How Target taught me about Self-Authenticity

I used to think I went  through fazes throughout the year: from crazy Halloween decorating,  and “spooky baking to an overbearing Christmas spirit to the  New Years organization fad.  Even the Spring “gardening” and the summer desire to make Ice Tea in bright-colored jars.  For so many years, I was astonished by the foresight and customer knowledge Target Stores possessed.  obviously they were capitalizing on the seasonal needs of their customers.  Recently, however, I read an article by Jeff Goins about the DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS.  I resonated with the anticlimactic, even empty feeling  after Christmas.  I am searching for more.  I search for more because I am accepting the wrong things as ends in themselves.  Target isn’t listening to the customer, the customer is listening to Target.  Target, is in fact the puppet master.  This isn’t Target’s fault.  This is my fault.


Self-awareness (Photo credit: Shasha ma)

What does the “Target Puppet Master” have to do with seeking our awesome self?  I have written extensively on authenticity.  Lately, I am thinking  a lot more about self-awareness, what I call “self-authenticiyty”.  I must first discover who I am are before I can be authentic.  Marketers at stores like Target create a lot of noise.  That noise becomes clutter for those working to organize their self-awareness.  It’s time to turn the volume down on what other’s tell us we should be or should want.  It’s time I listen to what I want.  If you relate to the is, get intentional in your self-awareness. Take time for yourself and be brutally honest.  This isn’t about quitting your 6-figure salary to open a shore-front pizza store.  It’s about being honest about what you want, defining it, admitting it, and planning how to achieve it.  When you know what you want, you’ll know if that desire to buy 18 different sizes of Rubbermaid storage bins serve your purpose or the Marketing department at Target.

How is 2014 different on your search for self authenticity?

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Traditions vs Crutches: what keeps you around might be holding you back

Elf On A Shelf Book And Doll

Elf On A Shelf Book And Doll (Photo credit: Michael Kappel)

Are we holding on to familiar places, experiences and even our hometown too tightly that we can’t grow as people? The answer, of course, is a solid, set in stone yes and no. I may raise more questions than answers with this post, but reality is that there is no real answer.  I am all about growing myself and growing my readers as people.  That is the essence of finding your “awesome”.  This question is best answered by taking a step back and making sure you take a good self-evaluation and understand yourself, question your motives, and challenge your own status quo.

 I love the Chevy Chase classic Christmas movie “National Lampoons Christmas Vacation”.  As far back as I can remember, we have watched it multiple times during the Christmas season and usually on a loop in the background on Christmas Day. It simply would not be Christmas without Clark Griswold locking himself in the attic watching old family films.  But really, would it?  Another great tradition for my family is the Mission Inn Festival of Lights.  This is a beautiful display of Christmas Decorations and vendors against the back drop of the historical Mission Inn in Riverside Ca. As I write this, I realize that my family has attended the Festival of lights 2 or 3 times.  I am 37 years old.  In the past five years, we have attended this event 2 or 3 times (I sincerely can’t remember), and I am willing to emotionally tie my Christmas holiday’s success to attending this event???
In these modern days, with very little worry over our next meal, we are eager to fulfill a different hunger .  We seek nostalgic experiences.  Marketers love this.  Most people within a normal psychological spectrum have a cluster of relatively harmless “hungers”.  We didn’t make it to the Fesitval of Lights last year, and we still enjoyed a wonderful holiday.  Rest assured, I am locking us in for attendance this year.  Two years missing in a row would be a travesty.
 Most normal, hardworking and ambitious people however, have 1 or 2 significant weaknesses that go well beyond family holiday traditions.  These are emotional ties to something that holds them back from further success.  
It may be fear of moving away from a hometown and the memories, thus limiting career advancement.  It may be holding too tightly to the past with regard to relationships and marriage such as comparing the new spouse to the previous,  causing personal problems that likely ripple through all aspects of life.  It could be a holding on to childhood emotional securities such as keeping parents and grandparents too close and not “cleave [ing] to his wife”, as God commands in Genesis 2:24.
It’s likely that most people deal with a bit of this in one form or another.  Some may have significant clinical issues well beyond this. That’s another post, another day.  I am reaching out to you stuck in the middle. Mediocrity is not as bad as failure, but it is not at all our goal of “awesome”.  Are you holding on to things that are holding you back from success?  It’s time to reevaluate yourself and your priorities.  Let’s get intentional about making a change.  
What traditions are absolute deal breakers for you?

You Are The Joyful Artist

My 8 year old daughter, Angelina, sang her heart out last year in the 2nd grade Christmas show.  The sprit of the season was alive and well  in that school auditorium.  While she may not be the next American Idol, she was in her sweet spot.  She was joyfuly creating art; her art and loving every moment of it.  No one was scoring her pitch or tone.

Kids painting

Kids painting (Photo credit: BarelyFitz)

No assesment of costume design.  Hair and make-up were what you’d expect from dad and ten minutes of prep time.  None of that mattered.  She was enjoying the experience and still giving it her all.  She did it because she loves to sing and make me smile.  The bible tells us to have faith like a child (Mat 18:3).  This is Belief with no strings attached, totally focused on one thing.  Can we, as artists, create in the essence of “faith like a child”? To create a sustainable flow of content, we must! Driving home late last night, I struggled to keep the car straight and lane changes felt as deliberate as speaking an unknown language.  I was tired and didn’t feel well, so what normally is  “mental muscle memory” needed specific focus and deliberatness.  Driving, like walking and chewing gum, is much more effective with an element of the “automatic”.  The same is true for creativity.  Whether writing a book or developing a marketing campaign, we are all creating something.  We will be judged for the quality of our work by our customers, peers, and bosses.  If, we can capture some of the “freedom” Angelina had singing Jingle Bells,

we can move ourselves from deliberate and forced content creation to intentionaly free creation:

“creativity in the essence of faith like a child”. This doesn’t come with a 10 step or even 5 step how-to.

Free creation comes from intentional practice.

Unnecessary creation, a term coined by Todd Henry of the Accidental Creative suggests giving yourself projects for you that give you the chance to develop skills.  Being intentional with creativity, as I am with this blog, gives me a low risk opportunity to practice writing.  Maybe you want to paint, or sing, or build cabinets.  Do something for yourself that won’t get any judjement or expectation. Enjoy the process of building.  You are the joyful artist. Find your canvas. If you can’t enjoy the process of your art, you might be creating the wrong art.

Rocco De Leo

How the Connection Economy Unlocks the Mystery of Sushi and the Kindle

Sushi is one of those things that draws people together.  Like the comraderie in the trenches of war, eating sushi with someone instantly builds rapport.  Sushi is a cultlike experience.  Maybe its the co-worker who is grossed out or the relative who calls it bait that makes it an experience rather than a meal.  Whatever it is, I love it.  My only problem with sushi is that I can’t order.  I’m not intimidated by the non-tranferable names such as the “santa-monica roll” or the “Vegas dynamite”, names which mean completely different things at Joe’s Sushi and Sushi on Fire.  The variety gets me.  Too many choices.  I’m the same way with Christmas presents.  I am convinced that you can choose something for me that I’ll enjoy much more than I can choose.  I’ll analyse my choices to death, agnogizing missing one joy by choosing another.

Solo dinner: Sushi & Kindle

Solo dinner: Sushi & Kindle (Photo credit: inju)

I am a typical, albeit neurotic, consumer.  I am over saturated, underwhelmed, and looking for assurance that I will make the right choices.

As marketers, how do we capture the hearts and loyalty of consumers paralyzed by too many choices?

My recent journey to choose the Kindle Paperwhite over Nook Simpletouch with  Glowlight was a snapshot of the connection economy at work. Like a hungry patron at Mika Sushi, I was looking for someone to tell me what and why to buy.  The old economy would have me going to a store asking a sales person about each model, then making a choice.  Typically the choice was dumb random luck; like the last store I happen to walk in to. Economy 2.0 had me comparing company websites and reading reviews.  Better, but still predictable.  Nook would champion Nook, and Kindle would champion…guess who.  The reviews usually point out terrible products well,  but comparison of multiple products beyond specs are rare from a website that just sold one particular product. The connection economy is different. It seeks advise from  and true compatriots.  I’ll trust you if you tell me the Miso soup tastes like rotten mushrooms if you are in the restaurant experiencing it with me.

 The connection economy  with tools like Facebook and Twitter is much like the Sushi place with countless mysteries on the menu.

Searching for clarity, I reached out to people I trusted would provide detailed considerations in chosing an e-reader. ultimately, my tribe pointed me to the Kindle.  Not so much endorsing the Kindle as superior, my tribe of writers, entrepreneurs, and leadership experts have more “experiences” on the Kindle.  Amazon has connected with its users by understanding why they use an e-reader.  At least in my tribe, the Kindle is a partner in delivering the fruits of many dreams of people I follow.  Rebels of publishing pushing out unconventional products on a mainstream device through the Kindle.  Amazon affiliate programs at the grass roots on blogs, an ultimately the fear that I would have a Nook and a desire to read a Kindle only book, forced my hand.  The connection economy is real and is growing leaps and bounds everyday.  Individuals, now more than ever, have the capability of building a tribe of trust and influencing customers. Will you be driving influence or watching from the sidelines?

Rocco De Leo