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What I’ve Been Up To Recently

September 22, 2009

Maybe two of you out there are wondering: “What’s Elliott up to?  He hasn’t posted in awhile.”

The last two months have been crazy.  I resigned from P&G, sold all my stuff, moved to Evanston, IL, and started my new job.  I’ve been in the carbon nanotube selling business over a month now.  I’m enjoying the challenge immensely.  Part of the reason I started this blog was intellectual.  My job wasn’t gratifying, and I needed something to keep me going.  Well, that’s all changed.  The nanotech business  demands 100% of my intellectual energy.

I still keep a private journal.  I’ve got a bunch of thoughts on: P&G, living the good life, relationships, moving to a new city like a stud, making new friends like a stud, selling all your worldly possessions on Craig’s List, etc.  So, when I get around to it I’ll turn those into blog posts.  I’m not killing the blog.  I’ll fire it up again.  However, for the time being I won’t be posting very often.  But I will tweet.

Know during my digital absence, that I’ll be striving to  become the Most Interesting Man in the World.

13 Virtues of Benjamin Franklin (or why Franklin is a stud)

June 25, 2009

Benjamin Franklin was a stud–successful entrepreneur, brilliant statesman, prolific writer, notable inventor, ladies man.  As Walter Isaacson writes, Washington and Jefferson were monumental, unapproachable.  They were aristocratic.  They were “landed gentry.”    Franklin, on the other hand, was a self-made man.  He earned his achievements through raw ambition, constant self-improvement, and a mixture of frugality and industry. He had maintained a distaste for formality, loved the truth above all else, and avidly supported the common citizen.

Stated differently, this dude kept it real.  If alive today he’d invite you to a house party, smoke hookah, and pepper you with Socratic questions concerning the definition of freedom.  He’d run a digital media empire, advise silicon valley tycoons, negotiate peace between Israel and Palestine, and cavort with underwear models during his extensive global travels.  After embarrassing photos get posted to facebook, he’d write a pithy blog post with subsequent tweets justifying his lifestyle choices.  His argument would overwhelm detractors with reason and hilarity.  He’d be oddly accessible, and he’d definitely carry an iPhone.

The 13 Virtues:

I learned recently that Franklin lived his life by 13 virtues he defined during his 20’s.  Read them slowly and intentionally. Go through your day and measure yourself against them with a pen and paper.  It’s illuminating.

  1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order: Let all things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others; (i.e., waste nothing).
  6. Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or anther’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

You Get What You Measure:

What I find most remarkable is that Franklin methodically measured himself on these 13 virtues throughout his life.  He carried a booklet every day and placed a tick mark whenever he disobeyed a virtue.  Because this task in nearly impossible at the onset, Franklin focused on one virtue per week and attempted to perfect that one for that week.  He rotated each virtue so over the course of a year, he had 4 cycles working on each.  Talk about managing for performance!

Think.  Have you ever committed yourself to such a methodical self improvement exercise with such discipline? It takes tremendous courage, self knowledge, and commitment to improvement.  I think few people could do this.  That’s probably why people like Ben Franklin are so rare.

Join My Experiment

I’m going to run a mini experiment for the month of July, employing Franklin’s 13 virtues to the best of my ability.   Anybody is welcome to join me.  I’ll create a Google spreadsheet and we can track one another.  Let me know. We’ll keep each other honest!  Reply to the thread (or email) if you’re down.

Walter Isaacson on Franklin

1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.

2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.

3. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.

4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.

5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.

6. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.

7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

8. Justice: Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.

11. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

How To Be Mediocre (in 4 easy steps)

June 21, 2009

If you want to be mediocre, do these four things extraordinarily well.  Mediocrity is a long road made up of a sequences of choices. People choose to be mediocre or remarkable everyday.  What choices are you making?

Mediocrity in 4 Steps

  1. Make mom happy. Do what people want you to do.  Measure yourself by an external scorecard (rather than an internal one.)  Always seek to impress people, and meet the expectations of others (rather than your own.) Believe people when they tell you your goals are stupid or impractical.
  2. Do what you hate. Go get an unrewarding  job.  Toil all day.  Do average work because you don’t care.  Complain everyday.  Take long lunches centered around a mundane interchange that seems to repeat and repeat and repeat like Ground Hog Day.
  3. Avoid befriending extraordinary people. Surround yourself with people with small worlds.  Ensure they never challenge you.  Be sure to focus conversations on professional sports statistics, and your weekend plans of “escaping the grind.”  Don’t make plans together for how you are going to change the world.  And by God don’t help each other develop action plans.
  4. Victimize yourself. Don’t make plans for change.  Obsess over the tough competitive world and your need for security.  Be monomaniacal about the unfair hand of cards you were dealt, and spend everyday dreaming and consuming power porn to fill the void.

Presentation on the New Marketing Model

June 15, 2009

My presentation summarizing macro trends in the marketing world, as well as laying out a philosophy for how brands are redeveloping the marketing model.  This is my synthesis from reading tons of books and blogs and working in brand marketing for the last two years. What do you think?

Also, you can check me out online.  There’s 10 minute clip of me presenting at Cornell University on youtube below.  Any thoughts on making this better?

Big thanks to these people whose material I used or quoted in the deck:

Also, if you are intersted in learning about presenation design and delivery, this is the best blog.   Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen.

How to Hitchhike America (and maybe not get arrested)

June 13, 2009

I recently finished reading Rolf Pott’s classic travel book Vagabonding. This book will teach you how to:

  1. Develop the courage to go on an extended trip
  2. Finance your trip so you don’t spend all your savings
  3. Get a job while traveling to enrich the experience and break even financially
  4. Find free (or extremely cheap) places to sleep and eat
  5. Befriend people all over the world and make the most of traveling

I was astonished to find a slideshare presentation on how to hitchhike all around the world (including America.)  Given how people talk about hitchhiking being a “dead art”, that the “serial killer” risk is too high, and that it is illegal; I was delighted to discover that Aaron Bell actually hosts hitchhiking competitions across America.

Talk a Big Game, Why You Should

June 10, 2009

What do you want to do with your life?  Do you tell people everyday about your dreams and goals? Many don’t do this.  Many also don’t achieve their dreams and goals.  Oftentimes, these are the same people. Here’s one thing you can do tomorrow to increase the probability of achieving your dreams.

Talk a Big Game.

That’s it.  Just talk a big game, and you will have taken your first step towards taking over the world.  Talking a big game does not mean impractically pontificating and ego stroking.  But what it does mean is that even when you have a semblance of an idea, a tiny connection, you need to tell people.  Because here’s what happens:

  • You build self-esteem and positive momentum
  • You make mental connections you’d otherwise not make
  • You get a feedback loop from smart friends who want the best for you
  • Your idea will mature and evolve
  • You might accidentally fall into a series of circumstances that lead to execution

Bottom line: Talking a big game leads to planning a big game. That’s why you do it!

    Why Some People Don’t Talk a Big Game

    1. I don’t want to be “that guy.” You know the “talker.”  Nobody wants to be the talker.  You shouldn’t either.  So after you talk the big game, follow up.  Make your actions consistent with your speech. (That’s the tough part.)  If you do it right, you’ll live even bigger than you talk.
    2. I don’t want my idea stolen. Almost universally a bullshit excuse. Successful people preach the principle of telling your story to anyone willing to listen.  Most ideas are commodities.  It’s the people that make all the difference.  If you have a good idea, tell everyone.
    3. I’m afraid of failure and criticism. At least these people are honest.  This is really the only reason why people don’t talk a big game.  But when you shed your fears, you create possibility.

    Psychological Underpinnings-The Self-fulfilling Prophesy

    Talking a big game creates a self-fulfilling prophesy. Robert Merton defines self-fulfilling prophesy in Social Theory and Social Structure:

    “The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the original false conception come ‘true’.”

    The 3  Benefits of Talking a Big Game

    1. Narrows and focuses your goals
    2. Creates social pressure to act
    3. Enables people to help you by building your capability or introducing you to relevant contacts

    My Service to You

    If you are reading this, that means I want to help you achieve your dreams.  Email, text, tweet them.  I promise to gift you a monthly “nudge.”

    Dave’s Killer Story

    May 18, 2009

    Check out Dave’s Killer Bread. It’s the best bread in the world.

    What any marketer can learn from Dave:

    1. Your product actually needs to be different.
    2. Your job is storytelling.

    Every brand manager and CMO should internalize Dave’s words:

    “I had to make bread that was better than any other bread that was out there.  That’s what I was thinking.  If you go out there, and make the same product that everyone else makes, you’re not gonna make anything happen.”

    This is basic blocking and tackling, Seth Godin style marketing.  If you want to learn how to make your brand better, take a play out of Dave’s book and read Purple Cow and All Marketers Are Liars.