Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Fight Inside

Here's a wonderful little Native American tale by blogger Holly. It is short and simple, but profound.

It was written in response to a conversation going on at OhSheGlow's blog - Learning How to Dismiss Negative Thoughts.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How to Write an Effective Case Study

One of the best ways to share and communicate your firm's capabilities is to describe your past experience through case studies.  Yet, for many, this is a confusing exercise.  Where should I start?  What information should I include? Who's point of view should the case study be written from?  How should it be organized?


Tell a story.  Ready?  Once upon a time...



Why?  People like stories!

To be more scientific - - a case study written from the perspective of the hero in distress (client) aids future heroes in distress (prospects) in applying the story to their own situations, and helps them imagine their own successes alongside the hero's helper (the firm offering solution).

Here is a helpful, easy to follow, step-by-step summary from Bill Whitley's the Art of the Rainmaker: the Message, Questions, and Insights that Attract and Engage Clients

This can be organized as follows:

1. Background
2. Challenge
3. Solution
4. Notable Results

Need this spelled out in more detail?  Here is more great wisdom from Simon Townley's blog Write Mindset.
"...A good case study starts out with our hero – our satisfied customer. Like every good hero, he wants something, he has a story goal. He may want to find the perfect ice cream; he may want to buy the car of his dreams; he may want to learn to play the piano; or he might be looking for a world-class data centre where he can host the corporate databases and applications for which he holds prime responsibility. You get the idea.

There is conflict however: he doesn’t know how to reach his story goal.

This conflict is resolved when he discovers product X or service Y. We see how he is able to reach his goal, and come to a satisfying happy-ending when product X delivers a huge range of benefits.

So, to write an effective case study, you need to remember you are telling a story about a person or a company that wanted to achieve something, what they did about that, and how it all worked out in the end. It gives a proven, rock-solid structure for a case study that works every time:

1) The problem – the status quo, the situation at the start of the story, where we see our hero/customer struggling to achieve his story goal.

2) The solution – we show how our hero found product X, and how he used it to achieve his goal.

3) The benefits – we show how using product X has enriched our hero’s life and made him happy-ever-after.

This formula should work for any case study you need to write, be it for a big company, or just a testimonial for online marketing. The story can be a few sentences long, or many thousands of words. The structure can remain the same, only the level of detail needs to change.

Remember, however, to give your story a touch of life. Every good story needs a believable character, so include details of the person/company and a quote which lets us hear the proof in their own words.

Finally, make sure the quotes don’t read like corporate committee speak. Many a case-study has been ruined by the inclusion of so-called ‘quotes’ that don’t sound like something any human being would ever actually say. If the customer can only supply that kind of material, then change it so it sounds like a real quote, or write something for them. In either case, go back and get their approval."

That's Right.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Happiness is the Consequence of Personal Effort"

This title is a quote I pulled out of my copy of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eay Pray Love - - a book I've kept next to my bed for the past 3 years that serves as a fixed reminder of the utter sweetness of striving. 

The other day while cleaning out my closet, I came across a box of books.  My gaze rested on the colorful cover of Filastrocche Italiane, a children's book of nursery rhymes.  I remember buying this cartoon-laden beauty when I was in a town in Italy called Ascoli Piceno (in the Marche region) in 2006.  In my attempt to learn Italian, I thought starting with a children's book (and accompanying English picture translations) would be helpful, along with the Italian pop music I listened to on repeat.  While I had learned French when I was in grammar school (with reinforcing language-learning trips to visit my best friend Louise), learning a new language at the age of 25 was a lot more difficult. Apparently my window of opportunity for a language to take up free rent in my head had closed at the ripe age of 5 (I still don't understand why we start teaching kids languages in 6th grade - hello!?! our instant language learning sponge absorbing effect is diminished by now!). I remember starting with the nouns and learning how to string them together, but always having to make a conscious effort to think before I formed each word.

While staring down at this children's book of nursery rhymes, nostalgia rushing into my head like water rushing into a capsizing boat (my trip to Italy was quite memorable), I thought about the parallels between learning a new language (at the age of 25, not 5) and happiness. Happiness is something that, like language, doesn't always come instinctively, or effortlessly. Instead, happiness is something that we must choose time after time, day after day, in the small decisions, and the big, and how we let our attitude shape our perception of the world. Sometimes it comes from choosing to be a good friend, investing in our own dreams, complimenting the stranger in the elevator on their shoes, spending 5 hours on a well earned Sunday to do something charitable, or giving ourselves the time to strive for something, maybe even something impractical by the world's standards.

Regardless of the specifics, happiness is a continual set of choices we make - - in how we choose to act, perceive the world, find the positive in a situation (no matter how disgruntling at the time). But ultimately, it is the practice of doing it time after time, day after day. This incessant, dogged, striving to get it right - - this is where the happiness fruit is. It is not merely a temporary, fleeting moment when we stand on the podium summa cum laude at graduation. It is enjoying sitting in the library weekend after weekend studying to graduate.

So again, to the language parallel, the more we practice ways of happiness, no matter how old, or grandfathered in we are to a certain way, happiness can become more natural, instinctual, and take up more free rent in our heads, so that we don't have to think about it each time we want it to come out right. If we don't use it, we'll probably lose it.

Happiness is in the never-ending, conscious striving.  Gelato helps too.

"I keep remembering one of my Guru's teachings about happiness.  She says that people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you're fortunate enough.  But that's not how happiness works.  Happiness is the consequence of personal effort.  You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have a achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don't you will leak away your innate contentment. It's easy enough to pray when you're in distress but continuing to pray even when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight to its good attainments." - Elizabeth Gilbert

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ideas Journal

Here's the thing I've learned about blogging.  You never know when and where the ideas will come.  It could very well be when you sit down to write, or it could be when you are unloading the dishwasher, working on another project, or gazing out of the window as landscape rushes by at 70mph.  So, be ready.  Get an ideas journal! Buy something sturdy, small, and something you'd likely carry around or have near by. Write it all down, now matter how half-baked or trite it may seem at the time.  You never know what these momentary sparks of insight can turn into.

If you're a design dork like me, you'll LOVE this Swedish brand - White Lines.  I'm obsessed with the clean, anti-clutter look, with bright, soft white pages always ready for information overload.

Here's to paper, pens, and possibilities!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Have a Pulse

Want to do something incredible in your life?

1. Get excited.
2. Get a vision.
3. Get it done!

It's not rocket science. It's more having a pulse.

Be honest with who you are, what makes you tick, and what drives you to bliss (ie; what you're doing when you forget to eat/sleep). The world needs more of you.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

10 Reasons Why #NGG10 Rocked

Hey guys,

I'll lay it out there for you.  Coming out of a conference with 200+ emerging government leaders and priceless mentors is leaving me with a better jolt than 3 sugar-free redbulls could swing.  Since I'm so ramped up, my head is not quite yet forming complete sentences, so I'll write this post in list form.  First, a big shout out to @Govloop and @YGL for putting on this extremely valuable forum.

10 Reasons why the Next Generation of Government Summit (#NGG10) Rocked.

1. Govies helping Govies.  In a best-practices, actionable, and human way.

2. People really are your biggest resource, and that is exactly what #NGG10 is all about.  The Govhood of Success baby!

3. M&M dispenser

4. 2 days jam-packed with kicking keynotes, pertinent panels, and anything-but-passe plenary speakers. 

5. The phrase "Open a can of whoop ass" was used.  Several times.

6. Internet + cell phone service worked.  And hundreds of tweets ensued.

7. Mingle sticks.  You heard me.

8. Government Bingo.  With Chris Dorobek.

9. Crowd was tasked to think of 1000 awesome things about government.  And we all know the power of positive thinking!

10. This is just the start.  Let the grounds start rumbling!

Caveat - this is a fraction of the positive take-aways one could write...I'm sure we'd all love to hear what you think!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Creativity, Empathy, & Problem-Solving

When it comes to problem solving, I often find the best approach is to cultivate a garden rich with potential thought seeds, and to step into a different pair of shoes before you go outside. How to trigger such creativity and empathy? Below are a few catalysts for me: 

1. Look around.  Given that throughout the day the human brain constantly soaks up sights, sounds, words and passing thoughts (and probably only retains a small percentage of what we are exposed to), any random moment can trigger an association with something lying dormant, and an idea can be born.  For example, when I was 11, I went to London for the first time.  I took a train with my friend Louise and while waiting at the train station, all I remember was grey.  The train platform was gray, the train was gray and the sky was gray.  Ten years later, I was living in Cambridge, MA, and on my way to work one day, (on a similar train), everything looked the same.  They sky, the platform, and the train.  I instantly was reminded of my time in London, and I felt as if I was peering through my 11 year old eyes.  This thinking and feeling starting to lead me down different paths (or perhaps memory lane), and my creative juices started flowing.  Take away message?  When trying to think of different ways to look at an issue or solve an old problem, try looking around.  Photograph by Sebastiaan Bremer.

2.  Anecdotes and Quotes.  Sometimes, you just need to glean wisdom from others.  Quotes and anecdotes are great for this.  Magazines such as Real Simple and Oprah's O are chock full of famous quotes and constructive life lessons that you might just be able to apply to your own quandary.

3. Take your mind off the issue you are trying to solve.  Sometimes the best ideas come when you are not trying to find them.  Activities such as running are notorious for this.  As you focus on a repetitive task (ie; running), your brain is free to roam where it may, and just might trigger an answer to a question you've been pondering. 

To summarize - answers to the hardest questions are found when you cultivate an environment for creativity, and try to look at life by stepping into someone else's shoes.

What triggers your creativity?  And does being empathetic help you solve problems?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Lululemon + Social Responsibility

While all companies have to make a profit to stay in business, some do this while simultaneously doing good.  This good includes good for individuals, good for the community, and good for the environment; just to name a few.  For those in PR, this "good" is fondly referred to as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Lululemon Athletica, a yoga-inspired athletic apparel company has made CSR one of its founding and guiding principles since it opened its doors in 2000.  Their mission? Creating components for people to live a longer, healthier, and more fun life.

I've been wanting to write a post on why I think Lululemon does CSR best, but here a quick few reasons I can re-cap in a few minutes.  Longer, more detailed post to follow.

1. Positivity Manifesto

They issued a simple, but brilliant "manifesto" mashing together upbeat quotes, ideas, beliefs, reminders - essentially presenting a "positivity poster." This manifesto became one of the early Lululemon trademarks and hasn't gone out of style.  The manifesto appears on their recyclable, durable shopping bags, given to every customer, for every purchase made.  In addition to the bags being environmentally friendly (they make great lunch totes), each time a Lulu fan flashes them around in a public place, an onlooking eye might just pick up on a few uplifting notes and have a mood improvement.  This type of thinking is obvious in all of the programs they run, the spaces they occupy, and the employees they hire. 

2.  Grassroots Community building

If you live near a Lululemon, this second point will be obvious.  Lululemon hosts free yoga classes in all of their stores, weekly fun runs, health clinics and exercise clinics, and group yoga.  The goal?  Empower local Lululemon employees to help engage and build a community of like-minded, health driven fans.  Last week, for example, I attended a Lululemon run in Bethesda, MD and met 10+ new friends. 

After the run, Eric (who lead the run) took us all inside for water and granola bars. 

3.  Healthy-habit building for individuals

If you poke around a Lululemon store, you'll notice framed pictures of staff with My 10 Year Goals
sketched out.  If you read their blog, you'll find posts on Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG).

Role-modeling?  I think so. You'll also find water bottles you can write your goals on and branded reminders such as:

What companies do you think stand out for social responsibility?