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making the most of it

I don’t know if I’m just older and so I notice it more, but it seems it happens too often, now: Losing opportunities.  Working so hard at working hard that we miss the moments in the day that make it all worthwhile.  And sometimes we’re lucky enough to be reminded that we need to stop.  And breath.  And smile.  And just enjoy this moment… because we had a scare, or just hung on to something by a nail, or got an amazing new chance. It’s in those moments that I close my eyes and say a quiet ‘thank you – i’ll do better’.  And I do… until I forget to.

The next time it happens I’m frustrated with myself that it takes another catch of my breath or heart stopping quick scare to remind me.  It seems as kids we are better at making the most of it – sitting there on the grass and then just reaching out and hugging (head-locking) someone, dancing to a random beat without caring what people think, smiling at the wind…At what point as an adult do you ‘un’learn enough to just let go and make the most of every moment?  I’m lucky – so very blessed.  And I want to feel that every day instead of the stress, doubt, guilt, and worry that creep in and waste my time.

All  too often we hear or read or see those around us who aren’t that lucky – the ones that shouldn’t have anything bad happen to them in life – and somehow it still does – and those are the moments when I catch my breath and think. shit. i need to make the most of this.  It’s in those moments when the reality of this thin little tight rope of life hits home.  When the stories of loss or disease or inhumanity aren’t about someone who we’ve never met, or who we’ve seen on tv – but of a friend, a neighbour, a colleague, a relative – it hits home.  This life we have is very real.  It’s amazing and wonderful and hard and painful and joy-filled and challenging.  And fragile. So fragile.

It’s not the shifting of the pieces that matters most it seems – because all of the pieces will always be there.  It’s what we chose to make of those pieces.  There will always be cause for sadness and uncertainty, there will always be opportunities to feel  jealously and self-pity, we can’t omit those ‘things’ from happening in our life – but there will also always be a reason to feel hope, a bit of joy, and even a bit of unbridled happiness.  It’s the perspective we choose to take in the moments of our life that shapes what we’ll remember. And how we’ll be remembered.

If you’re still reading this, you might be thinking of a story that happened to you, or a person in your life that reminds you to make the most of every day.  I hope you are. I know I am.  And for some, their audacity to not succumb to a prognosis or a setback is etched in our mind and heart.  Facing every moment with the openness to see it for what it could be, rather than what you fear it will be – that is true strength.  That is inspiring beyond words.

I hope with every part of my being that each smile, each choice to make the most of a funny mishap or lingering minute brings me closer to finding the way to let it all go – and just make the most of life.  Because it really is an incredible gift.

L&C you’ve inspired this one tonight – you blow me away with your choice to face every new day with a smile, hope and a prayer.  You have a huge cheering squad. xo

a good story

I promised this post a long time ago and never delivered. To be honest, it was because I was a little afraid to write this.  I went to an amazing conference back in May called C2MTL (terrible website – awesome conference).  The forum brought together thousands of people in an Indy-style conference where commerce meets creativity.  There were a lot of big names and big companies … but it was Alex from Google that blew me away.  Why?  Because he told me a story I didn’t expect to hear.

Alex Cuthbert is a product designer at Google.   Google Glass was featured at the conference – so I thought his session would be all about the new product.  I was wrong.  Alex talked about storytelling.  He gave wonderful examples, practical tips, and really good advice about how to tell a really good story.  And the whole thing just happened to feature Google Glass.

We are operating, Cutherbert argues, in the Gen “C” time:  content creation + connecting community.  Connecting people with an actual experience that they can engage with is the way to evoke action from us.  The work those of us in marketing and communications have been focusing on for years in ‘user experience’ needs to much more closely aligned with actual design of content.  It makes sense.  And so one has to ask – why are we not already doing this more?

In order to engage us – you & me – the people who are today’s audience regardless of age/ethnicity/socio-level – you need to not only tell us a story – you need to pull us in so that we feel we are a participant in that story.  Alex showed us a video I hadn’t seen before to illustrate this point beautifully, I’ve shared it below.  When we are a part of the story it becomes powerful, transformational, and very real. With only 55% of the newly democratic Tunesia turning out to vote- there was a pressing need to turn apathy into action and get people to vote so that the democracy wouldn’t be squandered.  Check this out:

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We all have so much stimuli bombarding us that traditional means of trying to get our attention simply don’t work.  Don’t tell me a story about your product or your object or your service.  Show me the experience your product creates, the reality it enables, and make it accessible so that I can feel like I’m a part of it.  But how do you achieve this?  By not always showing a character, by instead showing a point of view or the experience and by letting me  put myself in it (as Google Glass did here).

Stories have always had three basic parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end – and a good story takes you on a journey.  Nothing has changed there.  Today’s best activists and advertisers tell a story that sucks us in to a plot, grabs a hold of our heart or our stomach or our brain, and is about the experience instead of the product itself.  Coke has many brilliant ads that tell global stories – pulling you in to the conflict or drama and driving to a root cause – ultimately putting a smile on your face within a few short minutes – the beverage they sell just happens to be enabling the story being told. Like them or not, they are effective…   This is one of my favorites

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Google also does a great job of telling a story based in India – and pulling you in to the pain, history, anguish, anticipation and joy – in as authentic a way as any organization can…their product is secondary to the experience you are invited to be a part of.

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This conference was fantastic.  It was small enough that you felt like you were getting inside information from incredibly smart and successful people.  It was engaging enough that even a late night or three didn’t stop me from trekking down for the 8am start each morning.  Most of all though, I loved being a part of the creativity.  Alex’s small ‘garage’ talk on storytelling had about 80 of us hanging on his every word.  I felt like I had won a jackpot.  The best part of his workshop were the insightful pieces we gleaned when he opened up the floor and allowed us to be engaged in the story as it unfolded.

Storytelling is a way to connect, a way to spark action or a movement, a way to collaborate and brainstorm, a way to express, and a way to learn.  By understanding the needs of your audience first (who are they? what do they need? why? what do they value?) you gain the insight to not just tell a story – but to engage a person in a conversation.  That is very exciting to me.

Hope you liked this as much as I did … and big thanks to Alex – have a great long weekend!