I have a strange problem I don’t know how to solve. And I want your help.

There are some business problems they don’t teach you how to solve in business school.  They are too odd and too unlikely to happen to spend time discussing. So today, I am going to serve up an odd, real-life scenario to see how you would respond. Because I am not sure what the right answer is. Or even if there is a right answer. So let’s try to figure this out together.

The Setup

Last night, just before dinner, I went into the bathroom at my home to wash my hands. As I was washing I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed a problem. My left eyeball was completely red. Not as if it was irritated. Or as if I had taken a red eye flight. It was red like a blood vessel had burst in my eye. And it looked disgusting. Like an eye I never want to make eye contact with. Like ever.

When I returned to the table and shared my problem with my family the reaction was not good. My 11-year old son thought I looked hideous and demanded that I not look at him again. My 8-year old son was fascinated, the way a boy may be fascinated by road kill. My 13-year old daughter was greatly concerned for me. (Everyone should have a daughter). And wife Dawn immediately asked if I had any important client meetings this week. The answer was yes.

The Problem

I have an important meeting with a brand new client that is scheduled to start 24 hours from now. The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, was just awarded a significant project with this client after an agency review. During the review process we met 3 members of the marketing and sales team, whom we liked very, very, very much. #IThinkTheyWillReadThis

The upcoming meeting is for us to meet the client’s executive team, a team we will be working closely with throughout this project. The purpose of the meeting is to introduce ourselves and take them through the proposal with our color commentary.

The most important outcome from this meeting is for us to make a great first impression on our new client’s senior team. That’s hard to do when you have a horror film eye ball. What makes this worse is that I have had a burst blood vessel in my eye before. It was many years ago. During that red period I had multiple client meetings. And my clients were undeniably grossed out by my gore eye. Sorry clients.

Seeking a Solution

This is where I need your help figuring out what I should do next. There are a couple of details you should know before offering your advice. 1. This problem usually takes 5 to 7 days to clear up. There are only 2 people from my team scheduled to attend this meeting, Just me and the account leader. There was a 3rd member of our team who would have attended if she wasn’t on vacation in Europe. It’s amazing the lengths some people will go to in order to avoid seeing my eye.

The Options As I See Them (through my bloody eye).

  1. Reveal the problem and ask to reschedule the meeting for 1 week later.
  2. Send the account leader alone.
  3. Proceed as if there was no problem.
  4. Make the meeting a phone call or video conference.
  5. Attend the meeting, but wear sunglasses
  6. Attend the meeting but wear an eye patch (Arrrr Matey!)
  7. Attend the meeting but wear a welder’s mask.
  8. Attend the meeting but avoid all eye contact, like Rain Man.
  9. Call the client, explain the situation, and ask them how they want to proceed.

What would you do?

Which of the options do you think I should choose? Or do you have a good solution that is not on the list? I appreciate you sharing your opinion. If you know a wise owl who-who offers good advice, please pass this along to them too. Me and my eye look forward to hearing from you.

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The key to longevity from my 100 year old Grammy.

Yesterday was my Grandmother’s funeral.

Many people have told me they are sorry for my loss. But I’ve had nothing but gain.  My Grammy, Lillian (Anderson) Sprau, was 100.5. She was a purebred Norwegian saint from Minnesota.  She was the sweetest, kindest person I have ever met.

She was also fun and funny. She loved to travel. She loved a good party. And she loved her family. She was married for 67 years before my Grampy realized he couldn’t keep up with her at 92. She had 9 children, 23 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren (not including those of us regular grandchildren who were also great).

I used to call my Grammy regularly on my commute home from work. We would talk about all kinds of things; from weather to family happenings to politics to travel to world news to sports. I would always spend a part of the conversation talking about our family heritage. I knew that Grammy was my best source of family history, and that she wouldn’t be around forever.

On one of our calls, when Grammy was in her northern 90’s, I asked her, ‘What is the key to living so long?’  She paused a moment, then stated confidently,

‘I think you can’t take everything so seriously.’

That is some great Grammy advice.

The stress we feel when we take life so seriously wears down our machinery. As of 2017, humanic machinery still can’t be replaced. So often we take work, politics, sports, family, school and social interactions so seriously that it takes years off of our lives.

As you go about your day today, remember my Grammy’s words. Don’t take everything so seriously.  Don’t stress yourself out. Don’t let others do it to you either. Have fun. Find the humor in life. Laugh more. And live more.

 

Why art school students fail to find jobs, and what to do about it.

I love art schools. The creative vibe at these colleges makes me want to make something. I dig the students buzzing around campus, toting art projects with their backpacks crammed full of supplies. The experimental clothing that often adorns these boundary-explorers creates a feeling of Kindergarten 2.0. Or Kindergarten 20, since most of the students are in their 20s and still playing with glitter and glue.

Ahh, to be creating art again without clients or the budgetary limitations that kill your hopes and dreams…  I re-experience the excitement of art school every spring when I visit campuses for portfolio reviews and senior exhibits. Having spent 20 years in advertising, collaborating with art directors and designers, I know some of these students are going to experience amazing adventures, create rewarding work and make great money.

But in the next breath (and the next paragraph) I find these schools depressing. While all of these students are following their passion, many of them will never enjoy an art-fed income that will enable them to buy fancy peanut butter and gourmet ramen.

The 3 Types That Fail

The art school students that won’t make it professionally fall into 3 categories:

The Weirdo. This is the weird art kid that is so weird that even the art kids (who are tolerant and even inspired by the odd, unique and experimental) think is too weird. These students don’t have a natural place in business. So, unless they create their own jobs, they are out of luck. Sorry. (Consolation prize: If you would have followed any other educational adventure you were likely to have had the same result. So study what you love).

The Nartist.  This student is simply not an artist.  They don’t have applicable art skills.  Often they are horrible at art but love it so much they are willing to pay for schooling that will help them learn theory, but not be able to apply it in a meaningful way. Natural selection prevents them from getting, or at least maintaining, a meaningful creative job.  It’s sad that their dreams die. But that means it is simply time for a new, more realistic dream. Note: this person exists in every field. There are Nastronauts, Nengineers, Noptometrists, Neducators and Nactors.

The Quitter.  This person has the skills, a passable personality and hides their weirdness well. They just don’t hold out long enough, search hard enough, network, follow-up, stand out from the crowd or demand their chance.  This represents the vast majority of students who won’t find a job.

 

I don’t get bummed by The Weirdo or Nartist. Those people were born to not work in art. I am bummed by The Quitter. The one who could have done more to make her dream a reality. The one who just needed more grit. The Quitter has real skills, even if they are still developing. I hate to see these colorful and interesting berries wither on the vine.  But The Quiter is not unique to art school. Every school develops talented and capable students who fail to find jobs in their chosen profession because they give up too soon.

3 Keys:

Action

If you want to find a great job, doing what you love, initiative is everything. You have to stick to it. You have to spot your opportunities and capitalize on them. You have to learn what works in your book. Keeping adding to it. Go well beyond your college art projects and create work that will help you land a job. Ask for informational interviews. Offer to prove your abilities for free.  Stand up and stand out.

Sell

Art students are often so concerned with not selling out, that they fail to sell themselves at all. Selling yourself is key to opening doors and creating opportunities to making a living off your creative skills. Ultimately, to make money in a creative profession you need to make things that sell.  Whether it’s your work itself that sells, or your work helps sell other products or services, no one avoids selling. Understand it. Get good at it.

Network

When I meet students, I usually offer them my business card and invite them to contact me if I can be of assistance. About 1% of the students follow-up.  Many of those who contact me have landed internships or jobs.  Last week I handed out about 25 business cards to students. I’ll be surprised if I hear from more than two of them. This is why people fail (or maybe it’s a sign that I’m actually a Wierdo Nartist).

The Bottom Line

You have to take action and be creative in the way you pursue a creative job. Do it. It’s worth it. I can’t think of a better way to earn money than being paid for your creativity. So let’s make sure that more art students who deserve jobs get jobs in art. These are not jobs to be shipped overseas or automated by robots. If you have some good job-finding advice, please add it to the comment section below.  But the responsibility is still on the student. Get out there and network, hustle and sell yourself.  It’s your future. Paint it. Sculpt it. Or Photoshop yourself into it.

I’d like to hire the fly that landed in my ranch dressing.

Finding great people to improve your team is one of the greatest responsibilities of leadership. But how do we really know who to hire? I recently read that Jim Koch, Founder of Boston Beer (maker of Samuel Adams) said that each new hire must raise the overall average. But a resume only tells us part of the story. References come from people who say nice things (I always use my Grammy). And softball skills only add value between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

So you have to be prepared to recognize great talent wherever you see it. Recently I was having an excellent restaurant experience in Nashville. My family and I ate at one of our favorite restaurants near Vanderbilt (no, not Cracker Barrel). It was a nice day so we ate outside. The food and service were great. My kids behaved. But near the end of the meal a funny thing happened. A fly dive-bombed into my ranch dressing.  I was too surprised and amused to be mad at the little fella. But needless to say his appearance pulled the plug on all chicken dippin activities.

I quickly discovered that you can learn a lot about someone when they are up to their neck in dressing. The longer I watched him (I assumed he was a guy and named him Flynel Richie) the more I admired this little bugger. In fact, before I paid the bill I saw three of the most important attributes I see in great co-workers in little Flynel. So what do great teammates do that lesser teammates do not?

1. They go for what they want.

Flynel knew what he wanted. You must too. You need to know exactly what you want in your career. Write it down. Focus on it, dream about it. Whether it’s a better job, more money, or a nice crunchy crouton, set the image in your mind.  Then when you see the opportunity to make progress towards it you dive-bomb your goal like my little guy.

2. They keep on moving

Rodney Atkins had a hit country song in 2006 called, “If you’re going through Hell keep on going.” Since we were in Nashville I assume the fly had heard that song.  Because that little guy was motivated. He kept moving. Kept working. Kept pumping all six of his little multi-jointed legs. He never gave up.  And he kept making slow but steady progress.  Flynel was the kind of fly you’d want to share a foxhole with.

3. They build connections.

The thing that ultimately saved Flynel was his networking skills.  As I watched him work his way across the Great Ranch Lake he kept looking at me. Seriously. In that moment I was his only friend, his cheerleader and ultimately his lifeline.  He looked up at me as if to say, ‘Hey Sport, imagine if you were me.  Pretty rough, huh? Just a fly who saw some delicious ranch dressing he knew he wanted, went after it, and got in a little too deep. Yeah, I see you sitting there with your wife and kids. I’ve got a wife and kids. And I’d sure like to make it out of this dressing to see them again.’

So I lent him a hand. Actually, I lowered him a butter knife.  He walked on. I airlifted him out like the Ranch Dressing Coast Guard. I wiped him off.  And set him on the ground. The little guy Tebowed for a moment and then took off.

I took a moment to reflect.  I have a strong vision of what I want in my career.  I am careful not to lose my head in the dressing. And you’re not likely to find me giving up. But I sure hope I’m making personal connections strong enough to ensure that when I need help someone will lend me a butter knife.