Monday, March 17, 2014

A Classic: Steve Jobs 1997 MacWorld Keynote

I'm always impressed by Steve Jobs. I know I've discovered him far too late - so late, in fact, that it almost sounds like the punchline to a bad joke. However, here we are. It's always good to return to the classics, no?

His 1997 Keynote Speech for Apple is often referenced as revolutionary. It started Apple back on the fast track to being the tech leviathan they are today. I'm going to post the YouTube video of it below, and I hope you watch the whole thing; it's worth it. But here are the key takeaways, in case you're short on time:

Start at the top. Figure out what's most important to the company and let that inform your strategy from top to bottom. If the Board of Directors can't get behind it, it shouldn't be on the agenda.

Find where you're relevant; focus on that. Apple's biggest market share was creative professionals, and a high percentage of them used Adobe Photoshop. Jobs steered Apple to co-market with Adobe Photoshop. And they targeted their Think Different campaign, I believe, with this knowledge in mind. It also tied in to their other key group: education. Marketing to educators and educational groups was another strong initiative that paid off for Apple.

Determine your core product and focus on developing it. Jobs states that Mac OS is the "best operating system in the world." I'm sure there was contention then about that, and still is today, but believing in your core product and focusing on how to make it and market it better is vital.

Make lucrative partnerships. This is where they introduced a partnership with Microsoft that raised a lot of eyebrows. But, that partnership and others allowed Apple to recover. And any business is enhanced with rich, collaborative partnerships.

Develop a product paradigm. This is the beginning of the Think Different campaign, and the part I love the most. While really focusing on your core products and determining how your brand is relevant to the market is all very important, a new way to think about one's brand is always very exciting. And if you can communicate that to the customer, the way Apple did, you're gold. Then customers start conceptualizing the brand and developing affinity with it, and you get loyalty. And when you have loyalty, you have repeat visits and continued purchases as long as you stay relevant.

Maybe it's that we all want to see ourselves as people who think differently. I know that being told I'm special and different and creative and an iconoclast certainly appeals to the vain part of my brain that wants to believe it. But Jobs was really good at getting you to believe in the cult of Apple and the cult of Jobs. And I think that's why they have so much market share today. Because of this MacWorld keynote in 1997.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Diets are a Fallacy

Every program with any kind of weight-loss, "toning", "fitness", "weight reduction", "lean out" is a diet.  Anything that restricts what you eat or how you eat it is a diet, period.  Even if that "lifestyle change" goes on your whole life, it is still a diet, because it's not the way you naturally choose to eat. You've had your lifetime up until this point to determine your eating habits, healthy or no, so any drastic change?  It's a diet.

Glad we got that clear.  Because I'm sick of people saying that certain programs aren't diets.  If it restricts what you eat, it's a diet.  It can also be whittled down to this: eating less?  You're on a diet.  Eating more?  You're on a nutritional plan.  I don't mean to be flippant, but identifying nutritional deficits and correcting them is proper nutrition.  There's a big difference between saying "I need more potassium because I keep getting leg cramps, so I'm going to eat more potassium-rich foods" vs. "I need to lean out so I'm going to eat less of X."  That's taking away stuff vs. adding better stuff.

Also: why?  Why do you need to "lean out"?  I touched on this a couple of weeks ago.  If you are at a decently healthy weight, and yes, being "overweight" can be healthy according to multiple studies, you're good.  Most people have a set point - a weight and body shape genetically determined that their body is comfortable at.  I'll share that mine is somewhere between 162-178 lbs.  I've been in that range my entire adult life.  It hasn't changed from that range after multiple diets (South Beach, Paleo, Whole30), a few binge periods, 2.5 years of Roller Derby, and nearly 2 years of CrossFit.  I think I've dipped as low as 160, but for whatever reason, I can't seem to get into the 150s.  And I rarely go above 180, and the times I did, I was in extreme emotional distress.  So if all this is the case, why diet? 

Studies show that if you're already a certain weight, it's going to be nigh impossible to get lower.  People can lose a small percentage of weight (around 10-15 lbs) or 2-6% and keep it off, but it's pretty tough.  Plus, when you've done so, your body fundamentally changes.  If you've been at a higher weight and you reduce your intake enough to be thin and stay thin, you are going to be hungry a lot more than a person who never put on the weight in the first place.

"That's what life is like for a formerly fat person all the time. Their starvation switch is permanently on. And they're not going 72 hours, they're trying to go the rest of their lives. Don't take my word for it. Here's a breakdown of the science, in plain English. It's like being an addict where the withdrawal symptoms last for decades.
As that article explains, the person who is at 175 pounds after a huge weight loss now has a completely different physical makeup from the person who is naturally 175 -- exercise benefits them less, calories are more readily stored as fat, the impulse to eat occurs far, far more often. The formerly fat person can exercise ten times the willpower of the never-fat guy, and still wind up fat again. The impulses are simply more frequent, and stronger, and the physical consequences of giving in are more severe. The people who successfully do it are the ones who become psychologically obsessive about it, like that weird guy who built an Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks.  (Source)

A very small number of people actually succeed.  You can succeed at keeping small amounts of weight off, but drastic amounts?  Not so much.  It's very rare that a really big person becomes a small person and stays that way without invasive surgery.  In fact, the odds are so small, that studies have a really difficult time finding those people.  It's rare.

 How rare? Well, this person did the math, and as far as they could tell, two out of 1,000 Weight Watchers customers actually maintain large weight losses permanently. Two out of a thousand. That means if you are fat, you are 25 times more likely to survive getting shot in the head than to stop being fat.  (Source)

So dude, hear me: diets suck.  While we all want to fit into our pants, we need to ask ourselves about the goals we craft outside our set points.  Is it really worth it to you to work this hard at something?  You have to know now that it isn't going to be easy; it's going to take a lot of work and be difficult for the rest of your life.  Given that, wouldn't you rather try to funnel that energy into loving yourself, accepting yourself just as you are, and find a way to increase and maintain your current health? 

I would.  I do.  So that's my "goal" for the Precision Nutrition plan I'm currently on: to finish at the weight I started, having learned all this valuable stuff about diet and data and set points and the rest.

If I've spent a bunch of money to find out that really, I was fine all along?  Great.  And if what I've gotten out of it is increased mindfulness about my behavior and thought patterns, more self-acceptance, sustainable food and exercise patterns, and better sleep.  I've won.  And I've won on my terms.

New Direction

I've been thinking a long time about this blog and what it should be.  I started out with a focus on branding and packaging, thinking that that was how my career was going to go.  But along the way, something changed.  Pinterest happened.  And honestly, it's a far more effective tool than a longer-format tool.

I still like looking at packaging, and you can see my Pinterest Packaging Board for ideas.  But I don't really want to talk about that stuff anymore.  You all know what makes for good branding and packaging.  The good stuff grabs you.  It inspires a second look, and maybe even a purchase.  We all love good design, because it puts the vital and necessary to the forefront.  

But I'm kind of done with that as a focus.  So what next?

After doing some creative life and soul searching with the Coaching for Creatives course from Braid Creative, I discovered that I'm more interested in pursuing a path in creative digital marketing.  As we become more and more mobile-focused, and technology provides more opportunities to communicate, the world seems more connected, but also more frenzied and overwhelming.  Finding ways to cut through all the conversation, interrupt complacent schemas, and get our messages through will be paramount.

I waffle a lot about talking about the personal.  Blogs seem to have a lot more relevance when they have an obvious voice, and a lot of my content so far has been pretty dry, unless you're a design nerd like me.  But at the same time, finding the line between exposure and discretion can be pretty tough.  I may give that a try if anyone is interested in hearing my thoughts.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Art of Failure

This TED Talk by Alain de Botton was engaging, solidly interesting, and quite funny at times.  It's about meritocracy, professional envy, and the art of failure. Is a meritocracy the best way to measure success and allocate reward? Botton posits that no, it's really not.

Meritocracy makes people feel their failure a lot more, because they believe they are entirely responsible for it. This in turn makes them feel more shame around failure. Botton talks about the art of failure and gives some great examples, including Hamlet, of those who have lost, but not failed.

Plus, I think we can all say that there isn't really a true meritocracy anyway, as there will always be both visible and invisible privilege.  So how do we measure success?  What does success mean to you?  How will you know you've achieved it?

In the end, we all need to define success in our own terms.  It's hard enough succeeding, Botton says, let alone being unhappy with the result if it's something you never really wanted anyway.