give it the activity, nutrition and lifestyle it’s designed for.

4. Escape to nature to find happiness. One of the characters in the book ran to escape heartbreak. He found solace and peace through 50 mile runs over mountains, forests and fields. For you, nature can mean escaping the city, or simply finding a quiet spot in a park. But take the time to appreciate nature. It allows you to go back to who you are as a human being.

5. Technology doesn’t solve everything. In fact, it can work to create more problems than it solves. Complicated running shoe technology have systematically skyrocketed running injuries. In trying to solve problems, we’ve created technology that doesn’t allow for a natural running style. We are trying to out-engineer our bodies. The same thing happens in the workplace. Emails have systematically gobbled up our time. If you want to do work, do work. Being CC’d on an email chain isn’t doing work. Thinking and creating is.

Some books teach you through information. Some inspire you through stories. Some motivate you to get off your ass and run. For me,  Born To Run was able to accomplish all three.

- Christian