Being Novel Is Not the Same as Taking a Risk

This weekend I went to see my friend perform in a staged reading of “Welcome to the Doll Den.” It’s a play inspired by real-life events about the first all-female radio station, WGAL, in Memphis, Tennessee in 1955. Talk about standing out—these ladies were the first, they were special, they were different. Over the course […]

3 ways you’re hiding on stage (and how to stand out instead)

I see you over there you know. Hiding. In plain sight. I hide, too. I hide from email. I hide from people. I’m also partial to the French Exit, where you just sneak away from the pack and jump in a Lyft so you can be home in bed watching SNL before anyone knows you’re […]

Why Your Audience Isn’t a Bunch of Fish to Shoot in a Barrel

Seth Godin’s blog the other day was simply this: “Of course it’s easy to shoot fish in a barrel. The difficult part, the part no one talks about, is getting the fish into the barrel in the first place.” The man is a walking mic drop. Think about that though, for reals. How you THINK about how […]

I’m Allergic to Two Things: Gluten and Cliché

It’s true. Ok. To be fair, I have a severe gluten INTOLERANCE, not an allergy. But I have developed a pretty bad allergy to cliché. Symptoms include: involuntary eye rolling, a mild but persistent headache, and a creeping sense of boredom and despair. In the brand messaging biz, it’s a workplace hazard. And as much […]

Marketing is not a fancy hat (so don’t wear one)

I was on a client call recently, a team of folks from the financial services industry (whom I’ve been spending more and more time with lately), and we were talking over a concept that mattered to them and that they wanted to communicate. “Can’t you do some clever marketing thing to, you know, message this?”, […]

Don’t Scrub the Grit from Your Story

Once I worked with a professional comic, helping with ideas for a TEDx talk about comedy she’d like to give. She shared with me a terrifying account of the night, decades ago, when her abusive husband threatened her with a blunt object in his fist. And how, in that moment, a joke saved her life. […]

How to Be the Quarterback for Your Own Ideas

If there’s one thing about me that you’d never guess in a million years, it’s that I play in a co-ed touch football league, and have for years. I can’t believe it myself. I’ve never been much of an organized sports person, and the memories I have of playing in my youth consist of long […]

Holiday Fix: Swap out bad questions for good ones

One of the things you likely dread (loathe, hate) about the holidays is not so much seeing the family, but fielding any number of triggering questions that set you on your heels, flare your defenses, and bring your blood to the boiling point. And that’s because sitting down across from relatives who haven’t seen you […]

Can You See the Future? I Can't. I'm Near-Sighted. Or, Notes from HOW Design Live

I get annoyed easily and often, seizing on the most benign things with a kind of righteous anger. Like when people say, “hot enough for ya?” and “The thing is, is that” (WHY do we say “is” twice. WHYYYYY. Who started this? I want…

Some People Are Going to Hate You for It. Don't Listen.

A few weeks ago, I spoke at an event. The folks were lovely: Kind, friendly, considerate and welcoming. The talk I gave, on how to get beyond commodity, master your message, and stand out in a sea of sameness, was very well received and got…

Why you shouldn't start with your big idea

A few weeks ago, I took a small group of brilliant professionals away from their homes and families and deep into the Pennsylvania woods for three days. They asked to go, of course. Why? So they could go off their grid, and plug into…

On the Verge of an A-Ha Moment

How is it that one moment you can just be sitting there, chewing your fingernail and then, a split second later, things just click? An idea or thought springs forth with such clarity it’s astonishing. How did I not see that before? Things…

What It Really Means to Be Authentic (and How to Know If You Are)

We all say we want to be authentic. What does that even mean, though? We seem to think it means "likable" and "down to earth"—which is why we want to be perceived that way. But in fact, authenticity isn't necessarily good or bad; it's consistent.…

Make Your Talk a Ticket, Not a Brochure

Would you rather be handed a brochure... or a ticket? On balance, their material value is the same. In fact, brochures are more expensive to create and produce than a ticket (usually). And yet the inherent value couldn’t be more different.…