Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pizza Pizza!!

How many times have you called up your pizza delivery guy and asked "how much longer will my order be?" Apparently, it happens a lot at Domino's. Someone got sick of taking the calls and came up with a creative solution: an on-line pizza tracker. Domino's claims it is accurate within 40 seconds! I'm tempted to order a pizza now just so I can use the tool. And I imagine it would be a blast for kids.

Now that's what I call service. And right in time for the big game on Sunday.

Have a look at the article from Todya's USA today:

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What is good for the company?

I work a company that sells fun products and has a decidedly "unfun" corporate atmosphere. I am willing to toe-to-toe with anyone, and I mean anyone, who says otherwise. There is a completely lack of smiley-ness around the place. There's so much grey and taupe that you begin to wonder whether or not color ever existed at all. When I come into work in the morning, I see employees marching toward the grey, 1970's-architecture building with the same cadence of those in the movie Antz. It's sad. Really sad....

I pride myself on having a colorful character - I'm also blunt and opinionated. Luckily, I work for someone who's also blunt and opinionated and we're starting to know enough to be dangerous. Dangerous as in we may be leading the Antz to some kind of colorful revolution. I am seeing signs of creativity and life pop up in unexpected places, and in fairly rebellious ways.

Our restrooms, like our offices, are grey and taupe. Today, I have found that several people must have gotten sick of no amenities in the restrooms and placed peach hand lotion in each one. On my way back to my office from the restroom, I passed by a cube that was in full view on the main drag with a very large banner that said in bold letters "What is good for the company?" The wheels of creativity and action are slowly, slowly beginning to turn. And then as I turned the corner of my desk, I saw people dancing, actually dancing, in their cubes. Finally, an outward expression of joy.

Organizations, particularly those with decades of history, have a tremendous amount of inertia. When at rest, they are difficult to shake into action. Luckily, once they are stirred up and in motion, they are tough to slow down. My hope is that by the time I leave the company, those wheels will be cranking full speed ahead. And hopefully, I will have been a part of a creative revolution. It will indeed be good for the company.

The monsters are coming! The monsters are coming!

There are a myriad of things we can point to in the marketplace to illustrate the trend of fascination with fantasy, magic, and fairy tales. One of my favorite examples are the Ugly Dolls and the little monsters that seems to be popping everywhere from coin purses to water bottles to stationery. A face only a mother could love has become a face that everyone loves because of its sense of whimsy and approachability.

Today I read a blog post at about a whole new monster phenomenon. Stefan Bucher an LA designer created a blog with no motivation beyond plopping a small amount of ink onto a piece of paper every day and filming how he made that plop of ink into a monster. He then posted the videos to the blog. Then someone left a comment on the blog with the first of what would be many elaborate stories about the monsters.

Story creators from Marines to kindergartners took pen to paper and in the process of creating their own unique stories about the monsters became very attached to them. Bucher's characters generated so much chatter, that companies like Starbucks and Target, brought him to have imagination sessions. Creativity spawning more creativity - what could be better?!

To see Bucher's blog, visit

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A wish to learn

"The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn. ~John Lubbock"

In recent weeks I have encountered a number of people who have grown old before their time. Even in their 20's and 30's they have lost any desire to be inspired, to learn something new, to think differently, to take chances. It's possible that somehow these people never had the drive to do any of these things, though I doubt it. Somehow they've lost their ability to be children, or at least have a sense of curiosity that is child-like.

It is incredible what one can learn with no resources other than a desire to learn. As a kid, I went to public school in a very small farm town in upstate New York. My family had very little money. What we did have was a house full of old books on every subject you could imagine. I saw how much my mother struggled, largely because she was the bread winner and had never gone to college. My grandfather, though a wonderful man, figured that she didn't have to go to college as she would never need to support a family. And financial aid was not common the way it is today.

I knew I wanted out of that very small town, and the only way I could see to get out, and honestly stay out, was through education. College was a way out of poverty, the road out of my very small town. So into my books I dove when I wasn't working one or two or three part-time jobs. We didn't have a lot of money though my mother did give me the wish to learn. And learn I did. My bet was well-placed: I did get out of that town, I did move on to many exciting adventures. The best part about learning - the more you do, the more there is to discover.

The photo above is not my original work. It can be found at

Friday, January 25, 2008

The peer pressure to be an expert

I’m amazed at the ability of retailers to make us believe we can become experts in any field if we just have the right books, the right tools, and maybe an in-store class or podcast to show us how. A quick search on for the word expert turned up everything from cooking to gardening to work working to how to become an expert at being an expert. Become A Recognized Authority In Your Field - In 60 Days Or Less for $60. How to Position Yourself As the Obvious Expert for $25.

So whatever happened to natural ability or affinity for a certain field? What about creativity? What kind of message are we sending to people if we tell them that they can be experts in anything? And if I try something, and for some reason can’t be an expert, does that mean I’m a complete failure? Retailer and products they sell may have us think so.

I ran across a cartoon today on That made me feel a bit better about this unfortunate message, and it gave me a good laugh too. With some clever drawings and short punch lines, they sided with me. Their very clear message: it's okay to be an expert, just make sure the field you choose matches up to your abilities and affinities. No software package is going to replace human ingenuity.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The road to creativity is paved with sleep

In recent weeks, the news has been covered with new scientific research on sleep and how we are not getting enough of it. We use our jobs, families, and personal interests as reasons to deny ourselves rest.

NPR recently ran a report on sleep. Though geniuses like da Vinci professed not to need more than several hours of sleep, what he didn't mention was he didn't need more than several hours of sleep at a time. In many ancient history and renaissance era books, writers often describe first and second sleep, each about 4 hours in length, with 1 to 3 hours of waking in between. This sandwiched time had a magical quality, often bringing to light a person's most creative thinking. Sleeping, quite literally, is necessary for dreaming - it is a bridge to enlightenment and to the magic of innovative thinking.

This week on Frog Design's blog, Tim Leberecht explores the possibility that we may not be as passionate about work as we purport to be. Maybe we're just working scared....

To read Tim's post, visit

The Game Agency

My good friend, Steve Baer, is a co-founder of The Game Agency, a company that seeks to improve the marketing and brand efforts of its clients by tapping the gaming community through original content. Steve is one of the most creative and hard-working people I know. He's my go-to guy when I have a knew idea that needs an honest smell test. I am extraordinarily lucky to have him in my life, and feel honored that he was willing to have me interview him for this guest blog about how he started his own business. Drumroll please...

1.) Could you talk a bit about what motivated you and gave you the confidence to start your own company so soon out of business school?

It takes a fire in your belly to start a business and this is something I have been talking about doing ever since college. So, while I am only four years out of business school, my desire to build my own business has been 10+ years in the making. I come from a family who couldn't work for other people. I don't mean that in a negative way, it's just that my parents and grandparents were entrepreneurs... from regional pharmacies, to national grocery chains to consulting firms to law firms. While it often easier to get a job with a company than to start your own business most people who strike out on their own have a direct example of a parent to look to and that definitely is the case within my family. Sometimes the motivation to start a new venture comes from having reached the top of the pile where you are, looking around, and saying, "What's next?" The drive to build something new can also come from deciding that you're stuck in the middle instead of at the top. Fear of stagnation can be a powerful motivator, especially if you have an idea for something that could be at least more interesting and potentially more lucrative. This was my situation. I am passionate about my business model and I tried to execute it for my former employer but they simply weren't able to look beyond the way they did business for the past 30 years. So I said "it's finally time to open up my own shop".

2.) Of all of the industries out there, why did you choose to build your business around gaming?

In 2007 the U.S. video game industry experienced over 40% growth and achieved a record-shattering $17.94 billion in revenue. As the music industry declines and the movie industry stays stagnant the video game industry is growing leaps and bounds.

If you don't know much about video games you might be thinking "how many games can men 18-34 really play?" Well, there's definitely a limit but that's not the only demo playing video games any more. The average gamer is 33 but gamers come in all shapes and sizes. 31% are under 18 years old, 44% are 18-49 years and 25% are 50+ years old. Interestingly enough, the fastest growing demographic of gamers is women 50+. If that's not surprising maybe some of the facts and figures will be.

- 31% of children under 3 are already using a computer
- 78.1% of 6-11 year olds report they play online games - by far the largest percentage performing any online activity
- 8-10 year olds play interactive games for an average of 1½ hours per day- 9 out of the 10 most popular websites for boys 9–10 years, and 6 out of the 10 most popular websites for boys 11–12 years feature advergames
- Teens spend 7.4 hours per week playing games
- 62% of teenagers play games at least one hour a week and 34% play over 6 hours per week- Playing games is the number 1 computer activity for 8-18 year old, beating out IM and e-mail
- More than 25% of teens do more gaming than homework- 19% of men play games more than they watch television
- 50% of males play games more than they read books
- Women make up 50.4% of the online game market
- 41% of adult women are daily gamers, using it to relieve stress, increase skills and inspire social interaction
- Women over 40 spend more time gaming online than any other demographic –averaging 9.1 hrs / week - 35% of Senior Execs Play Casual Video games at Work

In short, every demographic is gaming and my company is focused on reaching each and every gamer with content that they would find interesting. Whether creating new intellectual property, developing branded games or increasing the reach of existing content our goal is to expand the footprint of the video game industry.

3.) Could you talk a bit about raising capital - how you went about it, what sources you looked into, why you decided to go the path you've gone when considering all of the capital raising options?

Starting a business is tough. You have to a write a business plan, build a client base, hire employees, find office space, etc. There are plenty of challenges, but the one that many entrepreneurs find most daunting is raising start-up capital. Fund raising has been one of the more educational steps over the past year. My partner and I have spoken with Banks, VCs, corporations, high net worth individuals, family, friends co-workers, etc about funding us. We received a few offers but non of them seemed quite right. Raising capital is a catch 22. Funding insures security but it reduces one's equity. We've been told over and over again, our most tangible asset is our equity. So for the time being we have dug deep into our own pockets, hunkered down and started the battle to start up and stay alive.

4.) There's a lot of talk about developing a business plan with any one of the cookie cutter models out there and having all of the answers before starting a business. For you, how important was it to have a solid business plan - a mission statement, a value prop, etc. - and to have all of the answers before diving in?

There's no question that writing a business plan is a key step to starting a company. There are all sorts of models out there. My partner and I started off by buying a software program and typing away. In our first 6 months our plan changed 7 or 8 times. In retrospect it changed based on the desires of our prospective funders. Ultimately we returned to our original plan. While this was definitely a journey it showed that our initial concept, industry insights and mission statement were on target.

5.) There's a lot of fear among entrepreneurship - figuring out taxes, building a client base, generating cash flow, leaving a job and a steady paycheck. Did you have any fear in starting your business and if so how did you overcome it?

Starting your own business is definitely a roller coaster ride but since taking the leap of faith I followed a few key steps.

No. 1 - Market and Sell – The more potential customers/clients you can find and sign up, the more money you will make. And more importantly, the more bills you can pay. You have to market and sell every way otherwise you will fail. Remember, nothing else in business matters except customers – paying customers. Not the best mouse-trap, not the best technology, not the smartest guys in the room, not intellectual property, only customers.

No. 2 - Have A Sense Of Urgency – Treat every day and every dime like it is your last, right at day one of opening your doors.

No. 3 - Take Nothing For Granted – Never take a potential sale for granted. When a potential customer or client says; “Let’s do the deal.” Don’t get overly excited right away.Don’t go out on a spending spree, start immediately paying bills, thinking that the check will soon be forthcoming. Only get excited after you receive the check.

No. 4 - Exercise Every Day – Starting and building a company from scratch takes a lot of energy. Entrepreneurs need to build some form of exercise, no matter how small every day.This is especially helpful when facing a problem. Some of my best solutions to problems came during short jogs around the neighborhood.

No. 5 - Stay Away From Negative People - Time is precious for new entrepreneurs. Don’t be around people who are negative and will try to bring you down. You still need to stay positive and optimistic.

No. 6 - Have A Daily Business Plan - In business, you have to know what you are doing and then do it. Having and executing your daily business plan will be your road map to success. It will force you to understand what you are doing and why you are doing it. Time is very precious for entrepreneurs.

No. 7 - Visualize Success - Entrepreneurs need to visualize success at all times, not failure. Your mind needs to know that although there will be many ups and downs, a light does exist at the end of the tunnel and it is bright. By visualizing success, your actions will become more confident. And increased confidence breeds success.

No. 8 - Remember The Alternative - You need to keep telling your mind, especially during the down times, why you are doing this in the first place. Remember, you are trying to create a better future for you and your family.

No. 9 - Maker sure your family is on board - Without the support of my partner's and my wives we wouldn't be doing this. It takes everyone's encouragement. When you can't be up the person next to you needs to be. Luckily my wife encourages me to follow my passions.

No. 10 - See No. 1 Again! - Starting a business from scratch, totally on a shoestring, is not for the faint of heart. Buckle in and get ready for one heck of an emotional roller coaster ride.

6.) Did you or do you encounter any naysayers when you talk about your business to others? If so, how do you deal with them?

Yes, Yes and Yes... It's easy to find flaws and thank goodness for everyone that people have pointed out. Sometimes they are valid, sometimes they are way off but each piece of feedback helps us think and rethink our approach. I am open to any and all feedback.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Vital Few

Today I participated in an off-site for work. There was a lot to focus on - we are facing an uphill battle, as are so many companies, in this tough economy that may soon get a lot tougher. It is easy to be distracted in this kind of environment; it is easy to get off-track, and even easier to let frustration rise to the top.

And as he often does, my boss stood up at the end of the day and asked if we might participate in a bit of an experiment. He wrote three poignant words on the wipe board. "The Vital Few". Rather than putting together an enormous package of ideas, initiatives, possible developments, etc., could we hone our focus on the very few things that will move the needle, things we can all get behind and drive forward across all of our businesses?

In a sense, we need to remove the noise. We need to take a moment, breathe, hold hands, and promise to support one another on this journey with a common goal: to be great by doing the best we can each day for our guests. While this sounds easy, in our day-to-day tasks it is quite possible to get distracted, to take a Road to Abilene. The crisis du jour can cause us to do things against our better judgement.

So how do we find and focus on the vital few amidst so many other things competing for our attention. It's about comparison. In a retail box, nothing sells like product. If we are to consider incorporating services, and I mean ANY services, they had better to prove to outperform product in the space they take up. By comparing services to products, we are able to discern what gets the space. The same can be done for new business concepts. If we have a new idea that we think will fly, great! And the next question: so if that new business concept comes in, what goes out?

What saves us are constraints. If as artists we were able to do whatever we wanted, then it's likely we wouldn't create our best work. We need to have constraints to think creatively, to have those break-through innovations. By forcing ourselves to find and nurture the vital few, we can be assured of discovering what truly matters and is worthy of our time and energy.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Whales as a necessary casualty?

What I find fascinating about the U.S. military is their continual insistence that they care about preserving life and then with nearly every policy, the destruction of life on some level is considered acceptable. How is it possible that with all of the technology and funding that the military has at their disposal these days (and I truly hope that those days of unbridled spending are numbered), they are cannot help but harm or cause death in at least 30 species of marine life off the coast of California? There isn’t any other solution to this problem? Or is it just that it would require more creativity than the Navy can muster?

This brings to mind similar problems of a creativity void that I see, hear, and read about in today's corporations. Our ability to proceed with "business as usual" is becoming a crutch. Some one's in the way? Run them over. Someone has opinion that doesn't tote the party line? Fire them. Some one's best interests are in the way? Run them over. Or in the Navy's case, destroy them. I mean, it's just a few whales right? This is NATIONAL SECURITY we're talking about here. Or is it just inconvenience for the Navy to think different?

Creativity seems to only rise to the top as a driver of solutions when it is the only option left on the table. Given the current state of our economy, and our wold-wide relations, we may have no other choice now except to let creativity lead us to a better solution. Brawn is clearly not working. It's no wonder that the WEF in Davos chose Innovation as its theme this year. Innovation is the only way forward.

For a related article on this topic that appeared in today's New York Times, visit

The above photo can be found at

Monday, January 21, 2008

Looking for love in uncrowded spaces

On-line dating started as an urban phenomemon and ehave new confirmation that it has migrated to the mainstream. Once a trend hits the farming community in town whose populations barely hit triple digits, we can rest assured that a trend has tipped.

Today I read about a site called It boasts 80,000 members and carries the mantra "city folks just don't get it." Even if you don't agree with the sentiment, you've got to hand it the farmers for their creativity.

For the article, visit

A picture's worth

Lately I am getting more and more into cartoons. After seeing William Steig's exhibit at the Jewish Museum here in NYC, I have been struck by how prevalent cartoons are in our media and how poufound their messages are with just a few words. It's possible taht cartoonists may be the most creative people in our culture, which begs the question "why do they get so little credit?" Here's one I saw recently in Time Magazine that I just love. The artist is Mike Peters.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Room of My Own (sort of)

Two people at work have recently been promoted to a level that requires them to be seated closer to our company president. Both of these people have assistants that will be coming along with them so it was time for me to relinquish my front row seat watching how a company seeks to re-invent itself. Or so I thought.

Bob, my boss, is a mast-negotiator. He would never admit that; he is far too humble to ever toot his own horn. No matter - I'm happy to sing his praises as loudly and as often as I can. He deserves it. He hates the idea of ever being separated from his team at work and so he politely offered to have all three of us move to another area of the building. Nope, his boss wasn't having that. Bob's not going anywhere. So this week I moved across the hall with the third member of our team into a lovely office.

I hadn't ever considered the possibility of getting an office at my company. I knew they were reserved for people at a much higher level than me. No one else thought it would be possible either. Bob took the two of us downstairs to the cafe this past week to have a coffee and celebrate our new digs. "Place profoundly effects progress," he said. And he's right - already I feel myself moving more swiftly in almost every area of my life and I think the space is the catalyst.

In addition to moving into a new space, Bob also encouraged us to make new name tags to hang outside our office. It had never occurred to me to replace the boring grey placard that stated my name, rank, and coded space. "Operations Support" was my job description according to the tag, despite the fact that I have nothing to do with operations. I'm not sure where they come up with this stuff. I couldn't think of a less inspiring, or more inaccurate, job description if I tried.

A few weeks ago Bob sent me a job post from IDEO, a company we both greatly admire. I thought for sure this was the beginning of the end for me - I was being outplaced before I even hit the 6 month mark. In actuality, Bob was just trying to give me some structure and creative language to describe what it is we actually do in our very ambiguous jobs: we are nothing short of Human Factors Specialists. I proudly wrote that on my new office tag, and included a picture and poem by Brian Andreas, one of my favorite artists.

So what is a Human Factors Specialist you ask? It's a fairly simple concept: we develop and foster opportunities to create joy through design. On IDEO's website, they describe their human factors specialists as those who "apply their knowledge from psychology, anthropology, biomechanics, and related fields to enhance people's experience through design. As interdisciplinary design team members, they employ a range of observational and empathic techniques to understand the issues people face. They use this knowledge to frame design opportunities and to create scenarios and "experiential prototypes" to explore, test, and refine opportunities in context."

I don't know that our HR folks will go for this fancy language, and that's okay. While they may sequester me to a formal job description like "Operations Support", I'm working hard to make make sure my imagination doesn't fail me.

The above photo can be found at

What Robert Scoble has to say about entrepreneurship

I am a big Robert Scoble fan. One, I admire the road he paved for bloggers by fearlessly and honestly blogging about his life at Microsoft while an employee there. I also admire his ability to constantly stay true to himself.

He recently announced that he took a position with Fast Company to run their video network dedicated to business. The network launches on March 3rd. Prior to accepting this post, Scoble considered starting his own business. And decided against it for a number of reasons. In short, when he thoght about what he loved - blogging, interviewing people, and his family - none of those things lined up with what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

This gave me pause as I am now considering embarking on the road to my own company. Please understand that I am a huge advocate for small business and for those who want to go it on their own. I am an even bigger advocate for following your heart, doing what you love, and finding a career that allows you to soar on your strengths. For many, that does mean starting their own companies. Though for others, it means they need to find a company that provides them an opportunity to capitalize on what they do best.

Entrepreneurship isn't for everyone, and I wonder if so many new businesses fail because some people who start them don't realize all they are getting into. Scoble's advice and insight merit a read for anyone starting a business. To read his full post on the subject, visit

The Power of Story

While powerpoint may be one of the main tools of MBAs and business schools, I have maintained a distinct dislike of the program and how it's ruined the natural human ability of story telling. Executives and consultants hide behind them. It's not a well-designed program, lack any kind of intuitive functionality, and for the most part provides a canvas for a lot of data, though no information.

I recently read a Harvard Business Review article about storytelling. Bronwyn Fryer interviewed screenwriting coach Robert McKee. McKee's students have written, directed, and produced legions of popular movies such as Forest Gump and Monty Python. He is the basis for the main character of the movie Adaptation.

The article written my Fryer is both moving and insightful. While many leaders in business are intelligent and dilligent, they often lack the emotion, empathy, and concern to truly connect to those who work in their organizations and their customers. This is a problem that business schools and corporations should see as a crisis. Numbers and information are clouding our ability to interpret what we see and create meaningful solutions to today's business woes. Is it any wonder we are heading for recession.

Corporate employees and customers need to be inspired, and they need to feel cared for and appreciated. As business people, we need to "get" our customers. And this takes far more than data and gant charts. It takes an ability and desire to truly walk in someone else's shoes and live their lives. It requires a strong curiosity, a willingness to not only hear but listen to the concerns of others, and most importantly a craving for connection and simplicity.

Powerpoint can't get us there. Storytelling can.

The images above can be found at

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Control the controllable

“I kept myself calm by making sure I didn't concentrate on anything I couldn't control."
--B.J. Bedford, Olympic swimmer

BJ Bedford barely made the U.S. Olympic swim team in 1996 and then went on to win the gold at Sydney just four years later. If this mantra worked for her, I believe it can work for all of us. A lot of our anxiety as a society, and as individuals, is driven off the unknown fed by a focus on things we cannot control.

I worry a lot, as I have written about several times on this site. I worry about the economy, our environment, terrorism, about the states of education and healthcare. I worry that George Bush has damaged our nation so badly on so many levels that it may take all of the effort of the next administration, Democrat, Republican, or otherwise, four years just to get us back to where we were at the end of Bill Clinton’s Presidency. What do I control in these situations? What can I actually do to contribute?

The economy: I am an ardent saver. I live within my means, and most often below them. I do my best to make smart investments. I show up every day at my desk at work and do the very best I can in every moment. I look to buy products that make a difference, be that they are more environmentally friendly, healthier, or provide a benefit to those who manufacture them such as fair trade farmers. I watch the market, and I educate myself on the actions of the Fed and policy makers that can move the needle.

I try to propagate peace and tolerance in the environments I make my life in, hoping that I can inspire other people to do the same. I recycle, and I make every effort to always use less, whether it’s energy, paper, water, or any other natural resource.

And as far as George Bush – I do my best. I voted for the other candidates both times, mostly because I refuse to vote for anyone who is incapable of stringing five correctly pronounced words together to make a coherent sentence. Plus, I fundamentally disagree with his stance on nearly every issue. I control what I can control.

My politics aside, there is a lesson for all of us in BJ Bedford’s quote. What I do to maintain control is nothing extraordinary. They are choices I simply make by being aware of the world around me. It may be worth it to make a list of what’s in our control and what’s not in any given situation in which we feel stressed. The list can serve as a visual cue to help us refocus our energies and efforts so that we can generate a sense of calm both within ourselves and for those around us.

The photo above can be found at:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Creating gratitute, even in gridlock

With winter weather upon us and the traffic crunch in this city as bad as it's ever been, it's easy to feel frustrated and set-back. This morning I received an email with 7 ways to create gratitude.

In short:
Just stop
Freeze-frame It
Create a gratitude journal
Replace the words "at least" with "even if"
Change your lens
The three questions: What has surprised me?, What has touched
me?, What has inspired me?
Connect your mind to your body

For the full article, go to

The photo above can be found at

Be careful what you create

I will preface this post by saying it is completely okay for you to laugh about this situation. I know you'll be laughing at my expense and I totally understand. It's funny, and I may be the only person on the planet who would be able to have these kinds of odds.

A few days ago a close friend was the first to let me know that an ex-boyfriend of mine that she is connected to on Facebook had changed his profile and had come out. When he and I broke up it was very sudden and without any kind of warning. He called me up on a Sunday morning on his way to a baseball game and declared "I just can't do this anymore." No reason, no nothing. He actually said that giving explanations for his actions isn't his "forte". And he said all of this with the emotion of a rock, after only weeks before we had talked about getting married. We were very much in love, or at least I was.

I was left stunned and heartbroken. I physically hurt from the news and had a tough time eating or sleeping for months afterwards. In time I created my own closure, with the help of amazing friends and family, turned my attention to other things, and was slowly able to put myself back together. I began to date again and have had relationships since. Though I in no way wanted anything to do with my ex again, there was a small piece of me that would always be confused about what happened and why.

With his announcement to the world that he was gay, I finally had an answer that made sense. At first I was confused and then angry, sad. I felt betrayed and lied to. I was hurt deeply, again. I knew he was a coward given the way he broke up with me, though this new news put everything in perspective. He must have been going through something terrible and he felt he couldn't trust me with the truth. I never really knew him at all, and the amazing man I fell in love with was never really who he was. I moved through these emotions pretty quickly since it has been a long time since we've even talked to one another much less dated.

I was against contacting him, and then found through the encouragement of a few friends that sending him an email expressing how I felt would be good for both of us. I sat down and wrote him an email, and rewrote it a hundred times. I wanted to communicate that I was disappointed in the way that he came out, though wanted to make sure he knew that he had been a precious part of my life and that I wished him well now that he had come to terms with a difficult situation. Beautiful, right? Wrong.

Less than a minute after I looked up his email address (as I have removed every shred of him from my life including pictures, gifts, and contact info) and sent off my well-crafted message, I get a snarky three-liner back saying this is all just an accident and in the weeks since he's posted this change no one else has told him about the mistake. He clicked the wrong box under "relationships". He's sure this new news doesn't make anything better, but he does hope I'm well. I am so glad I could be of service to someone so undeserving of me doing anything for him! mother always said "no good deed goes unpunished."

If he had been in front of me, I would have kicked him in the teeth - and I'm a pacifist. I was so angry that I had felt such empathy for the difficult time he was going through. He's not going through any difficulty at all - he just doesn't know how to use Facebook. I never imaged that would be the case since if he's anything he's detail-oriented and a technology whiz, or at least he was when I knew him.

The flip side is that even after being hurt by someone, I still had the ability to be empathic toward him. My wide array of emotions is sometimes a downfall, though most of the time it is a blessing. I live a fuller life because of my ability to emotionally connect with other. I'd much prefer to be a person who occasionally gets burned by feeling too much than be a person who has the emotional maturity of a robot without a forte for communication.

Facebook and other social networking tools are terrific ways to keep up with people and share information. A word to the wise: before spending an ounce of energy reacting to anything posted about anyone, make sure it's factual. The last thing you want to do is lay your heart on the line due to someone else's inability to click the correct box. Good grief! And now at least, I'm laughing with you....

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Writers's Strike Latest Victim: the Golden Globes

I had planned to spend today shopping for some delicious morsels and cocktail ingredients to host a Golden Globes party. I sent an email around to a few people several weeks ago and my friend Dan replied “I’d love to watch the awards at your place, if they air them.” I have been watching the writers’ strike with intensity, mostly because there isn’t much else to watch these days. I may actually accomplish my goal of learning more about classic films because I will soon be forced to subscribe to Netflix.

And despite the threats of picketing the Golden Globes and actors refusing to cross the line, I thought they’d make an exception. I thought that some things would be kept sacred and writers and producers would call a truce just for a night to pay tribute to the incredible work that has been done in film this year. In an effort of full disclosure, I agree with the writers. If producers are making money off their work, regardless of medium, they should get a cut. Anything short of that, in my opinion, is stealing. And it’s just plain mean.

In spite of my political views on the strike, the ones I feel most for are the nominees this season. To make it in your career to a point that your entire industry recognizes your contribution is cause for extreme celebration. And instead of having their moment, they’ll get a press conference with their names read in a no-doubt glum tone of voice.

I think it’s time for a boxing match. Get those that represent the writers and those that represent the producers, lock them in a room, give them food, water, and regular bathroom breaks, and don’t let them out until there’s a green light to restore episodes of Brothers and Sisters, along with all of the other shows I have been missing these past few months.

I know negotiations are difficult; I know both sides are so sick of one another that the idea of being in a room with one another is enough to make them all sick to their stomachs. I don’t care – walking away from conversations just because they’re hard is immature and irresponsible. A lot of people are being hurt in this process and I am a firm believer that if it is within something’s power to mitigate the pain they are causing others, then the only reasonable and kind thing to do is relieve that suffering.

I am getting off my soapbox now and will be found watching movies like Casablanca and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner until the picket signs come down.

The photo above can be found at

Saturday, January 12, 2008

100 Ways to Generate Peace

I receive an email every day from Daily Good. With all of the negative news out in the world, I wanted to have a daily reminder of wonderful things that are happening to. Even in the darkest times, there are at least slivers of light.

Today I received an especially dose of Daily Good. David Krieger, Founder and President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, put together 100 ways that each of us can create a more peaceful world. They're simple things. Nothing Earth shattering. Nice reminders of things that we need to be reminded of. I'm printing it out and hanging it up in my home in the hopes that these reminders will bring about a more peaceful 2008, even if just in my own small world.

The list of 100 ways to generate peace and the photo above can be found at

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Finding your inner dragon

One of my dearest friends, Amy, left for Geneva today. She'll be there for six months interning for the U.N. I am so proud of her and excited to hear about her adventures in a new place. Amy is someone who "paints her own canvas" as Gordon MacKenzie would say.

I have finally finished Orbiting the Giant Hairball. I was enjoying it chapter by chapter, putting it down after each because there were so many thought-provoking ideas embedded in nearly every sentence. Gordon MacKenzie fully understood the idea of making every word count.

Among all of the beautiful doodles and thoughts on how to run a company, invigorate meetings, and inspire creativity in even the dullest environments there is one story that stands out to me. It's the first time a business management book actually made my eyes well up. At the very end of the book, Gordon MacKenzie writes a letter from God to a new born child. He uses the analogy that each of us is born with a blank canvas and a sense of wonder. Somewhere along the way the canvas is taken from us and hidden away where the adult world can draw boxes on it. The canvas will be returned to us once we are deemed responsible, only after we have been properly trained to color within the boxes.

Gordon wanted us to buck that notion. He wants us to "create the biggest, brightest, funniest, fiercest damn dragon" we can. He wanted us to grab our own paint brush to swoosh "through the sensuous goo of Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson or Ultramarine Blue." In a very real sense he is asking us to reject stifling forces of any kind in any area of our lives.

To be sure, Gordon's challenge to us is terrifying. We have done well in high school, gone to college, maybe even graduate school, and worked hard to move up in our careers, all to be told that by doing so we may have just been coloring boxes rather than creating a work of art that expresses who we are at our core and what we value and love. 

However, there is something even more frightening than this challenge that Gordon asks us to take up. The final line of the book is "If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted. No one else can do it, only you." Very similar to John Lennon's quote "most people die with the music still in them." And it's true. So few people fearlessly and relentlessly live their dreams and truly build their own road to happiness. My New Year's resolution: to move even a little closer to swirling my paint brush in Cadmium Yellow, to dabble outside the lines, and learn to play my own music. 

The photo above can be found at:

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Consumer Electronics Show: The "Eyes" May Not Have It

I’ve been given a project by my boss to track what’s happening at CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas. The trick is I need to track it from my office in New Jersey. Thanks to publications like Wired, CNET, USA Today, Business Week, and the plethora of bloggers at the show, the tough part isn’t getting the information – it’s sifting through all of it. I’m not complaining in the least; I am a master sifter. And this project feels much more like play than work- my gratitude for this terrific job has now reached an all-time high!

I came across a post on Amazon Current’s blog regarding Sony’s OLED TV, one of the hottest products at the show. Among their many features, these TVs feature “super deep black” levels. Pictures pop with a vibrancy never before seen in a TV. This started my nerd wheels going – can our own eyes even experience “super deep black” on their own?

After a few hours of looking far and wide on numerous medical sites, I couldn’t find any evidence of whether or not this color contrast is something we can naturally experience without the aid of technology. (I did discover that the human eyeball weighs approximately 28 grams, can discern between 500 shades of grey, and that sailors once thought that wearing a gold earring would improve their eyesight!) It’s possible that the answer to my question is out there living on some website I have yet to discover. It’s also possible that these advanced technologies are helping us experience the world “out there” from the comfort of our own couches in a way that we could not see it on our own.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Improving officespace: death to cubicles

How the color taupe ever made its way into U.S. offices I will never know. I am so sick of this color I could scream. My friend, Alex, and I talk about this regularly. Humans love and crave color; so how did corporations miss that? There is nothing inspiring about taupe and if I can’t be inspired then I can’t work.

I’ve been thinking about the subject a lot lately as I am in the process of moving into a new space at work. Originally, the facilities people were trying to figure out how to cube it up as I am sharing the office with another person. I fought my urge to roll my eyes and gag. Cube up this beautiful office? What??

If I had my way I’d paint it some fabulous color, put down Tatami mats, create a “Beautiful Mind” wall, and leave that space as open as possible – no walls thank you. I’m getting my way, partially. No fabulous paint color (white is all that’s “allowed”), no Tatami mats. I am going to have a beautiful mind wall and though the space won’t be totally open, it will have bookcases and a credenza in a cherry finish as a “wall” as opposed to taupe cubicle walls. It’s a start.

The progress has been driven by my boss and to the members of the facilities team who took us downstairs into the depths of our corporate building to the warehouse where they hide the cool furniture. We’re hoping to have the place set up and be moved in by the end of the month. And here’s the kicker: the maintenance team is excited to do the project. It’s something new and different for them. Finally, a creative outlet for them! They hate the taupe, too.

I came across a post on the website that addresses the problem of boring office space with outrageous ideas. And given the rut that corporate office design is stuck in, I think being outrageous may be the only way to wake us up from our cubicle-induced coma. Enjoy these wild officescape photos and I hope they inspire you to buck the taupe.

A meeting of the minds: art and technology

I have been out of professional theatre management for quite some time now. I love going to shows, love reading about the industry. Every once in a while I get a twinge to go back to it, and then about 5 seconds later I have a moonstruck “snap out of it” moment. We idealize the past.

While I am not sure if I will ever return to the industry, I am passionate about propagating the arts. I read Michael Eisner’s book A Work in Progress about 6 months before I moved to New York City to begin my career in theatre. It is not an exaggeration to say that he very much influenced my decision to give it a shot and see what I could do in the industry. He has a quote in the front cover that to this day is one of my favorites, and it bears repeating. "What hope there is for us lies in our nascent arts, for if we are to be remembered as more than a mass of people who lived and fought wars and died, it is for our arts that we will be remembered. The fortunes wither, the kings depart. What survives are the creations of people who are makers and artificers of the spirit.”

I am now an outsider of the industry with some wonderful friends still very much inside. Over the past few months I have begun to wonder how on Earth the industry expects to survive without embracing technology beyond complicating lighting plots and set designs. With all of the competing interests for time that consumers now face and a shaky economy, the arts cannot expect to rely on local audiences and tourists to make up the whole of their subscriber base. The traditional subscriber model needs to be ripped to shreds and rebuilt. Why should Lincoln Center limit their viewers to only those who can get to NYC? Why not develop a subscriber base that spans the globe?

I’m talking about a technological platform that would film performances and museum exhibits in very high definition to be broadcast via subscription on the web to those who pay per log-in. I am already hearing the naysayers – “theatre is about being there”, “what about the live interaction that the actors need?”, “no technology can replace actually being there in person”. I agree with all of that. And the die-hard subscribers will, too. They will still come to performances and exhibits.

Let’s consider those who can’t get to the theatre or museum: why should art institutions leave that money on the table? Why shouldn’t all people everywhere be able to experience and appreciate art wherever it is? If we don’t do this, can we hope to hang on to young audiences who are so intrinsically linked to technology? And don’t our artists deserve to have the ability to reach audiences far and wide?

The other bonus that this kind of technology would offer is the ability for those who see the performances to interact with one another, to keep the artistic discussion going long after the curtain goes down. Not to mention the diversification of revenue – new subscribers and the increased ad money that could be made available to arts organizations to not only survive but to thrive.

I have a certain disdain for critics – how they kill works of art before the performers even get their arms around a piece. Why should the critics decide what shows stays open on Broadway and what closes? Why does this very select group of people get to determine the art we see and enjoy? Opening up the subscriber base and encouraging the conversation among patrons returns the power to the people it rightfully belongs to – the patrons.

The above images can be found at

Monday, January 7, 2008

Social geeks

I love ethnographers. I appreciate their fervent desire to bucket people in an attempt to figure out the human race, though I must admit I have never been one to enjoy being in a box. My boss recently passed me the book, Microtrends by Mark Penn, an advisor to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

When I tell people I work in the field of trend and innovation they assume that I must be checking out the latest “fads” and “fashions”. And I do check those things out, only to the extent that they reveal some underlying and unifying trends that may be emerging. Trends take the long-view, have a psycho-social implication, and signal major shifts in how a large group of people see themselves and their place in the world. This long-view is what holds my interest.

As I read through Microtrends, I discovered a few new interesting groups that I actually belong to, on my own terms. I’m a joiner (there in lying the paradox that while I love groups I hate formal classifications), and so this news of “my people” coming together has got me jazzed. First up, those of us who believe in being DIY doctors. I’ve previously blogged on my neurotic addiction to WebMD, mostly stemming from my preoccupation with health and wellness and the sense of worry etched in my DNA. Turns out that my years-long tracking of WebMD just meant that I was ahead of the trend curve. The tipping point for DIY medicine is approaching, thanks in part to our horrid health insurance system.

Another group I love and seek acceptance to: the Tech Fatales – women and girls who are not only interested in technology but seek to be the people who change and improve the systems and their applications. Finally, those of us who have long been hanging out on the edge contemplating how in the heck all of these technological advancements actually apply to us are not only figuring out that conundrum – we’re also finding new uses for the technologies to make them more applicable to us.

And the last group of note for me – the social geeks. How I love this! Finally a description in two words that does justice to my weirdo nature. I’m so nerdy that at times in my life it has been a source of embarrassment. I was one of those kids who embraced the word “why” with every fiber of my being. My library is my most precious material possession. I have a hard time parting with any of my books, even if I never intend to read them again. And the subject matters are so varied that I have a hard time placing any two books into a single category.

The flipside to my nerd nature is that I have often been correctly accused of being a social butterfly. I love making the rounds, meeting new people, and bringing people together. So imagine my delight when social networking came on the scene in a big way – it would be possible for me to connect with tons of people with all kinds of interests, spread across the globe, all from my cute and comfy apartment. Are you kidding me? Count me in!

Mark Penn points out that Myers-Briggs recently needed to alter their classifications. Previously people interested in technology had been placed in the “introvert” bucket. That’s changed – now people most interested and active in technology are also the most extroverted. Sorry Myers and Briggs: the social geeks will define their own characteristics in their own words.

The above photo can be found at

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl

Yesterday we welcomed the newest edition to our family. My sister, Weez, and brother-in-law, Kyle, had their first child - a baby girl. Miss Lorelei arrived to us yesterday afternoon around 3:30pm at 6 pounds, 11 ounces, 19.5 inches long.

I have been an aunt twice before - my brother has two children, now 9 and 11. At first, I couldn't explain why this time around it is more exciting. Maybe because I am in a different phase of my life. Maybe it's because there is this inexplicable link between sisters. Maybe it's because I couldn't stand my brother's wife, and love my brother-in-law. Could be because Lorelei is named after mine and Weez's favorite sitcom of all-time: The Gilmore Girls.

And then I thought some more about a comment a friend of mine made when I told her that my sister found out she was having a girl. "There is some instinct that takes over when a sister has a little girl. It's as if she is your little girl, too." You invite her into the sisterhood, you bring her into the fold. We welcome another strong warrior heart.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Woman of Her Words

"What is truer than truth? The story." ~ Jewish Proverb

TED recently posted Isabel Allende’s talk on passion. In a room full of scientists, technologists, and innovators, Allende talked about story telling, about women, and about the importance of having a warrior heart. She speaks bravely with humor, honesty, and grace about the state of women in the world, and the picture is bleak, though hopeful.

When the news reports talk about war casualties, 80% of the people they are talking about are women. The women of war have suffered unbelievable cruelty and horror. They have endured gruesomeness beyond measure, in the lands formerly their homes and in refugee camps. Once they are displaced by war they have hardly anywhere to go and hardly anything to take with them: women own 1% of the world’s assets though do 2/3 of the labor.

In the world of philanthropy to help the needy, again women lose. Even though they comprise 51% of humankind, women’s programs receive only $1 for every $20 that is donated to men’s programs.

After all of this sad news, you may wonder where in the world is that hope I mentioned in the opening paragraph. And here it is: the stories of women are haunting them so much that they cannot help but write them down. We are becoming an entire generation of story tellers. 35% of on-line teenage girls have created a blog, in contrast to only 20% of on-line boys who have done so. 57% of people in the news industry are women.

The trend of Tech Fatales is emerging: Women are more likely to use mobile phones, digital cameras, satellite radios, and DVD recorders. Why? Because to listen and tell stories, we must connect. We don’t just want to contribute and make this world better. We are striving to make it good.

Allende talks about a woman whom she met in a refuge camp named Rose Mopendo. After tragedy upon tragedy, Rose and her 9 children finally made it to the U.S. In Swahili, “Mopendo” means “great love”. And what we love most is the truth, and so we must love and propagate our stories.

So it is no wonder that we are writing history in our own hand. Allende goes on to say that “heart drives us and determines our fate. It matters more than training, more than luck. The world needs dissidents, mavericks, rebels, and outsiders.” If this world is to be a better place, it needs us to rise up, to question everything, to put ourselves out there as risk takers and rule benders. And then, please, write it all down. We can’t afford to have anyone forget the lives we have lived.

To see a podcast of Allenede’s talk, click this link:
The picture above can be found at

Career transitioning by guest blogger, Rob Lorey

In an effort to expand the depth of the topics I cover and to provide readers with new perspectives, I have decided to ask a few of my most interesting friends who inspire and enlighten me to appear as guest bloggers. The first one is my friend, Rob Lorey. I met Rob while we were on the Beauty and the Beast tour. He is an exceedingly talented performer and generous man who has now turned his talent toward a new career that is taking him in an entirely new direction. My love and thanks to Rob for sharing his story on this blog.

"I have been asked by my friend, Christa, to discuss career transitioning-which is interesting considering her own history. I have looked to her as a model when questioning my motives or planning. She has always seemed to me a person of keen intelligence and interests, who will throw herself into a given course with 110 percent dedication, yet readily change course with complete determination and little concern for popular perception. There. That's my entry for the Christa Fan Club.

My own journey has been a bit lengthier- but very fruitful. I spent roughly twenty years in the entertainment industry- mostly stage work. This career took me all over. I've lived in several great cities, toured throughout the US and Canada, and spent time in Europe and Asia. By all accounts, I've been very lucky and reasonably successful.

But I find that a career in the Arts intensifies the perception that one has never quite "arrived". No matter what successes you attain, you're always looking to someone who has what you perceive as the better gig. It is very difficult to maintain a realistic sense of progress- and easy to become career obsessed. Add to that the very real dearth of work opportunities and the increasing talent pool you are competing with. It can be a bleak picture!

My own journey has allowed me the luxury of time for reflection. My last big tour gave me the opportunity to take stock and make some decisions about how I might want the rest of this ride to go. I will spare readers the nuts and bolts of this existential journey. Suffice it to say I decided that I needed to expand my capacity for work opportunities and life experiences. That's what this move feels like- an extension of all that has come before it.

Currently, I'm pursuing a masters in Social Welfare- which is whooping my ass (back to a full time program after 25 years....ouch!) But it is incredibly interesting and engaging. I continue to perform- though not to the extent I was. It's a necessary sacrifice for the big picture. I am not sure how I will choose to use all this once I have completed my degree. I know that whatever I do, I'll be utilizing all aspects of myself, and all the work and life experience I have accumulated.

What a gift to be so energized and......expectant at this juncture! Goes to show you: every day is an opportunity to reinvent, to do better, to experience more!"

The above photo can be found at

Thursday, January 3, 2008


While I practice traditions in so many areas of my lives, I find that as I get older I am more reluctant to make any new ones of my own. I adopt them from family and friends, and many of them relate back to my childhood. I think of their practice as a way to hold on to happy memories and people that have passed on. Traditions preserve history.

I came across a blog post by Andrea Leigh on the Amazon Daily Blog about the tradition of eating food in the shape of a ring to celebrate the New Year. It is believed by many cultures that this will bring good luck as it symbolizes "coming full circle". The Dutch in their forever playful outlook on life feel that donut eating is the best way to "ring" in the New Year. What a marvelous way to take a tradition and personalize it. And who am I to argue? Boston Cream, anyone?

For Andrea Leigh's post, visit

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Power of Blogging

I believe that writers in the blogosphere can change the world by changing the way that people see their own environments. Until very recently, some members of the general public saw blogs as a fad. Though I love blogging, I have to admit that I've had my doubts about their effectiveness. My doubt has been compounded by looking at statistic of how many new blogs and blog posts are created every day. The blogosphere has some population growth issues, and I am playing my part in that growth.

Today I read an article about the Saudi blogger who was recently arrested for writings on his blog. He has been held since December 10th because of political candidates he supports through his blog. His political views are not what interest me. What I find fascinating is that musings and opinions on a blog warranted the Saudi police to intervene.

Bloggers around the world should be rejoicing. If there was any fear that blogs were the red-headed stepchild of the writing world, that fear has been squashed. You can be sure that if you create it and update it regularly with passionate writing, they will read.

For the up-to-date news on the Saudi blogger and his impending release, please visit

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Day 1

2008 was brought in with a wide smile on my face surrounded by fabulous friends. I have never hosted a New Year's party before and my friend, Catherine, suggested that having one would be a good idea. Plus, she has a spacious apartment, a rarity in NYC, that would be a perfect spot to host one.

I invited a number of friends from different parts of my life, and many of them had never met before. Worlds colliding can be a nerve-wracking thing. To my delight, it was fabulous from beginning to end. People were striking up conversations right and left and I feel confident that the party could have gone on into the wee hours of the morning without a pause.

I was so thrilled with the turnout of so many amazing people in one room. And a bit sad, too. I have been wishing that I could afford a bigger apartment to have gatherings like this more often. And then my dear friend, Lisa, helped me open up my eyes a bit wider. We panned the room to take a look at the space that people were actually occupying as they enojyed the last few hours of 2007. It was roughly the size of my studio apartment. And when I came home I did some more analyzing...while my place may be small, there is ample room to sit and chat, and people at a party don't spread out - they clump together to have conversations and to share laughs.

The wonderful gift that 2008 brought me, in addition to all of the great people I was surrounded by, was the idea that this type of gathering didn't need to be a once-a-year event. I could have this kind of celebration much more often, even in my studio apartment. Happiness and laughter is like air - it just conforms to the space in which you allow it to be.

The image above can be found at