Recession Schmecession!

I am hereby boycotting all companies who use “recession” as a buzzword in their mailing lists. OkCupid, eMusic, Wordtracker, PBwiki—you’re on my LIST! You have incited my wrath and must suffer the consequences. Beware the vengeance of my… huge… readership.

Well, quality is better than quantity. My readership IS huge. I love you guys.

I am sick and tired of seeing perfectly good companies use whiny buzzwords to (negatively) engage their customers. (It was a shock to my system to see Wordtracker talking up “negative” keywords on Google until I realized they only meant keywords not to list, instead of actual negative keywords. Whew.) I think it’s absurd to keep talking about a “recession” and “financial crisis” when we’re all just monkeys doing monkey things. When you engage your customers, discuss your merits and positive traits—don’t give them a reason to be afraid and then talk about how you can supposedly fix it. Especially if you sell set-fee monthly music subscriptions that don’t roll over, or social dating services. Give me a break!

Forgive me for the rant (or don’t), but it’s incredibly frustrating to watch companies using this kind of marketing. I bet in most cases they’re trying to appeal to people’s situations, maybe even to comfort them—but I just don’t think it works that way. Stop reminding people of how afraid they are (or should be). Times are NOT tough! Times are ALWAYS tough! You are the same amazing person you were before someone told you that you had something to be scared of.

Get over it and get back to work being brilliant! All of you!

(Okay, I’m not boycotting ALL the companies who did it. I’m not going to boycott Learning Strategies. I love Learning Strategies. But I’m disappointed! Super disappointed! Let’s get on the ball, here, people!)


The last few days I haven’t been feeling all that well—just the usual monthly whathaveyou. So I determined that I would snuggle up in a warm blanket in my comfy armchair with my computer, and good food, and lots of water, and do whatever seemed to make sense at the time.

I wouldn’t force myself to work—I wouldn’t even think about doing work.

But once I really cleared my head and got relaxed (and took some painkillers)... there were all these fantastically interesting things going on. And suddenly there was so much to be engaged in and excited about, so much to make. And I was the one who could do it, so of course I did it—thing after thing after thing. For Marty, for the Usual Error, for the Triiibe. And before I knew it, the few days that were supposed to be my break so that I could rest, my respite from mandatory tasklists… had turned into the most exhilarating, most productive, most bizarrely enjoyable few days I’ve had in weeks.

I say to you: Come again!? What’s that about? I’m getting more done in 24 hours than I’ve done in the last week. Is there some kind of boat-tipping effect, where I add more and more to my schedule and get more and more stressed, but at a certain point I add just enough and all of a sudden I’m swimming in flow? (That was not a cycle joke. That was a Csikszentmihalyi joke.)

I know. It’s too late to take it back. I see it. Go ahead. Laugh some more at the irony.

Flow, indeed.

The Tribes Casebook (courtesy of Triiibes)

The Tribes Casebook PDF

I am incredibly pleased to announce that the Tribes Casebook will be released today on Seth Godin’s blog (and hundreds, if not thousands, of others). I submitted two pieces and both were selected; the first was an original case study I wrote on diversity, a subject that resonates hugely for me. The second was a collaboration with Rick Wilson, who is abidingly sharp, an awesome friend and seriously fun to work with. I feel a great deal of gratitude to have been involved in this project.

The low-down: Email it, post it, print it! Please don’t sell it or change it. If you’d like to take a look at it, you can download it for free here.

The Casebook is a companion ebook to Seth’s release of his book, Tribes, this month. It was birthed from the collaborative genius of several thousand Triiibes members suggesting, creating, editing, and cheering on more than a hundred and fifty selected case studies (and many more brilliant riffs that didn’t make the final cut) over the last two months. Every one of us feels overwhelmingly lucky to have met and have the opportunity to encourage and inspirit one another in such a powerful space. Triiibes is likely the most intelligent, driven, creative, innovative group I’ve ever been a part of. I am constantly, consistently impressed by the quality of membership and the sheer brilliance of those involved.

For fellow Triiibers: If you’re reading this now, every single one of you is amazing. Thank you so much for being a part of my experience.

For everyone else: This group has proven to me that you—yes, YOU!—and everyone you know (I’m serious) is capable of absolutely astonishing things. You underestimate yourself. It’s time to realize how huge your potential is, how far your reach, the kind of growth you have available to you. Every freaking one of you.

So take a look at the Casebook. It has many different styles and personalities, but that’s what makes it wonderful—diversity again. It’s at points thrilling, heart-wrenching, and altogether intensely inspiring. These are good people who deserve support and praise for all their hard work. Enjoy their stories, visit their links, and give them mad props.

For my part, I’m looking forward to linking to their launch posts, too! ;}

More information on the Tribes Casebook!

Pace Smith of Usual Error Project fame is also a member of the Triiibe, with a case study in the Casebook! It’s fantastic, you should read it. :}

Squidoo: The Tribes Casebook (by Triiibes). I started to list all the Tribes Casebook links I could find right here, and then I realized that Squidoo has a perfect function for just this purpose! If you’re a Triiibes member, please visit this page to add your link and vote. And whether you’re a Triiibes member or not, please take a look at the link list, visit them and say hi!

My favorite Tribes Casebook posts and link fu so far:

Pace Smith’s “I co-authored an e-book with Seth Godin’s Triiibe!” @ Pace & Kyeli
Seth Godin’s “Free Tribes ebook” @ Seth’s Blog
Jodi Kaplan’s “Tribes!” @ Fix Your Broken Marketing
Joe Noonan’s “Seth Godin’s free online book” @ Everyday Ecstasy
Barry Adams’ “The Tribes Casebook” @
“Seth Godin’s free ‘Tribes Casebook’ — including Trish Lambert!” @ SWIMBERT

There’s also a crazy Twitterstream developing about the Casebook, and two more if you watch “Triiibe” and “Triiibes” on Twitter Search. Huge amount of fun!

The Paper Caper

Read and learn:

This week I have called upwards of three billion* paper companies, looking for bulk pre-folded white greeting card paper with matching (and color alternate) envelopes.

For the first two billion nine hundred and ninety-nine million nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine*, every single person I talked to treated me like I was wasting their time. My perplexing phone conversations ranged from mildly distracted to downright annoyed and unhelpful. Until I got to the Paper Place.

The Paper Place, in brilliant contrast, was chirpingly warm and friendly and so very helpful that even when we realized they didn’t have what I needed, they happily referred me to someone who might. While other companies seemed intent on being stingy with assistance until they had an order from me (and never got one, and left me bewildered), the Paper Place just helped me. And then I twittered their awesome.

And now I’m blogging it.

Perhaps speaking with the nice girl who answered the phone at the Paper Place altered the emotional density of the universe (or maybe I just got lucky), but the company they referred me to—Xpedx—also answered their phone in a reasonable, friendly fashion. And not only did their phone answerer (Randy) listen patiently to my question, but he made useful suggestions and didn’t seem rushed or vexed. He was just a nice guy, helping out a customer.

For me none of this has anything to do with the fact that Xpedx and Randy, finally, actually had the product I was looking for. And it has everything to do with how mindful you are when you pick up the phone, how readily you remember that you’re talking to a real person on the other end who will remember you and create an impression of your business and its professional atmosphere.

Both the Paper Place and Randy’s branch of Xpedx are located in Austin. I don’t have a pressing need for the kinds of products stocked at the Paper Place, but I felt inclined to pimp them out anyway. After all those grumpy phone calls, they were both a huge bright spot in my week! And you can bet that if I need bulk or piecemeal paper in the next, oh, ever, I’m going straight to one of these stores.

Note: Marty suggested that my post title means I will be going to a funny hell for funny people. I must insist that my rhymes are produced only in good faith (and only when I can’t come up with alliteration).

* miniscule exaggeration.

Syntopic Destiny and Book Design

Not long ago I ordered three tomes on book design, and two came immediately in the mail. I’ve been waiting (for more than a week at least) in the hopes that I might read all three together in an appropriately syntopic fashion, a la Adler (and Scheele). This morning I had just decided, well, to hell with it—I’ll read the first two syntopically and add the third when it comes. So I headed down to the gym with my big heavy books, and without really thinking about it I stopped at my mailbox.

Guess what had serendipitously arrived for me!

So now I have three gorgeous books on design for publishing (plus a book about beautiful website design, for good measure). And I’m feeling pretty good about my spontaneous corner of the universe.

Our picks (Pace helped), in case you’re curious:

The Elements of Typographic Style (Bringhurst)
Book Design and Production (Masterson)
On Book Design (Hendel)

Last Weekend’s PhotoReading Seminar

I recently made a post in Pavlina’s Personal Development forums because some people were asking about the PhotoReading seminars that Learning Strategies offers, and it just so happened that I attended one last weekend. Of course, y’all knew that, but I mostly talked about my hypnagogic hordes of bugs. Oops.

This particular seminar happened in Dallas (in Addison, which is just north of the city) and was instructed by Millicent St. Claire. I link to her site because she’s fantastic to work with, but I’ll tell you right now that her site doesn’t manage to put across just how awesome she is. It’s a great site, but she is very real and effective in person. She’s also incredibly warm and vibrant, engaging, and excellent at what she does.

The seminar was split into three sessions: Roughly 6p-9p Friday evening, 9a-7p Saturday, and 9a-6p Sunday. I was thankful for Friday’s brevity after my long drive from Austin (I got on the wrong branch of 35 North, so I was on the road about four and a half hours), but Saturday and Sunday I arrived in class super early to play with biofeedback games and talk to people and relax. The classroom was a great environment for anybody wanting to learn something. It was wholly non-traditional, intensely creative, and very focused on accelerated learning right down to the details. There were poignant quotes on the walls, beautiful posters, 3-D stereograms for photofocus practice, cups of rainbow-colored markers, fresh white paper, and scads of brain toys on the tables. (Man, we had a ball playing with those toys.) It was like the best kindergarten ever.

There were rules, too: No stress. Ever. And all that was asked of us was that we open our minds and Do The Thing—skepticism was welcome and invited, so we all felt very free to ask questions and make suggestions. There were even note boards for those of us who were too shy to ask something outright, and Millicent made a regular point of getting to those boards and getting questions answered for the whole group.

There were 38 people in the class. Two of them were younger than me (both pre-college, one several years younger than that) and most of them were older professionals—30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and one at least one septuagenarian with entertaining anecdotes and a great sense of humor. They were all very warm, open-hearted people with an interest in this thing that felt important to me, this thing I wanted to learn well, and that endeared them to me. By the end of the weekend we’d pooled our contact information so that it would be easy to create a post-seminar support structure in the name of helping each other and talking about our PhotoReading exploits. Millicent was very excited and encouraging on this score, and I think that made us even more hellbent on making it happen. I was constantly impressed at how on the ball she was in regards to creative, mindful learning all the way down to the bits and pieces; she a consistent motivator in all the ways that mattered.

Millicent used a whole slew of super-interesting techniques to help us learn. These were widely varied and ranged from neuro-linguistic programming to Brain Gym exercises to visualization and interpersonal conversations (and writing poetry!). These made a huge difference for me, and I made a point of writing many of them down so that I can look into them more in the future. (I will probably be blogging about some of them!)

Many of the techniques we used were not specific to the PhotoReading course itself. I bought the home study course quite awhile ago, so I was particularly curious about how much would be different in the seminar. The answer? Everything but the basics! We did a lot from the course, and all the important things were included, but we learned them in a huge variety of creative ways. A lot of these I had heard of before, a lot of them were new to me—and a lot of them were bits and pieces from other Learning Strategies materials used specifically for learning to PhotoRead. I loved this, because it let me see first-hand how I felt about methods and workshops that I’d been curious about but not ready to test on my pocketbook. (This resulted in me picking up other Learning Strategies offerings while I was there, since I liked some of the techniques so much and had a feel for their benefits—and there were special weekend discounts available to the seminar participants. That was awesome, since I likely would have bought those things anyway.)

I also loved having the opportunity to hear from seminar participants who’d done the seminar before, once and twice in some cases. Some people had incredible personal stories to tell about how PhotoReading has affected their lives and work, and some of those stories were amazing—just knocked me out of my seat. Some of those people were back to brush up on their technique, but after experiencing the weekend for myself I’m pretty sure I’d go again even if I felt completely solid. It only costs $80 to attend and audit after you’ve completed the first seminar, which of course is an excellent marketing strategy, because it makes me want to register again with other interested parties. I’m seriously, seriously thinking about it; it would be a fantastic thing to do with friends or family.

The seminar weekend in its entirety was unbelievably relaxing and empowering for me. I drove home from Dallas feeling really refreshed, proud, confident. There was so much positivity, so much creative productivity, so many reminders to me (and to all the participants) that we are powerful, unique, amazing. I spent a total of $550 to register (a discount because I had the home study course, and a discount because I purchased the registration in July), but if I had paid the full price of $750 I would still feel that it was the best money I’ve spent in a very, very long time. It was absolutely astonishing.

Ultimately I left feeling a) damn accomplished for a beginning PhotoReader! b) completely relaxed and excited to go back to work, like I’d taken a great vacation! c) thrilled with all the neat people I’d met and could keep in touch with, and d) incredibly, overwhelmingly positive about myself and my ability to deal with the world. That last one feels really good.

There’s no way I’ve covered it all in this post, because the weekend was packed full of fascinating experiences and new information. But if you want to ask me questions, please feel free. I love talking about it. _

Raise it from the ashes

In the last few months, a lot of scary things have happened. Finances have been tight; business has been slow. Our car died a quiet death on the highway, leaving us without any vehicle or emergency funds with which to obtain one. Amazing friends gave us a loaner for a few months, but we need a car; we’re on a deadline. This happened not long after we decided to make a plan of action for some Big Things—things that would require a lot of courage and dedication, and we are still moving on them. We are still planning to do them, despite everything else. I would venture to say they must be done. They will require great feats of impressiveness from both of us, and I won’t lie—the prospect of really going through with them is a bit scary, especially under these circumstances.

In the meantime, looking for a car had gotten to be very difficult and demoralizing. Most car dealerships are crap. Sometimes they are also crazy, pushy, or mean (and in one case, downright disturbing). The bank gave us some weird, unanticipated trouble with getting the car loan we wanted. Our resources have been pushed to their limits.

And then the apartment complex raised our rent.

Marty looks at all of this and has the distinct impression that the world is conspiring against us. I used to feel that way, too. I’m starting to see the world differently. All of these things going wrong, going crazy, I look at them and can’t help but think…

Wow. This is what happens in game when you’re close to the treasure.

Making decision after decision based on fearlessness, instead of familiarity and safety, can be draining. But I feel like this universe is buckling around us. I feel that if, instead of running away, I push harder… Maybe it will crumble. Maybe it will fall away and I will find myself smack in the middle of a new universe.

What can I raise from the ashes of the old one?

These are our opportunities to prove what kind of people we are, to know something about ourselves. Do we do the safe thing? The familiar thing? Or do we behave like a player character and be the hero in our own story?

So many people are content to be NPCs.

If we do the safe and familiar thing, we go nowhere. We read the same script over and over, go through the same motions. We accomplish nothing. There is no progress. If we’re not willing to do something different, we are just like everyone else.

It would be very easy—very normal, very unremarkable—to see all these bad, scary things as signs to back off. But all I can see, over and over, is that the monsters are all attacking at once.

They only do that when you’re close!

And I don’t want to be normal.

Steve Pavlina has said that if people are treating you like you’re crazy, you’re on the right path. You’re making the decisions other people are afraid to make. And I feel, just now, like the universe is treating us like we’re crazy. And I’m going, YEAH I’m CRAAAAZY!! And the universe is like, omg… weird… And I’m all, YEAH! LOOK AT THE CRAZY GIRL!!

If my friends did that, I’d find new friends. If the universe is doing it, I need a new universe.

I think I’ll make one.

Seth Day

Oh, today is Seth day, the day of Seth—and that makes me impossibly happy!

Would you, too, like to experience the marketing genius and pure goodness of Seth?

Go. It’s on me. ;}

Where is my Whole Foods Cinema?

How is it that crap junk food is still the norm if you want to see a new release on the big screen?

The Alamo Drafthouse works as an alternative, but not all the time. I can sneak my organic market fare into any run-of-the-mill cinema (maaaaybe) and have healthy, nourishing snack food while I watch—but then I’m depriving the theater of a large and significant portion of its cashflow. Some theaters are only able to stay open because they make enough selling crap food. Just think about that. Selling mainstream, “normal” food, that poisons its customers.

I go out to the movies less often because I know the food options will make me sick. I no longer have the tolerance for food of such incredibly deficient quality, and with the way things are going, you might not either. But food at the movies is fun. And that food doesn’t have to be of the Cheapest Possible variety. It can be of the Really Truly Nourishing variety and still be just as awesome.

If such a place existed, I would give it most of my movie-going money (and probably more than I’m spending now). A cinema where I can watch Ironman with my fresh organic smoothie or vegan-celiac, agave sweetened cookies… Now, that would be something to talk about. And while we’re at it, can we get Casa de Luz in on this party? Can you just imagine the Alamo’s atmosphere paired with Casa’s impeccable sense of nutritive certainty? Wow.

Are you the person meant to build this empire? Because I’m standing here with eight bucks and I’m waiting.