Problems with being creative?

I have noticed that there either people who are super creative with crazy ideas and who make tons of non-linear connections but lack discipline, or there are people who are very hard-working and smart, but can’t come up with a good tagline to save their life.  I’ve noticed this in the musical world too with jazz vs. classical musicians.

To the creatives: almost anyone can push keys on a piano, but if you have discipline and become an expert at your craft, your ideas will have even more possibilities and you will be able to back your ideas yourself.  People may not notice if you fake it, but they will notice if you know what you’re doing.

To the hard-working: don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  It takes a lot of courage and thick skin to put yourself out there.  You will fail and sound foolish at first when you start “improvising” or “creating”.  It’s just like when children first learn how to talk.  First you learn basic sounds, then some essential words, and after a while you speak full sentences.  You will never learn how to speak with your mouth shut.  Listen to the pros in the industry, and then try it for yourself.  My jazz prof in college said there are two things that will make you an improv pro: listening and playing.  Put your hard work to good use and don’t be afraid to fail.  Everyone starts somewhere.

Drummer Boy

Here’s an interview I conducted with my drummer and roommate, Ben!  Phenomenal percussionist, and a very loud roomie. All of the music in the background is what we created.


Grove City Ghostbusters

Here’s another video I helped produce.  I did most of the shooting….our talent was hilarious!

Let me know what you think!

The Anticipation

This is a music video I directed in school.  I wrote this song, and my inspiration was to make a Nike commercial.

Check it out!

Social Media is Over-Rated

Social media is one of those buzz words you hear in marketing textbooks and on blogs these days, but I think it is over-rated.

Don’t get me wrong, it has it’s place–so many people spend a large portion of their online activity on social media sites–but does that mean EVERYONE should be advertising there?

There’s a massive push for all companies to advertise on social media sites, particularly Facebook.  What if your customer’s don’t use facebook?  What if it’s B2B?  What if you’re marketing to people who don’t use smartphones at all?  What if you sell large quantities of legal size paper?  There is a place for social media, but it’s not as important to EVERY company as some might suggest.

I propose a list of DO’s and DON’T's for social media.

DON’T use social media:

-If you don’t know why you are using it, who you are targeting, or why they should care.

-When you don’t have any success metrics or goals for tracking the return on investment.

-If you aren’t a mass-market company/product


DO use social media:

-If you have a solid message and strategy for implementing it

-If you are on a small budget and know exactly who you are targeting, and the type of content they want to see

-If you want to inform your existing customers about sales/coupons

-If you want to create community

-If you KNOW how to track your message and how well it’s being received.

Do What Works, and Work What Doesn’t!

A lot of companies fail because they lose focus on what they are good at.  As the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it“.  If your company is great at producing high-end tennis shoes, why bother trying to make headbands?

In the advertising world, many creatives want to come into a company and change their promotional campaigns so that the client feels like the creatives are actually doing something.  I think the only reason to change your ad campaign is when you KNOW it’s not working.  Sun Tzu once said to ‘support the winning army’, that is if you have to chose between sending reinforcements to the troops that are winning and the troops that are losing, it is best to send your resources where you already have the advantage.

This same strategy can be applied to business and advertising.  Your advertising dollars are your troops, and your ads are the front-lines.  Send your troops to the front-lines where you are getting the most positive feedback, then you will have victory.

Likewise, if something’s not working be sure to understand why it’s broken!  If you can fix it, then please do.  Otherwise, don’t wast any more time on what’s cost you thus far.

Simplicity Sells — One Note Samba

Here’s another example of how simplicity sells, and how a pattern with variation makes things interesting.  This One Note Samba really does only have one note, but what makes this song interesting is how often that note is played.  By changing the rhythm, even one note can be interesting.

Not everything has to be complicated to be masterful!  I think there’s something to be said about that in advertising too.  Don’t overwhelm your audience with things to try and “wow” them if you don’t have to.  Be creative with what you have–spice up the rhythm, or how loud you play your one note.

You’ll be surprised at what you can do if you stick with what you’re good at–even if it’s one thing!

My Favorite Things

Here’s another great jazz song by Dave Brubeck called “My Favorite Things”.  This is a great take on the song made popular by The Sound of Music.


What I like about this is how he makes non-linear connections between an almost folk tune, blues, and a waltz to come up with something completely original.  This song helped Dave Brubeck reach the top of the charts in the jazz world, and it’s all because  of a pattern and some variation.

Building a Fire–Business Survival 101

I am an avid outdoor enthusiast, and I have about 6 years of experience around fire as a Firefighter.  I have learned that doing a project, starting a business, or coming up with something creative is a lot like building a fire.  To build a fire you need 3 things; Heat, Fuel, Oxygen.

Heat = passion

You have to be passionate–or at least motivated–to do whatever it is you’re planning to do.  Without that spark of excitement and energy, it will be very difficult to turn that log of a project into something bright that people will notice.

Fuel = stuff to do

All of the passion and energy in the world means nothing if you have nowhere to put it.  Even the hottest sparks will burn out if there’s nothing around it that will “catch”.  It’s also a game of how much you put on the fire and when.  Add too much, and the spark won’t be enough.  Add too little wood, and the fire will quickly die out.  As the fire grows, be prepared to throw on bigger sticks on it.  This means you need to have done enough planning beforehand so that you’re not scrambling for things to do once you’ve got momentum going!

Oxygen = time to relax

The final thing needed for success is time to step back and take a breather.  If all you do is add heat and fuel, you’ll make a really hot fire but waste a lot of energy and wood in the process.  Figure out how high  you want your fire, and once it gets there, take a step back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Sell The Pen!

If you had to sell a pen in 30 seconds, what would you say?  I follow a lot of marketing speakers and CMO’s who give lectures on Youtube, and I came across this one the other day.

Many people will start talking about the pen’s features, or how it’s such a good deal because of the price.  They go on about the different colors it can write in, how fancy the grip is, or perhaps it makes a satisfying “click” when you open it.

None of that matters if I want a pencil.

What many people fail to do is, ask if your customer even want’s the pen!  If your customer doesn’t want a pen in the first place, you’re wasting both their time, and yours.  Not to mention potentially damaging your brand and your reputation as a salesperson.  Marketing is about finding what people want, and getting it to them.


Here’s the video!

It’s All About the “Why”

I found a Ted Talk lecture a while ago by Simon Sinek about marketing and what makes some advertising campaigns successful, and why others fail.  Every message (or any form of communication for that matter) boils down to 3 parts: what, how, and why.  What most people fail to understand is that the “why” is most important when you’re communicating with people because motivation drives action.

What — The thing people will be doing

In an advertisement, this would be the cruise ticket, the new computer, or that fancy new car.  This is what most small business-owners and engineers get really worked up about.  It’s natural to get wrapped up in the technicalities and practical steps of what you’re doing, but it means nothing if it’s not what your customers want.  Even worse: if you blast facts without the proper motivation, you could actually damage your company’s brand.

How — The means of completing the action

In commercials or on websites, this is usually the “call to action”, or directions on how to purchase.  Again, this is great for customers who are interested in your product already, but if I’ve never heard of your fancy new service I don’t care how to buy it!

Why — The driving force to start 

The why is the reason for doing something.  Everyone does things for some reason or another (whether they know that reason or not).  If you can line up with your target audience, and get them hooked on why your product is so cool, why your product is different, and why this will match their goals, you’ve made a sale.


This has other implications for leaders as well.  When you assign tasks in a project, start with the big picture and show how what you’re doing is relevant.  Getting people motivated is half the battle–once that’s established, the how and the what will fall into place naturally.


Here’s the video: