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Pinstripe Bookshelf: Creative Quest

I have never considered myself a creative person – at least in the traditional sense. I’m not a writer, designer, photographer, painter, songwriter or chef. In my career, I rely on my creative problem-solving abilities, and the “I know it when I see it” side of creativity when directing marketing projects, but I’ve always admired truly creative people. Those who create.

In my efforts to cultivate creativity, I often listen to podcasts and pick up the latest books on the subject like The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Cutmull.

I’ve found my new favorite. Questlove’s Creative Quest.

I have been a fan of Questlove for a long time. Most people know him as the leader and drummer of the hip hop band, The Roots. In addition to their role on The Tonight Show, he has written several books including a memoir, has the most encyclopedic knowledge of music, has designed products, teaches, and is apparently quite the foodie. He’s one of the people I’d invite to my celebrity dinner party.

Creative Quest is an insightful journey through the creative process and the work of being a creator. Through personal stories and those of his famous creative friends, Quest covers finding inspiration, overcoming blocks, and honing the tools to not only be more creative, but to create better work. He thoughtfully explains the value of finding great mentors and building a creative network, and perhaps most importantly for artists, how to deal with criticism which can be “destructive to the creative ego.”

The first step in creating is re-creating – making a version of something that already exists. The first time I saw The Roots play a popular song with classroom instruments on The Tonight Show (I think it was Call Me Maybe back in 2013), I thought “how fun! how creative!” and with the millions of views these videos get on YouTube, I’m sure they’ve introduced new music to a lot of new listeners by making the songs fun and approachable. My favorite is the Sesame Street theme song.

One of the book’s insights that really hit me is the notion that we don’t know how to be bored anymore. We have access to entertainment in the palm of our hands 24/7. We’ve lost the ability to be quiet with ourselves and embrace boredom, which “represents pure, undiluted time in all of its repetitive, redundant, monotonous splendor.” Wow. What a concept.

I was also struck by a study he references that indicated that the more rested and alert a person was, the LESS creative they were at their task. When the mind is sharp, it is less likely to be creative. Huh. And all this time I’ve been defending my eight hours a night!

I am so glad I decided to get the audio version of this book as Questlove provides thoroughly entertaining narration that had me laughing out loud in my car. I can’t remember the last audio book that I ‘highlighted’ the pages of (pausing and making notes on my phone so I could go back to those sections). One of my favorite lines was when he told a story about D’Angleo and his songwriting, saying, “If you x-rayed his creativity you would find those songs in there glowing from his bones.” What a visual!

Everyone who will listen to me has heard my recommendation of this book. If you are traditionally creative or, like me, wish you could sharpen that skill, I encourage you to download the audio and treat yourself to some tools and inspiration. With a few chuckles on the side.

After you’ve listened, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Enjoy!
Ginger

 

Pinstripe Book Shelf: Self-Made by Nely Galan

self made nely galan inspiration_news

Don’t Buy Shoes, Buy Buildings: Lessons from Self-Made by Nely Galan.  Back in October of 2017, the Pinstripe team attended the Women’s Conference of Florida (read the recap here.) One of the most memorable presentations of the conference was the very first one – Nely Galan. This vibrant, exciting woman gave us energy, confidence, and drive. We walked out of that room feeling empowered! She’s one of those people with an infectious energy – she makes you want to take your day by storm. Her parting gift to the entire audience – a copy of her book, “Self-Made: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way.” Needless to say, after that presentation, we couldn’t wait to read it.

Self-Made – The Woman

Nely Galan, daughter of hard-working immigrant parents, built her career on engendered hard work, positivity, and by learning from her mistakes every step of the way. She gave herself solid role models and was goal-oriented; she was constantly setting her goals and asking herself the question, “will this get me closer to my goal?” about every move she made. Sometimes she took a step forward through her decisions, and sometimes a step backward, but she always kept her eye on the target. She also continued to update her goals to keep up with her own growth – here is one important lesson from Nely: check in with your goals often – you may find that they change over time and as you grow.

Self-Made – The Book

Her book is essentially an expanded version of her presentation – each chapter contains a lesson or a self-realization goal and a series of stories from her own life explaining how she achieved or learned the lesson. Many of the chapters also feature stories about other women succeeding using similar techniques or approaches. Overall, the book is just like Nely, energetic and full of positivity.

A few lessons:

  • Channel a role model (even if you’ve never met them) – in tough situations, ask yourself, “what would Michelle Obama do?”
  • Buy buildings, not shoes – Nely is all about being smart with your money, in particular investing in real estate
  • Failures are lessons – don’t be afraid to fail
  • No matter where you come from or what your background, you can become a powerful, self-made woman
  • Revisit your goals often
  • Don’t rely on a hero or Prince Charming to save you or support you – be self-made!
  • Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it can offer freedom

One problem with a book being like a person is that Nely has a certain presence that is charismatic, her voice is uplifting, and her energy is palpable and contagious. The book alone would not have had the same impact if we had not seen her in action. I am not usually a self-help book reader, but Galan’s presentation compelled me, irresistibly, to read this book. So powerful were her words and spirit that even a skeptic was led to spend precious reading time on a genre outside of my preference. I was not disappointed, but not astounded either.

To sum up this review – if you like self-help books and need a boost of positivity and energy, I recommend reading this book. If you can see Nely Galan presenting in person to supplement the book, even better. There are no Earth-shattering secrets, no profound lessons in this book. It is refreshing and fun to read, but it can get repetitive and reinforces many things we likely already apply to our daily lives – work hard, work smart, have confidence in yourself, and spend/invest wisely.

Cultivating the Best Customer Experience

cultivating client relationships

There are satisfied customers – those who have received their products or services and are content with their purchase; there are dissatisfied customers – those whose expectations have not been met; and then there are off-the-charts fans of your business – those clients who have received memorable, exceptional customer service and products. Can you think of the last customer service experience you had that made you a raving fan? Creating this type of memorable experience for your customers does not have to be difficult.

Use Failure as an Opportunity to Improve

We all set out to make our clients happy with the work we do, but we don’t always succeed. Failure to make a client happy with your product or service is not a failure at all – rather, take it as an opportunity to create an even stronger impression. Think of client dissatisfaction as the best time to show just how resilient, patient, and cooperative your company can be. Use negative feedback to improve your future operations and customer service. As long as you learn from your mistakes, you will only get better.

cultivating strong client relationships

Say it with a smile – being personable and passionate goes a long way in great customer service.

Customer Experience is a Part of Your Brand

Great customer service should be a part of your package, not an afterthought. If you find yourself constantly patching up problems and messes, then it’s probably time to re-evaluate your approach. Think of good service as a part of the product you are selling – people are buying your product or service over others because you offer the complete package – a great experience in addition to a great product. Win more sales with great products, win customer loyalty with great service. Be passionate about customer service and show your customers that you care. Find a way to build excellent customer service into your process from the very beginning.

Leadership Leads Good Customer Experience

Realize that good customer service starts at the leadership level. If treating your customers to a good experience is not valued by leadership, then that will be reflected in other positions. Other hindrances to good customer experience are apathy, disorganization, and disengagement of employees. All of these are problems that can be solved by good leadership. Executives should provide training, assistance, and perks for good customer service. A solid client-centric program should have guidelines for providing good service, as well as protocol for addressing problems when they do arise. In the case of Zappos, for example, if clients don’t like the shoes they ordered, no problem! Just return the items with free shipping both ways. The problem of customer dissatisfaction is virtually erased, since they can return the product without worrying about being charged. When you have a great customer experience, it’s because that experience is built into the very culture of the organization, beginning at the top.

Check out a few of our favorite books on the topic of customer service:

The New Gold Standard – The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company

Zappos: Good to Great

Pinstripe Bookshelf: Uncommon Service

bookshelf_news

Some colleagues and I recently shared a lively discussion about business and management books we defined as professional game changers. Many titles sprang to mind, with one clearly standing out: Uncommon Service by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss (Harvard Business Review Press).

Each of us had devoured its simple brilliance and intriguing premise.

uncommon_serviceFrei and Morriss maintain that companies must “dare to be bad” in order to be great, choosing highly strategic ways to “underperform while fueling a winning service advantage.” But first, they say, you have to have the stomach for it…

The authors pose compelling arguments surrounding the art of making competitive trade-offs to build a sustainable business that’s profitable, scalable and able to deliver service excellence every day. They deliver practical insights into service innovation and actionable ways to win by putting customers at the core of your business.

Case studies across a variety of sectors showcase four dimensions — or “service truths” — to illustrate a powerful approach to uncommon service. Truth No. 1? You Can’t Be Good at Everything.

Explore this and the other dimensions in the book. It’s a must-read in our service economy.

Order Uncommon Service from Amazon

Storytelling: The Dark and Stormy Night of Content Marketing

Tampa Bay content marketing, blog writing, newsletters, articles, copywriting

The content world we’ve created is a keyword-saturated mess of Google juice that is lacking a human connection – the thread that makes our stories honest and memorable. We talk about storytelling all the time – encouraging and helping our clients to be authentic and personal. But I know we also fall short.

One of the breakout sessions I attended at Inbound 2015 was Shawn Pfunder’sLive to Tell the Tale: Leveraging Story to Define Your Brand and Craft Marketing Strategy.” His presentation is an excellent reminder that in a sea of terrible content, good storytelling is exceptionally engaging, informative, and compelling.

And he used Wonder Woman to help prove his point. Bonus.

Shawn reminded us that there are tried and true story plots that can also be used in advertising, blogs, articles, testimonials, bios, press releases, pitches, presentations, pitches … anything!

Quest,
Adventure,
Pursuit,
Rescue,
Escape,
Revenge,
The Riddle,
Rivalry,
Underdog,
Temptation,
Metamorphosis,
Transformation,
Maturation,
Love,
Forbidden Love,
Sacrifice,
Discovery,
Wretched Excess,
Ascension,
Descension

Within each of these, we can ask ourselves: Who is the hero? (Hint: The client!) What is the normal life? Why change? What will be different? What’s next? What’s the overall story?

So much of the information we consume is from a sales and marketing perspective, focused solely on what will drive traffic to the web site or likes and shares on social media. Case studies and testimonials focus on the company instead of the client. We’re guilty too.

As a result, we’re getting back to basics and committing to focusing on telling a story.

For more information, I searched for articles from the masters of storytelling and discovered these three TED Talks compiled by Convince & Convert.

Here are Shawn’s slides from his presentation.

 

I’ve already purchased the books he recommended:

20 Master Plots and How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias

The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall 

The Elements of Eloquence: Secret of the Perfect Turn of Phrase by Mark Forsythe

 

Here are a few more resources:

Entrepreneur: Storytelling Could Bring Your Brand to Life and Strengthen Your Marketing Impact

Fast Company: Why Our Brains Crave Storytelling in Marketing

And who doesn’t love Kevin Spacey?

Tampa Bay public relations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ginger Reichl is the president and chief strategist for Pinstripe Marketing.

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