Friday Fast Takes Happy New Year

Golden Glitter Splashing out of a Cocktail Glass being raised

Selfishly, to create accountability for myself and catapult that imagineering time back up the charts, I launched G+A’s Friday Fast Takes series.  On the first Friday of each month (or the second Friday this month), I share musings from each area of our XD focus (events, digital, space, culture, and people) that I’m toying with. Topics range from real-world observations of XD in action to hypothetical challenges to long-standing beliefs and whether they should remain standing.  Some of my musings may evolve into long-form posts, and some may not. Heck, I may discontinue the series entirely because I determine it, in and of itself, no longer stand​s​ up. For now, though, I’m making my creative time a very public priority. Happy Reading!

Event XD: Staring at a Blinking Cursor + 2020 Event XD Wishes

A blinking cursor is a menacing thing when attempting to draft a blog post.  It taunts you like a playground bully, sneering and whispering, \”Give up now.  Let me blink your ideas away into obscurity because if you can\’t articulate them fully, perfectly, and instantly, there\’s no point in continuing to try.\”

One such blinking cursor of doom just assailed me beneath this very header for twenty minutes…even after I attempted to avoid it by first writing several other sections of this post, and then by visiting the mailbox, eating lunch, and sending several \”important\” texts and emails.  Finally, like a bolt of literary lightning, it hit me.  \”This series of blog posts, in particular, is comprised of your musings, Mal.  Write about your 2020 event XD dreams.  That\’s quite literally the point.\”  So here goes nothing.

In 2020, I have two event XD dreams.  First, I dream of designing event experiences for + with our clients that remind them how magical they are.  When we aim to design the world\’s greatest experiences, we win no matter what.  Specifically, if we actually succeed, the result is the creation of the greatest version of our event experience possible. And if we \”fail\”, our failure still far surpasses anything we would\’ve created had we only been maintaining the status quo.  So to all of G+A\’s current and future clients, I look forward to dreaming up the biggest, juiciest, most invigorating versions of each of your event experiences and to savoring the knowledge that our success is inevitable.

Second, I dream of designing an entirely G+A event experience that brings our amazingness directly to anyone seeking a simple, easy, and fun way to look at the world through a new lens.  How that experience will take shape, I can\’t articulate completely today.  It could be a party, a workshop, a book, a podcast, a van we tour in while making a podcast about our book on how to throw a great party – I don\’t know!?  No matter what, though, I\’m already enjoying dreaming more outlandishly than I\’ve ever allowed myself to.  \”Define the dream. Design the dream,\” right?

Digital XD: Taking Digital Risks + Feelin\’ Myself 

In the immortal words of Nikki Minaj, \”Feelin\’ myself, I\’m feelin\’ myself…\” except when it comes to putting my mug on a G+A\’s IG account.  Bizarrely, as comfortable as I was, and am leading client meetings, speaking to large audiences, and writing this blog about my opinions and my shortcomings, posting my face to our Instagram account felt tantamount to authoring the great, American novel.  On more than one occasion, I scrolled through photo options for the first \’me\’ post, got nervous, and abandoned the idea telling myself it was  something I would get to, \”when I had more time.\”  (As if 15 seconds to post a picture was that time-intensive.)

Finally, I outed myself to a good friend whose professional Instagram savvy I respect.

She looked at me, laughed out loud, and kindly said, \”Just do it, Mal.  Like, right now.\”

I did.  I mean, it was two days and a lot of unnecessary stress later, but I did.  Not only did the world not end, as it turns out, almost nothing of note happened at all.  I don\’t say that to be fatalistic – in fact, quite the opposite.  I say it because I had wholeheartedly convinced myself I\’d have 1,000 trolls cyberbullying me into oblivion or snarky comments about how ridiculous I was, maybe a dig at my physical appearance. All completely fabricated failures designed by my brain to keep me small and safe.

So often with digital content, we tell ourselves that it\’s better to remain squarely in the safety zone of the known and the comfortable rather than to venture out.  Whether with something as ordinary as associating my face with my business\’ brand or as innovative as launching an entirely new digital campaign, we hold ourselves captive instead of taking even the slightest action towards a new digital dream.  In a previous post, I expounded on the idea that even the most coveted social accounts say Nikki Minaj\’s, for example, had a very first post at some point. And that that first post was likely not stellar.  Those same amazing accounts also have campaigns or stories or themes that are incredible, and more likely than not, a few that tanked.  Did the digital world come crashing down around them?  Nope, it sure didn\’t.

So go ahead.  Embrace your inner Nikki and do that digital experience thing you\’ve been sitting on for weeks.  Who knows you might love it… or at least realize it was never that big of a deal, to begin with. 😉

Space XD: Keeping It in the Family + Child Rug Prodigies

Each year for the past three years, I\’ve traveled to Manhattan, Kansas, to enjoy the holiday season with family and redesign a room or two in my sister and brother-in-law\’s home.  When we began a few years back, I\’m fairly certain my sister thought there was no way I could make a noticeable impact on the look and feel of her home within the financial parameters that worked best for her family.  Fortunately, a little creativity and a solutions-oriented approach to spacial design went (and still go) a long way, and I\’m happy to say with confidence that I believe she feels quite different nowadays.

In 2016 when we began our multi-year project, I asked her to identify which spaces we could redesign to make the largest, immediate improvement in her day-to-day life.  Though I didn\’t realize it at the time, that approach would evolve into our impact-to-investment ratio.) Next, we talked about what the space would feel like if we absolutely nailed it. As we began sourcing pieces (largely from resale and vintage shops), I instructed her to focus on what she naturally gravitated towards, regardless of whether it was \”on-trend\” or even cohesive with other pieces in her home.  Last, I asked her to define a comfortable budget for her family. In theory, everyone knows they\’re vital, but stores from Homegoods to Restoration Hardware tend to get the better of our bank account. I swear, that portrait of a pug wearing sunglasses which \”totally completes the vibe\” isn\’t worth ruining a marriage over! A defined budget means peace to enjoy your redesigned space that much more.

Fast forward three years, and our approach, while always being tweaked, is, on the whole, the same.  Each year, we pick the room, or rooms (and soon outdoor spaces), that will make the biggest positive impact on their day-to-day lives. We identify how she and her family will feel in those spaces when we nail the design (there\’s no if anymore, only when). We source pieces they love (this year that included a lot of plants and an amazingly cool rug picked out by my 7-year old nephew Charlie, who has FANTASTIC taste). Finally, I go to work, pulling everything together.  If I begin to doubt myself because that happens from time to time, the magic of a consistent, field-tested approach to space design takes hold, and we inevitably wind up with another dream space brought to life alongside the deep sense of satisfaction which accompanies progress in any form.

If you\’re contemplating a fresh take on your space in 2020, consider the G+A approach: designing to maximize impact-to-investment, desire-based decision-making, and definition of a comfortable budget.  Oh, and a fabulous design partner like, well, me!

Culture XD: Write a Job Description You\’re Actually Excited About

Want to improve your company culture overnight?  Try this simple trick and watch the transformation begin effortlessly.  Sure, I love overhauling cultures from the ground up: going through policies, procedures, org charts, benefits, onboarding processes, and more with a fine-tooth comb, streamlining, and improving them. But not everyone is a hard-core nerd like me (Shocking, I know). So instead, I recommend you use this easy tactic to get the culture XD process rolling with minimal effort.  Think about who you\’d love to hire in a dream world and then write (or rewrite) your job description for that person.

For example, if you\’re interested in a brooding, caffeine-addicted copywriter who loves the night owl lifestyle, how about the following:

\”Seeking a copywriter who can\’t stand the light of day but will happily write the night away under the glow of the full moon and in the comfortable silence of a world asleep.  Would people describe you as brooding?  Great! We need someone with a bit of ire, malaise, and irritability to bring the stark realism of life to our digital film noir newsletter each week.  Yes, we pay well, but we also offer the best cold brew on the market in our round-the-clock accessible workspace, or we\’ll give you a monthly caffeine stipend if you\’re contracted remotely.  Either way, we support your caffeine habit because we know it only serves to enhance your artistic expression.\”

Sure, your needs may seem more conventional than an Edward Cullen-style copywriter. But I bet if you sit back and daydream a little, you\’ll realize that beyond budget management and process improvement orientation, you\’d actually love someone who doesn\’t need (or want) to constantly meet face-to-face. Or maybe a person who enjoys joking around and being social in the office to get the creative energy flowing.  It\’s okay to ask for those things in a job posting because they\’re as critical as \”attention to detail\” to building your dream work culture.

People XD: #ResolutionLess + Setting the Bar Low in 2020

New Year\’s is a time for setting goals and becoming your best self ever, right?  Or maybe not.  I made two resolutions this year.  First, to allow myself to rest when my body was tired.  Rather than loading myself up with more caffeine to forge ahead (I\’m no macabre copywriter after all), I decided to listen to my body, specifically, when it expresses fatigue, as that\’s when I ignore it most often. Second, I resolved to set easily attainable goals.  I thought, \”what if I set the bar so low that I could basically \’step\’ right over it?  Achieving my goals would become effortless, and perhaps I could enjoy feeling successful so often via small wins that the momentum towards more significant gains would naturally carry me the rest of the way?\”

Does my approach mean that I\’ve lost ambition or that I\’ve become complacent?  Not at all.  Instead, I\’ve elected to replace the proverbial stick with a carrot, or a cinnamon roll, which I\’d be much more excited about than a carrot most days.  Of course, I\’m still aiming for growth, both personally and for G+A.  However, I\’d like to obtain that growth while feeling accomplished on a regular basis along the way.  Could my resolution-less-not-more approach result in utter stagnation?  Perhaps, but it seems unlikely, especially considering I quickly and easily finished this blog after taking a nap right in the middle of a Thursday afternoon.  #resolutionless

Happy Weekend + Happy New Year, Everyone,