Enlightened Conflict

the few remaining luxuries

June 7th, 2016

silence notes pile



“There are only a few luxuries left in this generation; silence, solitude and privacy.”











Time is the new currency.



That has been the topic of a gazillion articles and thought pieces.



I don’t necessarily agree <I believe ideas & thinking represents the new currency of Life>.

universe in the palm of our hands life


But … let’s just say that in an interconnected world in which your Life hub resides, more often than not, in your hand wherever you go … time may not be the main currency but rather focus.


Focus, or focusing, may mean the difference between simply stumbling your way through a laundry list of moments and standing tall when it counts.


That being said.

Silence, solidarity and privacy may be the luxury we can all afford but be hesitant to buy often enough.


I sometimes believe we hesitate to engage in solitude and silence because we make it bigger than it really is. In society the label is attached to yoga sessions, meditating and ‘getting away.” Big, time consuming, events.

Which seems kind of crazy if Time is the supply we are shortest of.




The concept of using time to gain time is not crazy. But it isn’t a one-to-one relationship … shit … it’s not even a one-to-ten relationship.

Focus time, silence time, privacy time … well done … takes on a lifetime in and of itself. And it is within that ability to expand time where it projects its real energy.


It is probably the best example of ‘not all infinities are the same’ I can think of.




I do believe that almost everyone understands silence and privacy is truly a luxury in today’s world. We may not say it as such but if prompted I would assume almost everyone would enthusiastically nod their heads in agreement.


And, you know what? I think it will be interesting to watch how people start grappling with silence as luxury in a world where ‘things’ and distractions are truly a commodity.


Why am I interested?


We common folk typically suck … okay … we are ‘challenged’ emotionally when gaining access to luxury which affects us rationally <our behavior>.

Quite understandably so, want to bask in it.


Savor it.


Make it last as long as we can <not knowing when we will gain access to this thing called luxury ever again>.


We sort of assume the luxury increases in value the more amount of time we can rub elbows with it.


That said.


I find I have been referring to my “37 seconds well used is a lifetime’ post.

And it seems once again relevant to this silence, privacy & solitude luxury thought.


In our heads we sense our “quiet time” is such a luxury we think if it in 37 minute, 37 hour and maybe even 37 day increments.

When the reality is, in everyday 24/7 week lives … 37 seconds, used wisely, is a lifetime of solitude, privacy and silence.


Maybe, just possibly, what I am suggesting is we should think of 37 seconds as not just a moment to catch our breath … but instead to breathe deeply and envision it is a lifetime … think of 37 seconds as not too short but instead a luxurious time to bask in silence, privacy and solitude.



This may sound not only really silly but also extremely unsatisfying … but the truth is that … well … 37 seconds, used wisely, is more than enough.


It can center us.

It can focus us.

It can reset us.


It can even provide us the opportunity to then zig while the rest of the world around us zags.



In the end.


I do agree with the opening quote … there are only a few luxuries left in universe within me life experiencesthis generation; silence, solitude and privacy.”


I just don’t agree that this luxury is inaccessible or unavailable to everyone.


It certainly is if … well … you think that 37 seconds, used well, is a lifetime.


If 37 seconds is a luxury, and you enjoy it as a luxury, I tend to believe we can all live quite a luxurious life.


people are indifferent until they aren’t

May 23rd, 2016

attention nobody cares gift message relevant


Companies are inextricably caught in a web of relationships with all things.”



Holbrook <2003>




“People are indifferent … until they aren’t.”



Bruce McTague







For some reason I have spoken to maybe a half dozen smart marketing people about consumer purchase decisions, purchase decision making models and how to affect people’s decision behavior.


Throughout all the wonky communications and behavioral modeling discussion I do find myself mentally referring to a fabulous 2005 JWT trend paper called “the connection imperative” <I do not believe it is available online anymore and I refer to my saved pdf copy>.


telaffects connectivity questioningBut, suffice it to say, any time we consumer behavior folk get together and talk we inevitably start talking about connections, connecting and making the most of all the connection opportunities in the world.


And this conversation always seems to take place as all of us uneasily shift in our seats viewing the environment  in which we seek to create meaningful connection as a place that can sometimes look an awful like chaos, certainly is complex and is fraught with a seemingly unending range of uncertainty and populated with indifferent people.


I can tell you that this whole discussion puts great stress on brands, companies and those who seek to develop the necessary connections needed to sell stuff <create some version of a valued brand> while also creating the “promise” that exists in any viable product, service or company <let’s call this ‘the promise of a brand’>.

It is a fun discussion but if you are in the business of making money trying to figure it out … it can be a stressful fun.

But ultimately while building the promise of “what can be” can sometimes be elusive in its inevitable intangibleness … everyone worth a shit seeks to put some structure as they attempt to achieve the promise of the brand.




I love structure.


I believe structure enables better thinking and better creativity to enhance that thinking. That said. We go thru some pretzel like gymnastics to create some construct for thinking. We do so with the grand intentions of trying to wrangle a relatively chaotic or, maybe better said, a relative randomness that is often associated with wonderful connections & relationships.


I can honestly tell you everyone, and every communications business, has some process or thinking/planning structure which, while more often than not is simply a derivative of everyone else’s, is distinctly “theirs.”


Most are actually pretty good and if you know your shit they are all easy to use and easy to switch from one to another <as long as you can dispassionately ignore the “uniques” which always seem to dot the individual company’s pride in their thinking process>.



purchase funnel graphic

older version of a purchase funnel

The issue with most constructs is that … well … they look orderly.


A purchase decision cycle. Usually a nice circle.


Maybe a patterned linear construct. Usually a nice looking path.


Unfortunately, in today’s world where you get barraged by a seemingly endless array of things vying for your attention, the actual real-life cycle or process or ‘path’ can look alarmingly random.


I would argue that the best connection modeling is almost like an ‘outside-in’ scatter model. Lots of smart messages scattered about almost like free food samples throughout the grocery store eventually attempting to guide/lead you to a specific aisle and a specific shelf where you can interact and purchase.




Glancing Moments --- Slow Down Moments --- Sticky Moments

Glancing Moments — Slow Down Moments — Sticky Moments

My model actually looks an awful lot like the information, knowledge & wisdom chart to left.



The actual model is one in which you are seeking to create gobs of ‘glancing moments.’ Glancing moments are those in which there is a connection, maybe just bumping into each other, and it is positive but most likely not enabling a step down a true deeper connection path.


And then there are planned “slow down too speed up’ moments.

By the way … I could also argue that the most basic value proposition any communications plan offers in their messaging strategy is a “slow down to speed up” value, i.e., slow down to absorb what I want to share and you will find that the knowledge or learning enables some sort of ‘energy speed up’ afterwards. Some would call this the “time value equation.” I actually defined the value.

Anyway. These connection moments are enabling moments. The brand enables the consumer in some form or fashion <educate, relax, focus, etc.> to ‘speed up’ after the connection is complete.


Lastly are the ‘sticky’ moments. Connect, stick and create desired behavior.

Communications people are always, always, seeking these moments. You can nudge and herd and encourage and convince and do all the smart things anyone with half a marketing brain will do … but … inevitably you seek to place them in a situation where they are receptive to a ‘sticky moment.’


And while I would like to flippantly offer a formula for this ‘sticky moment’ or state unequivocally something like “it is always closest to the actual need” time … I cannot. Most purchase decisions take on a timing of their own. What takes me 5 days to decide on may take someone 5 minutes. The 5 minutes may mentally go thru the same rationalizing process as my 5 day one … they just have the mental energy to drive thru it faster in that time & space. Therein lies the construct <we all think the same way> and the randomness <difficult to know when I will engage and how long I will take in each stage or moment>.


I imagine what I am trying to point out is that while we plan and analyze and do our best to create some engagement more often than not we are partially at the mercy of … ‘people are indifferent until they aren’t.”


And, yeah, we have lots of data available to scrutinize ‘likely moments that people will be less indifferent’ and we have gobs of research which can identify some specific triggers and stimuli to desired behavior <and lack of indifference> … but people are pretty wacky in that they are fairly inconsistent on caring versus not caring.

In other words … ‘what I care about this minute may be replaced by something else the next.’


This can even get a little crazier for “connection implementers” because, upon reflection, many moments appear more important than they really were … which then translates into some relatively absurd future fears that if we miss a moment we will be fucked. This can create some angst in connection planning and insight implementation.



All moments matter but not all moments are created equal and, even better, there are no lack of moments overall.





Philosophically when discussing connections and the importance of creating a successful connections plan of action <and managing the connection moments> the entire discussion actually gets rooted in some overall ecological perspective which emphasizes that the ultimate goal of … well … everything <brands, companies, people, esteem, etc.>  is survival.



us versus them survive adpat

I know it sounds a little esoteric but if you attach the concept of survival to connections you can place an appropriate amount of … well … importance to how you create connections. I say this because far too often some business can be a little flippant with managing the moments of connection. And maybe they get flippant because … well … this survival idea is embodied not through some simple ‘cause & effect’ scenario <at least … rarely so> but rather survival is attained through a complex adaptation within a larger ecosystem consisting of a complex confluence of threats and opportunities <Holbrook 2003>.

Each connection represents a threat <loss of time, poor decision for consumer – wasting time, lack of relevance to business> as well as an opportunity.


There is an additional aspect which makes connection planning difficult.


While there is almost a seemingly endless array of data learning opportunities available, this survival process brings forth the paradox of success in a connection challenge way.


The more success you experience today in survival, which is actually a reflection of how well you adapted to the relevant contextual situation, the more vulnerable you become to extinction <not surviving> resulting from changes in the environment <Holbrook, 2003>.


Let me translate.


Oftentimes a successful connection is contextual.  And, yet, we seek to replicate the connection itself.




I do not care if you are reading this as a brand steward, an individual, a communications planner, a strategic planner or a business … this idea suggest to maintain your highest likelihood of survival you must maintain a dance on the icy brink of death called “the edge of chaos.”


I am not suggesting any strategy should purposefully accept a consumer behavior pattern as chaos … but you most likely have to accept a large degree of randomness … and ‘move quickly’ when random connection occurs.


So let’s talk about connection itself.


Connection in and of itself is typically grounded in ‘self-interest’ as in “what’s in it for me” or “what is best for me.”

In typing that I tend to think about how psychology tells us that the ideal situation is that the therapist helps the patient to cure himself/herself. If you believe that … well … you almost have a formula for which to start building a “handbook for connection survival.’


Think about it from a behavioral standpoint.

Patients who have learned to heal themselves are better in applying their newly acquired insights in coping with new situations <practically speaking this means that the consumer, not the business, is enabled to maneuver within a new connection context and the business doesn’t have to turn itself into a pretzel trying to recreate the exact context to create a positive connection>.

And just to make sure I cover all my bases.

Conversely, patients who have only learned specific answers to specific problems often experience serious problems coping with new situations. <Beck 1979>.





All that psychological mumbo jumbo aside … what this means if you can convince someone to connect in a way that they ‘slow down’ enough in their slow down pause speed upwacky ‘go go go’ world and offer some cure for whatever ails them that they can embrace … and they will speed up <or at least envision an opportunity to speed up their Life thru you at some point> … you have offered a value proposition in which they see themselves coping better in the future <and your connection has even higher increased value>.


By the way.

This is a moment that matters – matters for them <the consumer> and matters for you <the brand, product, service, business>. Some may actually call this a “win/win.” I will not. I will simply call it effective connection leveraging some consumer insight.



Connections and insights.


Uncovering and discovering insights inevitably leads to successful connections because of one big word – relevance. It creates the highest order of relevance.


That said … in seeking insights it is helpful to remind ourselves that energy is most often generated by tensions of opposites.


  • I don’t have time but I made time <and you made that time of some value>.


  • You have made me slow down to connect but I feel like I am going faster now that we have disconnected.



Crap like that.


This means you have to have some insight to pay off the tension of opposites. It is almost like you have to surgically place the insight within the moment.  Done well this is an amazing sight to behold. Done poorly and … well … back to that survival thing. Your connection fizzles and while you may not die … you have certainly been wounded.



survived intense fire inside

When a connection is done well … well … success breeds success. The brand becomes the attractor and ultimately becomes the archetype of the relationship <not the consumer >. This may seem  little wacky to ‘consumer is the center of the universe’ thinkers but if you have a valued connection in which , whatever insight you utilized, has bettered the Life of the consumer <I called it “permitting them to speed up in some way”> all of a sudden the relationship takes on a slightly different hue. The brand is the attractor, the connections become more attractive and the brand becomes more of the ‘pursued’ than the ‘pursuer.’




This is a tricky situation albeit a great situation to be in.


What I tell most people is that great relationships are about balance. The moment the consumer feels like they are pursuing and not receiving some reciprocal attraction … the relationship doesn’t survive. From a brand practicality standpoint … the reverse is, or at least, should be true <if I am pursuing and receive no reciprocal attraction cues than I should let that connection die>.




Here is what I know.


There are a variety of insight development methodologies in which to construct a solid planned attack on creating good ‘of value’ connections. And I do not believe anyone would argue that a connection in some form or fashion is imperative. I also do not believe anyone would argue that gaining some insight into what matters to someone <as in “insuring I give them something which will permit them to speed up if they slow down an connect with me”> is imperative.


And that is where I come back to construct.


Far too often thinking people hate randomness and the edge of chaos so much that they lovingly embrace the construct too tightly. And, yes, businesses demand construct so it is not all the thinkers fault. The construct is a handy tool to articulate insights and their importance <and their role>.


In addition, constructs can actually help a ‘thinker’ develop a plan against people’s indifference.


But … therein lies the biggest challenge any communications strategist or business ever faces.


People are indifferent until they are not.web of influence


We strategy & insight people are trapped in the wretched in-between of “focus” & “the highest order of relevance” and … well … the web of relationships with all things.



I love this wretched in-between. Heck. I loved writing this particular post no matter how mind numbing it may have been to you.


It may have sounded like a bunch of philosophical gobbledygook but I will suggest that if you attack Life and business thinking some of the things I shared you will be better prepared to deal with the challenge ahead. And, what the heck, being prepared is half the battle.


are my edges sharp

May 3rd, 2016


what i speak danced-on-the-edge



“Did you cut your hands on me?


Are my edges sharp? “



Sufjan Stevens






I admit.


I like sharp edges.


I like people with sharp edges.




I like a business positioned with some sharp edges.


sharp being pencilHeck.


I even like writing with pencils that have a sharp point.




Being around sharp edges translates into several things that you kind of have to figure out how to deal with.


First & foremost you gotta be comfortable with cuts.



You can’t be bitching and moaning about “its not easy” or “this can be painful” or “I want something softer.”


I know. I know.


Not everyone is comfortable with sharp edges.


It most likely took me far too long to figure that out.


To me edges made sense.



To be clear … this is having an edge or a distinction and clarity … not being edgy.




This edge thing … having and making some unequivocal non blurry attitudes and beliefs and … well … character like aspects … appeared to me to make it easier to communicate and interact. And this pertains with how we would communicate and interact personally as well as within business.


But … that’s me.

live on edge of reality life



What I seemed to overlook was that edges are … well … sharp.


And they not only can hurt but they can also kill. Sharp edges mean choices … choices by you and choices by others who could possibly be cut.


And maybe it is because of that last point in business we far too often think of sharp in butter knife terms.


Butter knife sharpness is most typically not the original intent in any business discussion but due to collaboration and a general desire for minimal risk <yet desiring maximum return> the edges become more rounded and blunt. The business idea gets wielded as a safe utensil used to softly spread some additive on the larger offering.


You can poke people with the butter knife but rarely hurt anyone in doing so.


When discussing this with businesses I most often suggest they come up with things they can stab their competition with. And use the ‘stab’ as a test for whatever they are discussing.


I am chuckling here.


Even with what I just wrote a business can be pretty creative when discussing ‘a sharp edge’ for something they have discussed & want to do.


They wrangle their business in brainstorming sessions and focus groups and leadership collaboration meetings and inevitably come to a consensus that is in their eyes … some sharp edged way to position the business in the marketplace and communicate it.





After all that wrangling all they have done is find some soft edged palatable to the majority ‘thing.’ It doesn’t hurt anyone with some sharp edge <except the truly ‘scared of any risk at all’ people> and it can only really get people excited with some gussying up.


A bunch of people will dress it up as a sharp edge but … well … it is still a butter knife.


Part of the problem is that far too often businesses simply seek to ‘compete’ and not really hurt <if not kill> the competition.


They are satisfied with standing toe to toe bludgeoning each other with dull a little rough around the edgerounded hammers … all the while suggesting that this is ‘smart fighting’ giving ‘us the edge’.




‘Edges’ <in this case> seems to me like it is simply staying in the fight and not a plan to win a fight … unless you consider standing there for hours outlasting your competition as winning.


Edges, and I mean REAL edges, are all about winning.

And by winning I mean your ‘edge’ makes someone, or someones, irrelevant.


Now. The edge you have assumed and wield doesn’t make everyone irrelevant … just some.





One last thing about not having an edge.


Unfortunately … Life and business will place you on the edge whether you like it or not.




At some time and place … whether you have walked to the edge or the edge simply appeared where you were standing … you will find yourself on an edge.


Some dance on the edge.


And then there are those who don’t see the opportunity to dance. They only see that their feet stand on the icy brink of Death.  They only see uncertainty … and <possible> death if they slip.



I don’t understand those who do not dance on the edge when it appears.


Just as I don’t understand why someone doesn’t want an edge.


Just as I don’t understand why a business doesn’t want an edge.



To be clear.


Sharp edges is not really “its okay to have 50% hate as long as 50% love.”


Sharp edges create distinction … and distinction actually creates this type of mix:


25% love/like a lot.

25% are okay with you.

25% mildly dislike you.

25% hate.well rounded sharpen



That is how sharp edges typically cut.


And in my world … that seems like a pretty awesome ratio … in business and in life.

luck & life

April 28th, 2016

 lucky chanceux





Leaving things to chance and the outside world.




“I don’t believe in luck.

I believe in being harbingers of our fate, determining our own path, taking action and creating our own destiny in life.”




Celestine Chua





While, in general, I believe most of us make our own luck there is actually two types of luck.


The type you do make … putting in the hard work and being ‘in the game’ which really isn’t luck … it is just making the most of opportunities that arise and fateputting yourself in position for those opportunities. Maybe I could just call this ‘being harbingers of our fate.”


And then there is truly the luck that occurs randomly … chance events in which … well … you are lucky or you are not. Maybe let’s call this “the whim of fate.”


Because of what I just said personally I think it is too simplistic to suggest “I do not believe in luck.” I believe that because you can work your ass off and you can do all the right things as often as you can … and random chance … luck as it were … comes whether you invite it or not.


This is not to suggest you shouldn’t work your ass off and put yourself in as many positions and opportunities as possible to increase the likelihood that “luck” or ‘chance’ veers in your direction. But I am suggesting that if you do this you are simply controlling your position, place and proximity to the contextual fabric of what is happening around you.


And while, yes, there are certainly things you can control I could argue that most things are truly out of your control.


Because of that I believe luck does play a role in people’s lives. And luck does not favor anyone, probably does not even recognize it is impacting anyone individually and is relatively indifferent to any scorecard of winners versus losers.

We should all understand that Luck is neither a friend or foe … it is simply a selfish individual always acting in its own best interest. And therefor should our interests coincide with its interests … we are good <lucky> and if our interests do not coincide … well … that is bad <unlucky>.


All this said.

fate waiters luck

One of the reasons I decided to discuss luck is that research shows over and over again we <people in general> have a natural tendency to overestimate the degree of responsibility for our own successes.


I am certainly not suggesting we shouldn’t take some ownership & pride of our successes and how we have managed to take advantage of the opportunities.

However, to simply suggest it was our own perseverance and hard work that created the success tends to overlook the importance of a dash of luck on occasion <which happens more often than we tend to believe>.


And by overlooking luck we then have a tendency, in our minds & attitudes, to adapt what was reality in our reflection … which then encourages us to stubbornly persevere in the future in the face of sometimes insurmountable obstacles.

Ignoring luck more often than not sets some incorrect self-expectations.




I tend to believe all of us know that almost all success results from a variety of factors which include hard work, talent, some aspect of the mind & thinking, perseverance and chance. And those factors ebb and wane depending on a variety of factors <things someone who is more passionate about will tend to work harder on>. This means that while we seek consistent behavior & actions to replicate our success that success is more often a result of inconsistent factors.


That said … the inconsistency with these factors permits us to reflect backwards upon the parts & pieces we want, or choose to see, to reflect upon as we construct our stories.

Needless to say … this inconsistency within the factors of success makes it very easy to drop luck from the story.


We, none of us, don’t particularly feel comfortable giving credit to luck.

luck points dumb


E. B. White


“Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men.”





Psychologists use a term called “hindsight bias.”


It is our natural tendency to think about the past that some event was predictable <even when it wasn’t> and therefore we tend to focus on the thought we had purposefully put ourselves in place for something that was inevitable <smart, hardworking people that we are>.


Studies show that “hindsight bias” actually is even stronger when associated with greater than expected successes.


For example.

PewResearch shows people in higher income brackets are much more likely than those with lower incomes to say that individuals get rich primarily because they work hard. Wealthy people overwhelmingly attribute their own success to hard work rather than to factors like luck or being in the right place at the right time.






Hard work matters.




Perseverance matters.




Talent matters.



But the one that that also matters I do not believe we discuss enough.


A connected engaged thinking mind.




“Chance favors the connected mind.”



Steven Johnson

———good luck bad luck


I mentioned earlier that chance, or Luck, is indifferent to us. I would also suggest that luck, or unluck, unfolds and therefore how you react & adapt may be one of the most important behavior traits you can own in Life.


In something I wrote back in June 2014, horse racing & life, I suggested … “so many times we say ‘this is the way to win’ … but you know what? … everyone is trying to win. Oftentimes winning is about context and managing the moment.”


In this I believe I am suggesting you accept the fact that luck plays a role in Life and that you cannot control it … and you should actually expect it to stick its face into your business. and that if you have a connected mind, a mind which isn’t closed to learning & unlearning, a mind which is open to adapting against ‘status quo’ behavioral rules, well, you may actually have a chance with … well … chance.




Enlightened Conflict