Ideas are Easy. Insights are Hard.

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In previous blog posts, Mark Smith and I have emphasized the power of the 6-word story, as well as the 6-second message. The impetus to create concise, pithy, and inspiring communication has only accelerated in our world of short attention spans and bombardment of stimuli. There is a virtually never-ending buffet of media around us, and being able to insure that our plates are full of information that is useful, rather than that which is fake (or just noise) is getting more and more complex. 

And while the quantity of information is certainly a big part of the problem, the quality is even more critical. If we want our audiences to focus more on the stories of our brands and our products, then our processes need to be better at mining insights. Typically, the majority of an organization’s time is spent on idea development and on execution, but it is the work in between these steps where the magic happens. 

Ideas are easy. As you walk through your offices right now, the cubicles are over-flowing with sparks of ideas that hold the exciting promise of one day turning into a magical proposition. We can count them, we can sort them, and we can power dot them… but do we have the expertise, the discipline, and the support to research, polish, and refine one into a clear and inspiring insight?

Execution is “easy” too. Don’t get me wrong, it is hard work and often takes a whole different skill set of organization, management, and agility. But innovation teams typically have lots of expertise and investment in processes to “get stuff done” and to deliver initiatives to market.

Insights are hard. They are hard to develop, hard to assess, and hard to perfect. The process tends to be messy. It takes effort to research the language, the trends, and the visuals to elevate an idea. It takes expertise and experience to pull out a key nugget or soundbite and to transform something mundane into something magical. It takes focus and persistence to push past “yes, that is interesting” to “Wow, that is amazing!”

In my years at P&G, the best example was the development of the Clinical Strength antiperspirant category. It was understood that the category was becoming commoditized and that consumers were “settling” for products that still failed them once or twice a week. Consumers had “heard it all” and were skeptical of any new products and claims. “Prescription” types of products across multiple categories and industries were an emerging trend. And with a focused team, a disciplined, agile approach, and an adventurous spirit, the Clinical Strength category was born. It seems obvious now… which is proof of an amazing insight!

At Upstream 360, insights are at the heart of what we do each and every day. With a diverse team of creatives, marketers, scientists, and story-tellers, we invest heavily in partnering with teams and organizations to master the craft of insight development. Whether it is in transforming a vague idea into a clear concept, in finding the precise language and visuals to make a claim or a demo magically intuitive, or in developing powerful and memorable copy for sales, digital content, and advertising, our experienced team is now quite nimble at an UPSTREAM-lined process that transforms ideas into insights. That’s not to say that it is easy… but rather that it is a core competency and mantra that drives us each and every day.

To quote Jay Baer, “We are surrounded by data, but starved for insights.” It takes a unique blend of creativity, discipline, and agility to develop a killer insight, and an investment in doing so is becoming increasingly critical to break through the clutter.

Note: I originally published this blog at http://www.upstream360.com.

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What Are The Magic Words?

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There are countless anecdotes of words being used to enable a magical transformation.  A magician dealing out “Abracadabra” to turn a four of spades into the Ace of hearts.  Harry Potter’s bewitching use of “Riddikulus!” to turn fear into laughter.  A toddler’s longing “pleeaaassse” to turn dad’s anger into a cookie.  The right words at the right time can conjure a spellbinding result… if chosen deliberately, wisely, and concisely.

One of my favorite examples is found in a legendary challenge authored by Ernest Hemingway. In one telling of this tale, Hemingway lunched with several other writers and bet each table member ten dollars that he could craft an entire story in just six words.  After the stack of bills was piled before him, Hemingway grabbed a napkin and scribed, “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”  The somber sheet was passed around the table, each writer read it and wept, and Hemingway collected his winnings. Six words. One profoundly deep tale.

In the realm of product design and innovation, some of the best examples of magical storytelling can be found in advertising slogans.

  • “It Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking” – Timex, 1950s
  • “Melts in your Mouth, Not in your Hands” – M&Ms, 1950s
  • “Tastes Great.  Less Filling” – Miller Lite, 1974

In each of these examples is found a concise, inspiring, and intuitive expression of 1) a consumer tension (fragile watches, melting chocolate, and tasteless light beer), 2) a surprising transformation of that tension, and 3) an amazing result.  With just a handful of words, the story of these products’ benefits, the new breakthroughs they represent, and the experiential “Wow’s” are all expertly expressed.

Each of these examples, stories, and slogans provide an engrossing story of transformation.  And as with any good magic trick, each contains:

  1. The Pledge: The current, ordinary state of the situation
  2. The Turn: The transformation of that ordinary something into something extraordinary
  3. The Prestige: The final reveal or amazing result that the transformation enables

When executed correctly, the readers of these stories only experience the magic and enjoy the clear and compelling “Wow”.  They remain blissfully unaware of all of the research, the rewriting, and the refinement done behind the scenes to take some deep and complex concept and to transform it into the intuitive and inspiring story that captured their hearts and minds.

Another of my favorite quotes is first attributed to French mathematician Blaise Pascal and was transformational enough to be later re-quoted by brilliant minds such as Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, and Abraham Lincoln… “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one.” Finding the clear and concise magical words takes time, creativity, and often some very cool research techniques, but the profound and memorable impact of the resulting story is well worth the investment! 

Note: I originally published this blog at http://www.upstream360.com.

How To Fill A Blank Slate

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There is nothing more invigorating than the opportunity to start anew with a clean slate and a blank canvas. That moment the creative spirit dreams and yearns for most, is when the mind is engulfed with endless possibilities, the heart is filled with hopeful wonder, and the soul is electric with vibrant energy.

That same moment is also the most intimidating.

Staring alone at wide open nothingness, not knowing where to start amidst the swirl of ideas, the fear of misstep, and the sound of the ever-ticking clock can be both daunting and paralyzing. What starts as a dream can quickly become the fuel for a nightmare!

I write this first blog entry as the new Innovation Director at Upstream 360, and I am currently swirling with that excitement, fear, hope, and intimidation of the blank canvas. Just two months ago, I chose to jump out of the comfort zone of my 17-year career in R&D and Marketing at Procter & Gamble and into this brave, new landscape. A big part of this new role is to build off of Upstream 360’s already impressive capabilities for ideation, conceptualization, and production and to help write some new and exciting pages into the stories of our company, our partners, and our clients. Invigorating for sure… even with that small dash of intimidation!

Taking this blank canvas and turning it into a masterpiece is at the heart of what Upstream 360 does each and every day.  A team might come to us trying to discover a new insight or to escape an old way of thinking… and we help chart the course to some new and exciting ideas. Sometimes organizations may already have their cubicles filled with shards of ideas and sparks of inspiration… and we help transform those into visual and compelling new concepts. Or maybe there is a breakthrough technology invented in the labs that is amazing but seemingly impossible to explain… so we help find the words for the “wow” and produce a video for the launch. The magic of what Upstream 360 brings to its clients and partners is that ability to take the chaos, no matter what stage of the innovation process a team is in, and transform it into clarity.

Writing this first blog entry represents the filling of the first of many blank pages over the coming weeks and months. Mark Smith (our Chief Creative Officer) and I will be crafting bi-weekly entries to share some stories, laughs, parables, and case studies to discover some new nuggets of insight along the way. These entries will go wherever the muse takes us, and will likely see many diversions through science fiction, jaw-dropping puns, and current events (which are often now stranger than science fiction), all with the goal of providing a spark of insight and generating conversation. We would be honored if you follow us on this crazy ride, and help us to paint this new canvas together. Onward and upward!

Note: I originally published this blog at http://www.upstream360.com.

Leaving P&G… Writing the Next Chapter

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My Procter & Gamble story started almost exactly 19 years ago, as a junior at Ohio University, while attending a free lunch (proving that there actually is such a thing). P&G’s Chief Technology Officer was on campus and invited a handful of students for a discussion where, I later learned, he was trying to determine whether or not to recruit chemical engineers from O.U. Never one to turn down a free meal, I graciously accepted the invitation, enjoyed a nice conversation over some Mexican food, and passed along my resume. I never dreamed that this serendipitous meeting on the beautiful red brick campus in Athens, Ohio would become the opening act for my almost two decade long adventure with deodorants, shampoos, and the vast world of beauty care. Yet three months later, I found myself as a summer intern at the Sharon Woods Technical Center in rural Cincinnati, and began filling the pages of my career.

From there, the halls of P&G opened up worlds of possibilities that I had never even considered as a young chemical engineer. While I had expected to find myself in the lab working with chemicals and in a plant scaling up new technologies, I instead became fascinated by consumer psychology, holistic product design, and commercial messaging. I spent countless hours in focus groups, in the homes of consumers, in conversations with beauty editors, and in stores trying to uncover insights, ideas, and desired consumer experiences. I quickly learned the critical importance of not only designing products with superior functional benefits but also with delightful experiences. I even went to school part-time to get my MBA, so that I could better understand the tools of story-telling, selling, and strategy to insure that our innovations reached their full potentials.

And throughout those years, I had the good fortune to experience the pinnacle of success with some disruptive innovation, but also the character-building disappointment of a market failure. I traveled to many of the richest countries in the world designing beauty products for the prestigious upper class, and also hiked through impoverished rural villages in India, China, and Brazil attempting to find health and hygiene solutions for families surviving on less than a dollar per day. I even uncovered an unknown love for writing and storytelling that first began permeating my work in concept and product design, and then ultimately led to the publication of my first innovation book, Agents of Change.  Every day was a new adventure, and I found myself hooked on all aspects of designing and marketing innovative products to delight consumers around the world.

Yet my greatest joy came from my opportunities to partner with, to lead, and to coach so many talented and passionate individuals. People ask me all the time what I think P&G’s greatest strength is, and my answer unquestionably is the company’s ability to hire some of the most creative, collaborative, and committed people in the world. It always amazes me not just how much intelligence and wisdom resides within the offices and cubicles, but also how much passion and dedication. The willingness to teach and to share knowledge, the drive to uncover rich consumer insights and new breakthrough technologies, and the work ethic and sheer will to deliver quality and speed truly make P&G people special. It is easy to define P&G by its billion dollar brands, its breakthrough innovations, and its financial numbers… but what truly sets this company apart is its people.

So all that said, why leave? It has been a gut-wrenching decision process and one with which I have been wrestling for quite some time. While the entirety of my time at P&G has been an amazing ride, it is true that the past several years have been trying.  I have never stopped enjoying my time fighting the good fight with such brilliant friends and colleagues and I am nothing but proud of the body of work that we have produced.  But as P&G has gone through a constant barrage of challenges, transitions, and cultural shifts, this great organization has seen the departure of many respected, inspiring leaders, has allowed talented individuals to become mired in slowed and convoluted career paths, and at times falls into an atmosphere driven by fear of the costs of failure rather than by a courage to invest in success. The talented, passionate, and driven employees who remain are still fighting the good fight and committed to making the magic happen… but the path has become more arduous. And moving forward, my greatest call to action for the leaders and future leaders of P&G is a critical re-investment in a culture that challenges, that empowers, that enables, that rewards, and that retains its top talent.

Yet, while this struggle may have been a catalyst in my leaving, it is by no means the cause. I leave P&G not only proud to have spent my entire adult life with the company, but also confident that the ship will be righted. The truth is that I have reached a point in my life where I now feel an intense calling to close the book on this first act and to start writing a new chapter. As I have learned more about myself and of what is important to me, the call to embark on a new adventure has become increasingly loud. An innate desire has grown to take my talent for innovation, my passion to create, and my love to continuously try new things, and to make it an even greater part of my day-to-day work. Thus, I am running toward a new opportunity rather than away from an old one.

To start this next chapter, I am excited to be joining Upstream 360 as the Director of Innovation. There, I will serve as an innovation expert and consult with teams and individuals around the globe to translate ideas into concepts, concepts into prototypes, and prototypes into executions. And while on one hand this feels like a dramatic change from my time with Procter & Gamble, on the other it feels like a logical next step to build on my past and to begin writing the next page. And while I am beyond excited to begin this next phase of the journey, I am grateful, reflective, and sad to leave behind such amazingly talented and passionate colleagues and friends.

Finally, to bring this story full circle I spent my final weekend as a P&G employee back at Ohio University reflecting on my closing thoughts from that same beautiful campus where the journey began. So to close this chapter, I have tried to capture some key nuggets of insight that I have learned over these 19 years. It is impossible to cover everything, but I have included my top thoughts that have played a huge part in my story and may be able to provide an idea or two for yours.

Faster Horses

The consumer is boss.  That is a key phrase that echoes through the halls of P&G and is one in which I wholeheartedly agree.  No matter what function or level we hold, we must get to know our consumers, through attending research, going to their homes, and shopping where they shop.  At the end of the day, our job is to create a successful business through improving consumers’ lives and through providing them with delightful experiences. That said… like any “boss”, consumers don’t necessarily always know how to ask for what they want. To quote Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses'”.  It is our job to recognize the key insights and benefits that are important and to design solutions that meet the consumer’s needs- not by simply following their requests verbatim.  For example, if a consumer asks for a bigger gas tank, we can give them better fuel efficiency… meeting their needs in a new and innovative way beyond what they might imagine.

The Power of Holistic Design

I stated previously that I have been a part of some very successful launches, but also a significant failure.  Looking back, the key difference between the two was in how effectively we delivered a holistically designed proposition.  One of the first projects of my career was to design and launch Old Spice Cool Contact Refreshment Towels.  These essentially were scented body wipes for dudes, and represented a new benefit and habit for consumers in the category.  We had high hopes for this proposition as our concept and product testing demonstrated outstanding potential, and we knew that we were effectively satisfying an unmet consumer need.  However, when the product launched, it failed to connect with consumers and was very quickly discontinued.  Why?  We failed to communicate the benefits and the education in our package design, at shelf, and via our commercialization.  So consumers who sought the on-demand refreshment benefit were unaware that a product had launched to satisfy it. We designed a product that consumers wanted and needed, but didn’t present it in a way that allowed them to easily find and understand it.  (Note: even 15 years after its discontinuation, this product is still being sold on eBay and Amazon, proving that there are still loyal consumers seeking the product benefit!) On the contrary, a successful example was in our launch of Secret Clinical Strength.  In this case, we comprehensively executed a product experience, a package design, and a commercial strategy that holistically pulled it all together.  This launch thus ultimately delighted countless consumers and became a huge, lasting success.  Successful innovation must do more than just deliver a benefit… it must holistically communicate a story across all elements of the product, package, and commercial experience.

First “Wow”, Then “How”

Especially in rooms of engineers and scientists, it is easy to start focusing effort on what is actionable rather than on what is ideal.  To create truly awe-inspiring innovation, it is important to understand first the desired consumer experience, regardless of cost and time implications, and then to determine what is possible.  It is far easier to take something amazing and make it actionable that to take something actionable and then to add the bells and whistles to make it amazing.  Every example in my career of breakthrough product performance, from Secret Clinical Strength Antiperpsirants to Pantene Dreamcare Shampoos, started with defining something that was delightful but impossible and only then finding a way to make it possible.

Bring the Tiger into the Room

One of the stories that I tell most often is that of Joe Rohde, an imagineer at Disney, and his quest to create the Animal Kingdom theme park.  After being rejected multiple times by Disney’s leadership (“Disney doesn’t do zoos”), Rohde boldly walked a live tiger into the board room and filled everyone’s hearts with awe, wonder, and magic.  The project was approved and Animal Kingdom became the largest zoo in the world.  With my groups at P&G, we often encouraged our teams to “Bring the Tiger” in an effort to provide a tangible prototype to explain an idea, a concept, or a design.  For example, when we took on the urgent project to upgrade our Pantene package, the team used spray paint, ribbon, and other various arts and crafts to quickly take ideas off the page and to allow us to assess them on the shelf.  A prototype is worth 1,000 ideas, and “bringing the tiger” early and often takes something abstract and shows tangibly how it can come to life.

Never Doubt the Power of a Small, Empowered Team.

With very few exceptions, when I talk to people about their most successful innovations their stories go something like this, “We were a small, empowered, under-the radar team, and nobody thought our project was going to be successful.  We were scrappy and creative about making prototypes and getting data, and were free to learn and to experiment.  When we emerged with a winning proposition, we shocked everyone… and the program went on to be more successful than other higher-profile and higher-scrutinized innovation programs.”   Where we are at our best, is when we allow these small and mighty teams to control their own destinies on a passionate pursuit of “Wow”.  So many examples from my career played out this way that we tried to institutionalize the formation of “5-in-a-box” teams with a cross-functional ensemble of roughly 5 passionate people to make the magic happen.  Whether it be a rapid upgrade to the Secret deodorant line, the creation and launch of a dry shampoo, or the scrappy launch of the Old Spice Hair line, a key component was the camaraderie of small, empowered teams that were able to be quick and agile to deliver breakthrough results.  It is critical that we empower our teams, give them freedom to take risks, and encourage them to beg forgiveness rather than to ask permission.

Unleash the Real-Life Superheroes

The key theme of my book, Agents of Change, is in unleashing the untapped innovative superpowers of the real-life heroes within our organizations.  We hire the most amazingly talented and hungry people in the world, yet often they feel under-utilized, bogged down with bureaucracy, or mired with the mundane.  When we were at our best in designing breakthrough innovation, turning around struggling businesses, or developing superior stories, it was largely because we were deliberate to create a culture of risk-taking, to encourage individuals to take on passion projects, and to empower teams to challenge the status quo. For good measure, we even wore superhero t-shirts on Fridays as we walked the vaulted halls of Procter & Gamble… a habit I plan to maintain long into the future.  Through encouraging “rebellion” to unleash these powers, we were able to help each other find personal fulfillment, to drive better innovation, and to improve lives (others and our own).

Finally… Remember that “It’s Just Soap”

While it is critical to be passionate about our jobs, it is possible to take it too far. Too high of an emotional investment can lead to irrational decisions in regard to initiative work, interpersonal relationships, and, importantly, work-life balance.  While what we do is important both to consumers and to our own financial well-being, “It’s Just Soap” and we need to make sure “not to take ourselves too damn seriously”. (paraphrased from Benjamin Zander).

 

I cannot fully express how thankful I am for the opportunity to partner with, to learn from, and to befriend so many amazing individuals over these 19 years, and I am truly grateful for all of the experiences.  While I may no longer carry a P&G badge, I will be forever cheering on the company from my new desk, and will continue looking for breakthrough and superior products and stories each time I go to the store.  I am thankful for this chapter of my story, excited for the next, and most of all grateful for all of the characters who have brought life to the pages.


 

Check out my book, Agents of Change, inspired heavily by my 19 years at P&G.  It is available in paperback and eBook additions on Amazon.com

Going Rogue

I am a huge Star Wars fan, and for almost all of my 4 decades much of my daydreaming time has been spent in a galaxy far, far away.  The instant that tickets went on sale for the upcoming new film, Rogue One, I was online purchasing them for myself and for my kids─ and we will be heading to the theater in Force on opening night.  Unlike all of the previous Star Wars movies, which have focused on the Skywalker family and their epic heroism, this one is different.  This movie will instead star the rebels, the role players, and the misfits who chose to “go rogue” behind the scenes to set the stage for one of the most profoundly heroic moments in movie history.  We all know the tale of Luke Skywalker, who started the original Star Wars movie as a simple farmboy on a remote, desert planet, and ended it receiving a medal after mystically destroying the most intimidating battle station ever built… the Death Star.  A small but important part of the backstory of that tale was that a small band of rebels risked everything to go undercover and to steal the plans for this Death Star that ultimately enabled Luke Skywalker to complete his amazing adventure.  Rogue One tells their story.

When I first learned of this film, I was excited but also skeptical.  Much of what I have loved about Star Wars from my youth has been that dream of rising from obscurity, learning of some unique magical powers, and ultimately becoming the hero who saves the universe.  I think in life, we all yearn for some of that… to have some untapped superpower unleashed and to be the one standing on the podium receiving a medal at the end of the story.  So a movie about the “common folks”, those not named Skywalker or Solo, is a much different endeavor.  We know that this band of rebels won’t be the ones to actually destroy the Death Star, to defeat the Empire, and to ultimately become legends in the universe.  However… if not for their roles in the saga, then none of the iconic, legendary stories that we all know and love would have ever come to be.

When I wrote my book, Agents of Change, I was inspired by finding ways to unleash the untapped superpowers within individuals and within organizations… in many cases to help them to “Go Rogue”. It is easy to get caught up in dreaming of and judging ourselves against those medal-wearing, Death Star-exploding moments that are so few and far between.  We may, at times, feel like failures, even in the midst of an otherwise successful life and career, because we don’t see ourselves as the heroes that we had dreamed of becoming.  We judge ourselves by the medals, the acclaim, and the celebrity that we fail to achieve and glaze over all of the scrappy hard work, human impact, and unsung accomplishments that we do achieve. That is not to say that we should cease in striving for epic success.  Rather, we should more deliberately focus our passion, our energy, and our powers on finding our unique adventures… and Forcefully throw ourselves into them. Instead of holding ourselves back because of the superpowers and the opportunities that we don’t have, we should unleash and leverage the ones that we do.

And in truly realizing our own full potentials, we must embrace the fact that we will likely need to “Go Rogue”.  When we get caught up in judging ourselves by the expectations of society, parents, organizational norms, friends, social media, etc., we can put our own dreams and superpowers aside and attempt to be what is expected rather than what is inherent.  We can find ourselves reaching for goals that others deem to be important rather than fulfilling our own passions and ideals.  We can get bogged down and constrained by rules and restrictions that we are too scared to break or to fly around.  It takes courage and strength to veer from this path of least resistance, but only in doing so can we fully deliver the role in the universe that we are uniquely designed to play.  I have previously written that the three key barriers that stand in the way of our achieving our missions and our legacies are Ego, Clutter, and Fear of Failure.  We need to rebel against these barriers and place our mission above our ego, focus on what truly matters most, and risk failure in order to find true success.  And in doing so, maybe we will be THE hero at the end of the story or maybe not.  But we certainly will endeavor upon the adventures for which we were made, help some others to reach their own podiums, and unleash our full Force on the world.  And… we will better learn to appreciate those behind-the-scenes role players in our own lives who help us along our own adventures and successes.

So as I sit and watch Rogue One on Opening Night, I look forward to celebrating the story of the rebels who paved the way for my favorite “superhero” of all time, Luke Skywalker, to rise from obscurity and to save the universe.  And while I may never become a Jedi Knight myself (although I haven’t yet given up hope), I will continue to strive to go rogue and to focus on my role in this epic adventure of life.

Check out my book, Agents of Change, available in paperback and eBook additions on Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Be Thankful for the Present

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Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday of the year.  To me, It is more of what the celebration of Christmas should be─ a time to say “Thanks, God”, while sharing fellowship, food, and fun with family and friends.  (And this year, throw in a Steelers’ football game in the evening to just round out the perfect holiday!).  Sure… there is an overindulgence of turkey, dessert, and drink, but it is more about the spirit of sharing and being grateful for the moment than it is a spirit of shopping and exchanging of “stuff”.  Thanksgiving is not about presents, but rather about being thankful for the present.

This opportunity to be fully immersed in the present moment is not one to be taken for granted.  It is so easy to get caught up in dwelling on the past or dreaming of the future that we can neglect what is real and right in front of us.  This year has been one of heavy reflection for me personally.  A friend called it a mid-life crisis, but I prefer to think about it as a mid-life awakening.  Marketing.

I’ve become very conscious of time… the expired past that I can’t get back, the omnipresent ticking of each moment, and the awareness that time itself is becoming a limited resource.  It’s like I am having a “Scrooge” moment, as my ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future are all haunting my thoughts and dreams.  This is especially unusual for me, as I am naturally wired to just drive full speed ahead… spending far more time racing toward all of the future’s possibilities and little to no time looking at the rearview mirror (or even keeping my eyes on the road in the present).  This driving metaphor may explain why I get so many speeding tickets.

And it’s not just me.  I feel this sense of restlessness all around me as it seems like we are all somewhat spiraling out of control.  Whether it is because we are running toward something, fleeing away from something, or just quickly spinning I don’t know… but it is truly hard to just be present in the moment.  Maybe I’m just getting a little dramatic in my “old age”, becoming inflicted with a new sentimentality, or just growing in the awareness of how precious each moment should be.  I guess it doesn’t really matter… what does matter is that there is too much time spent trying to manipulate a future that is uncontrollable, changing a past that is immovable, or even just distracted by the constant noise… that far too little is spent immersed in the moment.

So my call to action this Thanksgiving is as follows:  “Turn everything off and just enjoy the moment.  Don’t check your email, ignore Black Friday, and put away the smartphone.  Forget about yesterday, don’t worry about tomorrow, and just be.  Put politics aside, ignore the “to do list”, and eat, drink, and be merry.  Be thankful for all of our blessings, our loved ones, and our freedom.  And Go Steelers.”

I will tell you that when I started writing this post, this is not where I thought it would end up.  Maybe this is the result of my attempt to simply write in the moment or maybe it is the rambling words of a divergent mind in mid-life crisis / awakening.  Regardless, I truly wish you the happiest of Thanksgivings, that you enjoy the company of family and friends, and that you give yourself and your loved ones the gift of being present.

 

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Check out my book, Agents of Change, available in paperback and eBook additions on Amazon.com (ironically on sale now for Black Friday :))

 

Veteran’s Day Poem… from my Daughter


After a tumultuous week in America, my 11-year old daughter Mara was chosen to be part of a Veteran’s Day presentation at her school.  She had the opportunity to take the podium and share a poem that she wrote, and her words touched the hearts of many so as a proud dad I am honored to shared it with you here.  Enjoy the poem and God bless!

Veterans Day Poem

by Mara Thomas

Weary soldiers, tired from the fight,

Are just about to sleep one night.

A comrade runs into the bunks,

He says “You can pack your trunks!

The fight is over! The war is done!

You can go home, everyone!”

 

The long ride home, the unbearable wait,

Away from war, away from hate.

To something waited on for years,

Back to hopes, away from fears.

Back to the place you call your own,

Back to the one, the only, home.

 

They greet their families with great cheer,

Their excitement is more than clear.

They talk and laugh throughout the night,

But never once about the fight.

This day they feared they’d never see,

The war is over, the country free.

 

The sparkling eyes that laugh tonight

Not long ago were filled with fright.

These brave people will not be the same,

But they have helped our country gain

The greatest thing we could ever need,

They gave us freedom, yes indeed.