Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Waiting on a Sunny Day -- My Wedding Toast

I got married Saturday and gave this toast, which wrapped together my feelings about my father's death, my new bride and the emotional Bruce Springsteen concert we went to in September.

This is how it was planned in my head. I was a little overcome in the moment, though, so it came out a little differently.

In one of those sad ironies, just as Karen and I began planning our new life together, my father was going through the last days of his life.

The week before he died in September, I was at his bedside with my family. And it was, of course, a difficult time. So it was nice toward the end of week to come back to Chicago to my own little family – Karen … and the cat. (In that order!) 

That Saturday night we had tickets to see Bruce Springsteen at Wrigley Field. It seemed an inappropriate thing to do, given the circumstances, but it turned out to be entirely appropriate, because Bruce worked the crowd that night like an old-time gospel preacher.

During one extended song, he sang this refrain over and over: “Are you missing anybody?” Are you missing anybody? Of course, foremost in his mind was his old friend and bandmate Clarence Clemons, but it felt like he was speaking directly to me – just as I’m sure it did for many others that night who were experiencing their own loss.

Then he said, “Think of who you’re missing, and let ‘em stand alongside you a while.” Think of who you’re missing, and let ‘em stand alongside you a while. It was an incredibly powerful moment.

A few songs later, the skies opened up and it started pouring down rain. And it didn’t stop. And neither did Bruce. He kept right on playing, and he greeted the storm with this song, which has become special to us.

It’s called “Waiting on a Sunny Day,” and it speaks to those times in our lives when we’re confronted with great joy and great sadness simultaneously, and each has the effect of etching the other a little more deeply in our experience. And I know we’re not the only ones to have felt that.

So then a toast: to my father, Lt. Col. Donald Edward Biesenbach. May he always stand alongside us when we need him. To my new bride, Karen, and the lifetime we’ll share alongside each other. And for everyone here: to the rainy days we’ve seen, and the bright, sunny days that always follow.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Picking Up, Dusting Off

I got some feedback recently on my public speaking that was, honestly, devastating.
But, as is my habit with almost any setback or loss, whether in my career or personal life, I was figuratively (and almost literally) picking myself up within minutes and putting together a plan to make it all better. I only hope that's a sign of good coping skills and not delusion.
Here's what happened. I did a presentation to a colleague's employees and he absolutely loved it. He was so taken with it that he vowed to adopt my lessons and change the way they do their own presentations. He thought so highly of it that he recommended me to one of his contacts at a professional speakers bureau.
Now I've applied to a few speakers bureaus and it's a tough, tough field to break into. I thought acting was a competitive field, but getting a talent agent was far, far easier than getting representation for my speaking. Hell, getting a publisher for my book was easier, and the publishing world is insane.
But there are tons and tons of speakers out there and relatively few gigs. Most people want to book a celebrity or athlete or political figure or bestselling author. And most speakers bureaus want to represents those kinds of speakers, because they make a bigger commission from $50,000 engagements than they do from $3,000 engagements.
Still, I have been confident from the beginning (which, I must remind myself, was about 16 months ago) that I have a unique and compelling story to tell and a way of delivering that story that truly stands out.
But the feedback I got on my video was surprising. On the positive side, he said I come across as a nice guy and he was sure that audiences must like me. He could tell that I do well in front of audiences, and that's true. The feedback I get, in both formal ratings and direct feedback from people who come up to me afterwards (many buying my book), is very, very positive.
But he said the industry was getting away from hiring speakers who make audiences feel good. They want someone who will challenge and provoke them, push them in a new direction.
He also said my opening story was too long, which is true. I like the video because it captures my entire book in about 10 minutes. But it needs to be just three or four minutes.
Finally, he said I need a harder edge in my speaking style. I need to come on stronger --  not jerky, but forceful.
So I've got a whole new gameplan. I've been working on a new introduction, something that makes a strong statement right up front. I've come up with a new opening story that's shorter and more pointed. And I'm taking the rest of the speech and giving it all a sharper edge. Less coddling, more provoking.
And then I'm going to hire a videographer for my next big speech and create a whole new video. And then I'm going to start all over again with my marketing.
That all sounds very constructive and positive, but it's taken me a few weeks to move from resignation to grim determination to glimmers of excitement.

And who knows? This guy could be completely wrong. But the more I've thought about it, the more I agree with him. To progress *clink*

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Veteran's Funeral

Two weeks ago we had the service for my father at Arlington National Cemetery. 

It was a crazy time. Sunday morning I flew from Chicago to San Francisco, where I gave a speech Monday morning. Then Monday night I got on the redeye to DC for the Tuesday morning service. No sleep 'til that night, then a flight back to Chicago Wednesday morning.

So I was a bit groggy, but it was still a very moving ceremony. An honor guard served as pall bearers.

He got a 21-gun salute.

A lone bugler played Taps in the distance.

Lots of family and friends on hand for the service.

I'm not really a big gung-ho military patriot type person, but it was really a very nice honor. Even after all these years, with all this time to prepare, it was tough.

Deb has a lifetime entrance pass to drive up to his gravesite anytime we want to visit. The headstone should be up in a month or two, and I'm looking forward to seeing that.

Also looking forward to not traveling for a month or so. Time to take care of things close to home.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Eulogy for My Father

I didn't want to just do a laundry list of my Dad's many qualities, so I talked about fishing.

It was harder to deliver than I thought.


My father taught me many things. The importance of standing on principle, the value of a good joke and even better, a bad joke.

And he taught me how to fish.

One of my earliest memories was when I was about five years old. Out on a pier in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the end of the day and Dad gave me the last piece of bait from the bucket: half a shrimp. We put it on the hook and I lowered the cane pole in the water and I got a bite. It felt huge. I struggled to wrestle it up onto the pier.

And when I saw it, I thought it was some kind of monster. A great big fish the size and shape of a pizza pan with both eyes on one side. Turns out it was a flounder. Dad assured me it was a very good catch, and another adult there was so enamored of the fish he offered to take it off our hands.

I thought, Wow, Ive done something here that not only pleased my father, but was of value to this complete stranger who was under no obligation to think everything I did was adorable. The power of fishing.

Fishing can be a very affirming, very spiritual experience. Almost religious. Allow me to quote from the Good Book A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean.

When Im alone in the half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise. Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time.

Fishing is about ritual and mystery. Its about acknowledging a power greater than our own. Recognizing that we play a small part in the scheme of things. Its about faith. Faith that the next cast will be the one, that the fish on the line will make it into the boat, and that if this day didnt go well the next would be better. Its about our connection to each other, taking comfort in each others company and joy in each others success.

My father and I spent countless hours on the water the Occoquan River, Lake Anna. Early, early mornings together, the sun barely up, in a small boat. We talked about different things and many times we didnt talk at all. We just sat, casting our lines in the water, waiting, waiting, with the hope that a fish would rise enjoying the beauty and the quiet.

But then I grew up, went to college, got a job, and my father and I didnt fish a lot after that. But about 10 years ago, at the wedding of Mara and Jeff, Jeff was kind enough to arrange a fly fishing excursion to a stunning, picture-perfect canyon, with the South Platte River running through it. We waded into the stream up to our waists and cast our lines out into the water and reenacted that old ritual of faith.

It turns out I didnt catch a thing that day but that was okay, because Dad landed a beautiful trout. And it made us both very happy. Thank you to Jeff and Mara for that gift.

I recently started fishing again, with my new fiancé, Karen, and her family. And when Im up there in Alaska, on the beautiful waters of the Kenai River, casting to that four-count rhythm, I think of my father and how much hed love fishing those waters. I hear him advising me on my form. Keep your rod tip up, son.

And so the tradition continues. Maybe someday Ill have the opportunity to teach someone how to fish. And the cycle will go on. Which brings me to another quote this one is from the actual Good Book. Ecclesiastes one of my favorites. (And forgive me, father, for I have edited.)

All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come thither they return again. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose. One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Peace at last

My father finally lost his struggle with Alzheimer's. He died on September 11, of all days, bringing an extra poignance to that day.

I was prepared and totally unprepared.

Still sorting a lot of things out, but one thing that's occurred to me: I said goodbye to my Dad a long time ago. I realize now I was defining "dad" in narrow, traditional terms.

That is, he was no longer able to fill the "job description" -- answering questions about finances and household repairs and life decisions and generally being there for me and being supportive.

But, of course, he was more than the sum of his job responsibilities. And he was about more than simply fulfilling my self-interest and needs.

They should teach this stuff somewhere.

Anyway, he went fairly peacefully and, importantly, at home, with people who loved him.

Monday, September 10, 2012

I went to a Bruce Springsteen concert ...

... and a church service broke out.

I tell you it was a downright spiritual experience seeing him again after 31 years. When the show opened with the opening notes to Promised Land I actually got tears in my eyes.

Then standing in the pouring rain for the whole second half of the show, hearing Badlands, and Thunder Road and Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, with the raindrops lit up like confetti in the spotlights -- it was damned magical.

But what really got me, even more than the moving tribute to Clarence Clemons (at the line "the big man joined the band," the music went silent for a short montage of photos), was the soulful 12-minute version of My City of Ruins.

Springsteen led the crowd like a gospel preacher, singing again and again, "Are you missing anybody?" Usually I'm not much affected by moments like this, but I immediately thought of my Dad. And I wondered how many others were feeling something as immediate as I was?

Then he did a little spoken-word preaching: "Think of who you're missing and let 'em stand alongside you for a while." Well, that just about did it. Wow.

I'm gonna have to really let it out at some point. I've had brief moments here and there but have mostly held things in, as is just my general practice.

Thank you, Bruce.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Going home

Dad is nearing the end and I am at the airport getting ready to fly home and be with family.

I saw him a few weeks ago and he wasn't looking good then. He'd lost weight and had a couple of complications. Apparently he took a severe turn late last week and they're saying it could be days or hours.

I was surprised at how the news has affected me. It's been such a long, long, long time coming -- 10 years, maybe -- that I figured I was pretty much adjusted to the inevitable.

Apparently not.

The timing is poignant. A whole circle of life thing with my engagement news.

He's got good care and is at home, thankfully.

I think I'm ready.

Friday, August 31, 2012

So this happened

(Note the third finger on the left hand, aka "the ring finger")

I like to do things a little differently, so I'm thinking first marriage around the time most people are on their third is a good way to go.

Remarkably, and naively, I thought this would put an end to all the questions from friends, family, etc. But it only seemed to spur additional questions.

People sure are weird.

Monday, August 13, 2012

On the road again

Back to the airport today, after just getting back on Friday. Heading to the client for a few days on-site.

I can't really complain too much about being on a plane every week for 6 or 8 weeks since a lot of people spend nearly every weekday in the air. I couldn't imagine that.

Especially in the summer where, literally, every other flight (or more) is delayed or even canceled. And where you're flying regularly in out of the worst airport in the country -- Dulles.

But it will all be worth it. This time next week I'll be getting on another plane -- only this one will be taking me away to vacation.

Seven days ...

Friday, August 03, 2012

Farmer Ted

Outstanding in my field

I've been on a minor roll, acting-wise. Two commercials in two weeks, both principal roles.

Could have had an industrial next week as well, but the price was a little low, given the time and location.

It's been a busy time overall, with lots of travel (for me, at least), going back and forth to DC for client work, up to Minnesota for a commercial shoot, the burbs for meetings. Lots of different work projects hitting all at once, along with ongoing book promotion.

So yeah, all that.

Strangely, I was really looking forward to this commercial shoot four hours downstate. Even though it was ridiculously hot in that cornfield and the bugs were like I'd never seen before, it was mercifully short. And I got to see a part of the state I'd never seen before.

It's pretty down there! Hills, trees, lakes. And lots and lots of windmills. It's crazy -- I just love seeing new stuff.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What Residuals Are Not

People are funny. Over and over I get asked the same question about the current TV and print campaign I'm in: "So do you get paid every time that runs?"

The other day I answered, "Yes, every time someone opens a magazine with my face in it, I get a dollar!"

First off, this was not a union job. But even under a union contract, it's not like there's a little meter running somewhere and every time a commercial runs it goes "ding" and another 30 cents goes into my bank account.

What happens is the advertisers figure out ahead of time when and where they want to run the spot and every quarter they send you a check for what that's worth. There's a complex set of formulas governing the different types of usage -- network, cable, local, primetime, etc., etc.

And they do essentially the same thing with a non-union contract. Only they pay a flat fee called a "buyout." They get to run it for 13 weeks or a year or two years or however long the contract extends.

Now this can be harmful to the actor's interests if the fee that's been negotiated is really, really low and the commercial runs ALL the time. (Think mattress and carpet ads.) But a good agent will do the math, figure out what the value is of a particular ad's run (where and when and for how long) and will negotiate the buyout accordingly.

So yes, in one sense I get paid every time the ad runs. Because the fee was based on the projected usage. And I got a pretty nice fee for both the TV and print elements of the campaign.

So do not worry. And, on the other hand, do not envy. All is fine.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Stuff that happens in 3s

Out of town on business. A group of us fly out to Dulles, arriving at 7 pm with a 2-hour drive through the Virginia countryside to our hotel. The following happens:

  1. GPS gets the address of our hotel wrong and instead of arriving at the Marriott, we end up at a dead ringer for the Bates Motel 15 miles away. Not fun when you're going on 10 pm with an O'Dark-thirty wakeup.
  2. Heading out to the client bright and early and ... the car doesn't start. Dead battery. The three of us break into action. One calls for cab, the other checks on a substitute rental with a different agency and I call our agency to have the car towed away and shot. We're only 10 minutes late.
  3. I have a previously scheduled webinar to do for 250 or so alumni of the University of Chicago. So I break away from our all-day meeting to a conference room to get set up an hour beforehand. Can't get on wireless with my Mac for some reason. But I have a backup plan: a stick drive with my presentation in formats for both Mac and PC. I borrow a company PC and ... corporate firewall prevents download of necessary software. Now it is less than 5 minutes from showtime. I PDF the presentation and email it to the moderator, then I get on the phone and have her advance the slides, with me following along separately on my iPad not knowing if she's getting it right while trying to find different, inventive ways to say "next" 80+ times. All in all, it seemed to go pretty well.
It's been a helluva 24 hours. Alarm is set for 5. Which is 4 Chicago time.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Badlands, Goodlands

There's an oil boom going on in North Dakota and we got to witness it firsthand on a five-day, 2000-mile trek to my 47th state.

Unemployment is practically zero, and workers are pouring in from all over the country and the world. Our waitress one night was from Salt Lake City. She misses it and doesn't much like her new home, but it's where the jobs are.

The landscape is dotted with trailer park "man camps" to hold all the workers from the oil and associated industries. Row after row of cheap housing is being thrown up as fast as they can build it.

In one tiny western town, the nicest, newest hotel there is, La Quinta, charges $175 a night -- if you're lucky enough to find a room there. It's mostly leased long-term to workers, who are given plastic booties at the entrance to protect the new carpet from their mud-covered boots.

They're totally reconstructing a long stretch of Interstate, not because it's in bad shape but because the state coffers are flush with cash right now.

All of this because of fracking, which, depending on what you read, is either a miracle technology promising to secure domestic energy independence or an environmental catastrophe that threatens to irrevocably despoil the land and water.

For now, at least, there are still places untouched by all this activity. The Badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Monument being one of them. It's beautiful country -- one of the few places you can see horses in the wild.

So glad we got to see it while it's still there.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cover Boy

So Scottrade has been running this full-page ad in a bunch of magazines as an extension of the TV campaign. So far I've found it in Wired and on the back cover of Golf, Money, Your Money and Kiplinger Personal Finance.

Oh yeah, and in the program for the Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis. Yeah, that's right.

Thank goodness for Facebook friends or I wouldn't know about any of these. I don't do much reading of hard copy magazines these days.

It's kind of cool. I was at the airport this weekend and there were three magazines right next to each other at the newsstand with my picture on the back. I bought one myself:

The family was very impressed, going out and buying their own copies and having me sign them. Everyone seems to be under the impression that I get paid more every time it runs. It doesn't work quite like that. They paid me nicely, but it was a lump sum for the print buy whether it runs in Time magazine or some obscure low-circulation trade journal.

As cool as it is, it's kind of embarrassing. It's not like I did something particularly special -- it was all part of the overall job. I guess the one thing I can take credit for is they picked me out of the dozen or so actors for this campaign.

But for all I now there could be different ads featuring the others appearing elsewhere or coming down the road. We'll see. They did like that 10-year-old yellow shirt ...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bad Actor

I think if an objective observer were to tally the number of posts I've written under the headline "Bad Actor" they could easily draw the wrong conclusion.

It's not that I'm difficult or a diva or just one of those terrible, bitchy actors you hear about (and may know). I mean, I'm not like that in rehearsal or on the set. In my mind, though, I'm the biggest complainer.

I had a booking today that could have been a disaster. And as I retrace the steps I hearken back to an old saying a colleague and I had at Ogilvy whenever things went awry: "Now is not the time to point fingers; it's the time to thoughtfully apportion the blame among the various parties in percentage terms."

So going by that standard, I'm going to assign blame in almost equal parts between me, the client and my agent.

The heart of the problem is it was a low paying job. Straight hourly session rate (for only 1 or 2 hours max) with no buyout. That's not the kind of money that gets everyone's attention and makes them dot the i's three times just to be sure.

So we had three little problems when I showed up. First, the stylist said she thought I was supposed to shave. When I'm cast straight from my headshot I show up looking like the headshot unless specifically instructed.

Okay, the written instructions said "clean shaven," but believe it or not, that's ambiguous. I've asked about that before and they've said, "Oh, that's standard language -- we just want you to look neat and nice, with the well-trimmed growth like in your headshot." When they want me to shave it off, the client makes a point of telling my agent to tell me.

They didn't, so I didn't. Luckily, the head guy checked me out and said the look I had was perfect.

The second thing was makeup. Apparently I was supposed to do my own, which I have never, ever done for a shoot. They either make me up or we go without. Hell, I did a SAG commercial in a principal role with no makeup. And they had a makeup artist there. I was just that naturally handsome, I suppose.

Now I should say that the phrase "arrive made up" was indeed in the written instructions but, again, that's often just generic language left over from other projects.

Could I have been more curious about it? Enough to inquire and clarify? Probably, yes. Could my agent have done likewise? Probably, yes.

The final glitch was wardrobe. I was to show up with "clean white gym shoes." I brought my cleanest, whitest pair. Were they hospital clean? (I was playing a doctor in scrubs.) No. Am I supposed to keep a pair of pristine white tennis shoes around for the once-every-eight-years role like this? I say no.

If they were that concerned with how white they should be, should they have provided wardrobe? I say yes. But again, we're talking about a basic low-budget production.

Anyway, the stylist gave them a light wash with some Joy and they were plenty clean enough. Which I suppose I could have done, had I known just how clean they needed to be.

So at this point we haven't even started the job and at least three people probably hate my guts.

But then I get into wardrobe, go over to my mark and start doing my thing. Bing-bang-boom. I knocked it out and got the usual plentiful number of "perfects" and "beautifuls" and "greats." I gave them a ton of great shots in a short amount of time, took direction like a trained seal, and offered up some creative options of my own.

They loved the work, they loved me, I was nice, they were grateful, and we all lived happily ever after.

But I am going to insist on better communication in the future. And I'm going to do a little work on my positivity ...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Snake Eyes

I had two callbacks last week and didn't book either of them.

The first wasn't a surprise. I knew I wouldn't get the job, for a variety of reasons. I was surprised I even got the callback. And when I did, it was totally perfunctory. Two quick takes and a "thank you."

The second one I didn't think I'd get either. At first. It was a commercial for a casual restaurant chain. These are the kinds of jobs I don't usually get. Food companies and major consumer product brands usually want people who are a little more traditional/conventional/all-American -- whatever you want to call it.

But the breakdown said they were looking for a couple who were a little hip. Not too hip. Not tattoo and skinny jeans hip. Just a little. So I figured that was somewhat up my alley -- moreso than a cop or lumberjack, at least.

So they called me back. I had the last slot of the day and I was the last male actor so they paired me up with the three remaining women. So I basically got to audition three times. And one of them at least was really good because I knew my "wife" pretty well. We've done some work together and we had good rapport.

Of course, if you're a decent actor you're supposed to have or create good rapport with anyone you get paired with, but that just doesn't always happen.

So then they put both of us on first refusal, so I thought that was a pretty good sign. I've been released from many holds and check avails and first refusals, but I got the idea this one would come through.

Then on Friday they released us both.

Grrr. But as I've said, I'm still pretty visible. According to a friend, I'm in this month's Golf Digest in a Scottrade print ad (they are REALLY getting their money's worth from us) and my alter ego, "Frank the Pharmacist" keeps popping up on various websites, according to friends.

Still, it would be great to get more work in the pipeline.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

From the Archives

The College Years

It's been painstaking and difficult, but I'm just about finished with my digital conversion project.

I got the 1400 photos back on a disc -- but, of course, some of the albums were out of order, so I had to re-order them in iPhoto. And before I could really rest I had to caption them all, using the notes scrawled on the backs of the photos. And while I was at it, why not geotag them?

I'm very bad at doing tasks like this in pieces. Common sense would tell you to spend an hour here, an hour there, maybe do one album at a time. But I can't do that. So I spent about 12 or 15 hours over a weekend getting them all done.

I wonder about those people who do it the other way. Doing things bit by bit and taking leisurely breaks to "stretch their legs" or "eat a meal" or "sleep."

Then I scanned a small stack of miscellaneous stuff on my own. Like one of my first paychecks from high school, a ticket to the World Trade Center observation deck, my college acceptance letters and other things.

Here are three favorites. A Bulls playoff ticket:

 The first (and last) time I went to see Bruce Springsteen:

$11! Though I'm guessing the ticketmaster service charge was still $7.50.

And here's an old golf scorecard from a round I played with my Dad during high school:

Pretty sure I had several dozen mulligans.

Final final final thing: going through digital copies of old videos -- like a couple of my sketch shows -- and cutting them down to size. And by that I mean cutting out the scenes that don't feature me ...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Projects Colliding

Work, work, work the past couple of weeks.

Proposals will sit on clients' desks for weeks or months, then they'll all choose the exact same time to get started. Publications in their inboxes waiting for approval will get marked up all at once. Then random projects will come in over the transom.

It's been a little dizzying the past couple of weeks. I've worked on a couple of speeches for different companies while simultaneously developing message platforms for two different law firms, which hasn't been easy to keep straight.

Add in a little of this and a little of that, a few final housecleaning/settling in-related items and a sudden upshot in auditions and, well, that's mostly it.

Amid all that I've trying to to do three things a day to market myself. Writing articles, pitching media, researching speaking venues, and plugging away at the other blog.

I read that somewhere, among the scores of things I read online every day. Some entrepreneur building some side project who refused to go to sleep at night until he had accomplished at least three things that day to grow it.

I don't always get my three in, though today I got to five.

Some exciting things popping, so it'll be worth it, I'm sure.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

On the bright side

Pursuant to yesterday's complaint, at least the projects I have been booked on are pretty high visibility.

I get Facebook messages and emails every week from people telling me they saw the Scottrade spot somewhere. Usually during a sporting contest of some sort.

There are a couple of versions floating around.

And, of course, I'm looking forward to spotting myself in a Walgreens soon. The ones in my neighborhood feature other actor/pharmacists.

So at least I give the appearance of being in a lot of things.

Oh, and here I am doing some of my best background work, extraing for the Illinois Lottery. Don't blink at the :17 and :27 marks.

I think my character is supposed to be a stalker, since I appear in two different places during the course of her day.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

No traction

Auditions continue to run ridiculously hot and cold lately. I'll go from several auditions in a week to none for a week. Or more.

That callback I got a few weeks ago did not pan out. And the spokesman role I actually really thought I had a shot at? I was on first refusal, but then let go at the last minute.

It's just very hard to get momentum going when you're not out there on a consistent basis. I don't do well coming off the bench cold -- I need to be in the game.

On the other hand, work-work got super-busy. After much foot dragging, two clients suddenly decided to start up projects at exactly the same time, then a couple of other came in that week.

So it all seems to be a big yin/yang thang.

On the third leg of the stool -- book-related stuff -- now that the move is over I am focusing on another big marketing push. Just sent out a big press kit to a Speaker's Bureau, reaching out to more venues and media, sitting down and talking with people.

The best part of it is, I am working outside right now. I have an actual back deck,  with sunshine, plants, a decent view. I think this is going to be an awesome summer.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Best of Homes, The Worst of Homes

I closed up the old apartment today. I can't believe I lived there seven years. That's how much I hate to move.

I moved there for several reasons. First, as a theater actor it was getting embarrassing living in a downtown semi-luxury highrise. I could feel friends' discomfort when they came through the door.

Second, I longed to live in an actual neighborhood, where I didn't have to stand behind indecisive tourists any time I wanted a bagel or a cup of coffee.

And the third factor, and not an incidental one, was cost. Moving into the Lakeview place lowered my rent to a level that was less than my first rent payment in Chicago a decade before.

And I chose this particular apartment for several reasons. The first three were, of course, location, location and location. A drug store, 7-11 (nee White Hen), and dry cleaner right on the corner. Grocery just steps away (until it burned down just weeks after moving in). And hundreds -- literally, hundreds -- of restaurants, bars, cafes, stores and other things within a 5 minute walking radius.

It was also at the nexus of the Chicago public transportation universe. The 22 and 36 buses stopped at either end of my block and took me downtown in 20 minutes or so. And I was less than a 10 minute walk from the Lakeshore Drive express buses and the Red and Brown Line trains.

Other than location, the apartment was huge and had tons of light -- 7 big windows along the south wall. Built in the 1920s, it had a few charming architectural touches, like arched entrances and stained-glass windows.

On the other hand, it was kind of a pit. It hadn't been rehabbed since the '80s. The management company sucked. And noise, both from the street and upstairs was an issue.

But it was home. It was where I culminated the last few years of my theater career, including the production of my short plays. It's where I had the best commercial year of my career (so far). It's where I wrote my book. And a lot of personal stuff happened, good and bad.

I just realized it's the one place I've lived in longer than any other in Chicago. So I dragged out the farewell, cleaning it out bit by bit. Today I took the last two things I didn't sell -- the vacuum and the printer -- to the alley for pickup by some thrifty neighbor.

Then I left the keys on the counter, took a few pictures, and closed the door.

That's it. I'm working without a net now.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Your Friendly Neighborhood Druggist

A while back I did this job for a, uh, major drug store chain and suddenly this week the campaign has exploded all over the place.

I'm on the website, accompanying their new Find a Pharmacist feature: 

I feel like they photoshopped my jawline. It's awfully square and Draper-like.

Then a friend spotted me in an online ad on a radio station's website:

Guess my non-du-pharm is Frank.

Another friend saw me (or at least the screen grab of me) on the Dr. Oz show yesterday:

But what I'm really looking forward to is the in-store signage, where I'll be sliding down a firepole. For realzies. I was in a store yesterday and saw another version with an actor/pharmacist swinging from a rope:

Between this and Scottrade, I am a multimedia sensation ...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Judgy McStaresalot

This is what cohabitation is like. Someone there to judge you constantly, then forget about you temporarily until they round the corner, see you and go, "Crap! You're still here?" Then they sit and stare at you for an hour, willing you away.

Luckily, the two-footed member of the household is a little happier to have me around.

Either way, it's a brave new world. I've lived alone more years than I've lived with people. Fortunately for all of us I am incredibly laid back and easygoing. Not all hung up on the need to lock doors and not let the house burn down. Isn't that what insurance is for?

I'm also highly adaptable. I was 95% unpacked by hour four. And really most of my most stringent demands center around diet Coke, egg whites and the need to hear every line of a favorite program even if it means pausing and rewinding the DVR five times.

So with a final round of storing, stowing, selling, and tossing, I am just about settled in and ready for this new adventure.

Bring it!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Boss and Me

When I was a kid, my older brother loved Bruce Springsteen. Old school Bruce -- like The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle and Greetings from Asbury Park Bruce.

I couldn't stand the sound coming out of his speakers and through his louvered bedroom door. That voice? It was horrible!

Like the rest of the world, I started to get on board around Born To Run (which isn't as bad as not getting on board until Born in the USA). By then, though, my brother was getting over Bruce. And when Darkness on the Edge of Town was released, he pretty much gave up. "He should put out a live album!" he demanded.

So Darkness was the first Springsteen album that was truly "mine." And as with every album or CD I've ever purchased, I played it over and over and over and over again, studying the liner notes, memorizing the lyrics, playing air guitar, etc.

I was reminded of it as I was packing up my old albums. Most of them I never replaced with CD or digital versions because, as I said, I pretty much played them out in my childhood and college years.

But that album really was special so I finally bought it the other day on iTunes. I've listened to it a bit and it is, obviously, a masterpiece. And timeless at that. (Old man wanna be rich/Rich man wanna be king/And the kind ain't satisfied/Until he rules over everything.)

Like my brother, I became a little less enchanted with Bruce. For me it was the douchebags in my college dorm who championed him during The River era and played (and sang to) Out in the Street ad nauseum. And then Bruce pumped his body up and took dancing lessons and his Born in the USA message was co-opted as a patriotic anthem ... bleh.

I've loved some songs since then, and even albums (especially Nebraska), but they were never quite the same as the two I started with.

I'm going to take it easy and not play Darkness 20 or 30 times in the next few days so maybe I can continue to enjoy it for years to come.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The best laid plans

It's a good thing I got all that trashing and donating and organizing done so far in advance, because the one thing I did not do in advance? Schedule a mover. Because I didn't really want to commit to a solid move-out date. Which is ironic.

Anyway, they only had two days left this month so it turns out I'm moving ... ONE WEEK from today. Yipes!!

So tonight I started packing for real. And actually, I think I was right. With all the culling I've done, there's not that much left. I have a list of 10 steps and I just got four done in the past couple of hours.

So I think I'm just, oh, 20 boxes away from being ready to go. Which should be pretty doable in my remaining 110 or so waking hours. I'm not even going to do the long division ...

Saturday, April 07, 2012


This week I took two boxes of books and a big box full of pots, pans and glassware off to charity. With that plus the clothes, CDs, videos, files, photos, stereo, baseball cards and assorted junk, I feel I'm about 30-40% lighter, material possession-wise.

It feels good. Plus it will make my next move, which is coming soon, sooooo easy. Especially when I dispense with three tube TVs (including the 150 lb. 32-inch number I've had since 1995), two window AC units and a big old oak table and chairs.

After all that I think I'll be able to pack up my entire apartment in under 8 hours. I started March with a to-do list of 38 items. By the end of the month I had 30 of them completed.

I think the only really hard thing (other than selling the table and ACs without being murdered by a crazy Craigslist person) will be change-of-address notifications, which almost never, ever seem to work the way they should.


Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Original Bad News Bears

I've been slashing and burning mostly unsentimentally through the accumulated material detritus of my life -- photos, CDs, videos, clothes, books. This one, however, is a keeper.

It's my jersey from my first season of Little League baseball. I was in third grade.

We were the original Bad News Bears and I was about the weakest link on the team. I played outfield and am certain the coaches said a few Hail Marys every time the ball was hit in my direction. I was a dropper, a bobbler, a whiffer and a world class faller.

One game toward the end of the season I was out in center field when the batter send a high, short fly ball my way. A blooper. I started running in toward the infield. I ran and I ran and I ran as the ball arced downward. At the last minute I dove, my gloved hand outstretched, and tumbled across the grass in a somersault.

At the end of it all, no one was more surprised than I was to see a bright white half-sphere poking up above the webbing of my glove. I snow-coned it.

The entire team came out and dogpiled on me and whooped and hollered and celebrated like we'd just won the world series. I don't remember whether it was the end of the season or the end of the game or even the end of the inning, but that catch was a landmark for me, and maybe for the team.

My Little League career would extend for another five seasons. Some years I was the goat and some the all-star. (The latter when I was at the upper limit of the league's age range -- a 12-year-old in the 10-to-12 league, for instance. When I was a 13-year-old in the 13-to-15 league I didn't fare as well.)

No matter. For that brief shining moment I was in a proverbial league of my own.

Incidentally, it wasn't until around the second year of college that I finally outgrew that shirt.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Against All Odds

The auditions have been pretty slow lately. So slow that it's not even remarkable to have no auditions in a week. In fact, I went more than two weeks during one bad stretch recently.

So it was a relief to have four auditions last week -- one of them a callback. And when the callback came it was one of those where I had to look up the paperwork from the original audition to recall the details.

That's how it's supposed to be. The only way you're going to catch something is with lots of lines in the water. Hopefully it will keep up.

Of the three jobs, I don't think I'll get the one I was called back for. I was the last guy they saw and it looked like they'd made up their mind. Another was for a food client and I never, ever get those. Ever. They seem to always look for model types and very wholesome people. Maybe also people who look like they eat a good bit of food.

The third one I'd really like to get. It's a spokesman role, pays pretty well and I did a really, really good job with it. I mean, I freaking nailed the copy.

But again, one of out of three isn't very likely odds. Even one of out of seven (total auditions this month so far) isn't that great.

So more, please.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mission Accomplished

Had a great time today presenting to Georgetown University's alumni association. It was my basic stump speech, though with audience interaction/participation removed, since it was a webinar.

I've really got this thing down and am having a ball performing it. It's like midway through the run of a play where you've got the content mastered and are comfortable enough to start playing with it and coming up with new stuff.

The initial feedback seemed pretty positive, too, and I got lots of very good questions. Total audience was 273, which is my biggest so far.

Of course, for the past week, even though I'm doing the two biggest presentations of my burgeoning speaking career so far, my big concern has been, "What's next?" Well the big thing that's next is getting the Denver speech video edited and packaged and sent off to potential speaker's bureaus.

But in the meantime I'd be happier with more engagements on the calendar. Nine speeches in the first five months isn't bad, but more would be better. As it happens, just this morning I heard back from another organization where I have a proposal out and they want to book me, though it won't be until late in the year.

More, more, more. Every organization on the planet needs to book me as a speaker. This is great stuff, damnit.

(Naturally, I wish they'd pick a better thumbnail for the video ... nothing is ever quite, quite right.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

These Pipes Are Clean

It's a little bittersweet getting rid of so much stuff.

I sold the last 85 CDs on Craiglist this weekend.

I remember many nights sprawled on the carpet in front of the stereo, listening along and reading the lyrics and liner notes, deciphering meanings and theorizing. Of course, all of that info can be found now on Google and wikipedia and Songfacts.

And I took the ol' hi-fi to the used stereo shoppe on Sunday.

I remember the various stereos I've had. The cheapo "all-in-one" from childhood, with the dials and switches instead of knobs. But I bought it myself with my paper route money. And the hand-me-down components from my brother, with the little needles twitching back and forth along with the songs.

Then finally my own quality stereo that I bought in 1995. Right about the time that compact stereos and mini-speakers became popular. So I had this gargantuan $1,000 mess on my hands.

And today I met with a friend who went through my baseball and football cards. We made a deal where he's going to price them out based on what he knows and sell the valuable ones individually and in lots and we'll split the profits. Which may or may not pay the cost of a decent lunch.

I was never a real collector. Over a few years starting when I was 7 or 8 I amassed a bunch of cards but never really curated or traded them. And, obviously, I just kept them in a succession of shoeboxes, so they're far from mint condition.

But some old cards for Gayle Sayers and Hank Aaaron and Reggie Jackson and OJ Simpson and Thurman Munson and Gaylord Perry and Willie Mays and others may be worth a little something. I think the only real attachment I have to them is that I've had them for so long. It's amazing my Mom never threw them out.

Next comes clothes. I used to be pretty good at getting rid of worn out or out-of-date clothes. Then I started doing theater and I thought, maybe I'll need this giant tweed blazer with the big shoulder pads for a role. Or these wingtips. Or these pleated pants. And some of them I have actually used. But no more. At least half my clothes are going out the door.

Then books. Then the many specialty glasses, steins and stemware that are so superfluous that I have to actually wash them before giving them away.

After that? My own personal indoor squash court.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rocky Mountain High

In the past four days I went from literal to figurative highs and a few things in between.

It started with two days of skiing at Keystone and Copper Mountain, Colorado. It was the first time I'd been in nine years, which is hard to believe. On one hand, I did pretty well. Went straight from greens to blues to a few pretty steep and tough blues. All in icy spring conditions.

Still, my technique was not terrific. I was making some of the mistakes in form that I'd had coached out of me years ago but forgot. I'm probably more controlled and less reckless than I was a decade ago. (I wasn't feeling quite ready for the blacks this time around.) But as I got tired toward the end of the day I'd let a leg slide out from under me and I took a few spills, including one pretty spectacular one.

It was fun, though. It is so beautiful up there. And quiet, when you're floating along on the lift with just the breeze whooshing in your ears. And peaceful as you look down and try to identify the animal tracks below.

From there we went back down to 5,000 feet for a presentation I did on Tuesday to a bunch of PR pros.

It was around 150 people, which is the biggest sized crowd I've spoken before. Hell, it's about the biggest I've performed for in any capacity.

So I was a little nervous. Part of it was the crowd and part of it was that I was having it videotaped, so I needed it to go smoothly from a technical and delivery standpoint.

And it seemed to go very, very well. Great chemistry with the crowd, lots of laughs, lots of enthusiastic feedback and new twitter followers. Best of all, the organizers bought a giant case of 48 books in advance, so I didn't even have to sweat the sales.

And soon I should have a nice professional video I can use to market myself and to pitch speaker's bureaus.

Bringing it all together, I was even able to use the skiing as material for my intro. Maybe I can deduct the lift tickets as research expenses? Hmmmm ...

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Let's Get Digital

I am in the final phases of digitizing my life.

Now that all my music is not only on my computer but in the cloud, I've been unloading my CDs. I sold half of them to used records shops but still have nearly a hundred to get rid of. Next up, Craig's List. And if I must ... I'll even give them away. Check out the list if you want some!

I've gone through my videos, thrown out some and took the rest to be converted to DVD. (To be followed by conversion to mpeg and storage on the computer.)

I went through 6 albums worth of photos, plus a big box of negatives and other photos that didn't "make the cut" for albumizing, winnowed them down to 1,406 and took them in for scanning. (The conversion people were naturally wowed by my organizational skills -- photos separated and banded into distinct albums and all documented in a spread sheet.)

And I'm taking my old stereo components -- receiver, CD changer, turntable, tower speakers -- and selling them for a cool 10% of what I paid for them lo those many decades ago. VCR, DVD player and three tube TVs will be next -- though only the city recycling center takes those now.

Oddly, though, I'm keeping my albums. Even without a turntable. They make a nice conversation piece.

Now if I could just convert all my books to digital (in some way other than repurchasing them, of course), I'll be able to fit my non-furniture possessions into the back seat of a Honda.

You know, just in case ...

Friday, March 02, 2012

Help: Giving and Getting

A funny thing has been happening lately. All kinds of requests and inquiries from people are coming seemingly from out of the woodwork.

I say seemingly because it's not like I'm suddenly putting myself out there more. I'm doing speeches and interviews and articles and blog posts and all the other things on about the same pace I've been doing them for a while now. And I'm not seeing any major surge in likes, comments, follows, page views or tweets.

But suddenly I seem to be on everyone's list:
  • A grad student doing research on the use of performance skills in professional training came across my work and wants to interview me.
  • A woman from New York in the final stages of interviewing at a big Wall Street firm wrote asking if I did coaching on how she could better present herself and negotiate her compensation package.
  • A young woman having what she called a "quarter-life crisis" wrote to me asking for career advice.
I tried to help all of them:
  • The grad student was actually surprised I wrote back (and so quickly). We're talking Monday.
  • The Wall Street woman was a tough one. I told her I'm not really scaled right now for the kind of coaching she's looking for, but we talked for about 20 minutes and I shared a few tips and anecdotes from my own experience. I even offered to look over any kind of talking points or messages she came up with.
  • And I talked the quarter-life crisis woman through some options and ways of thinking about next steps.
My feeling is, I want to try to help as many people as possible. I spend every day reaching out to people asking them for things -- can I be on your radio or TV show, would you consider me as a speaker, are you interested in a guest post/article, etc. So it's nice to be in a position to help others.

And maybe some good karma will come back to me. Indirectly or directly. Maybe the Wall Streeter will get the job and hire me to come into the company to speak or consult. You never know.

Of course I reserve the right to start saying no more often if it become overwhelming. But honestly this is what everybody should be doing -- helping others. Especially these days.

And I do have my limits. Here's an email I received this morning:

Hi, Rob -- My name is Melanie and I am a marketing associate at [redacted]. We recently came across and would love to work with you. Your book is such an impressive and entertaining resource for business people. We loved the blog post you shared about the law firm not looking outside their industry for creative ideas.

Please email me at [redacted] if you are interested in learning more. I look forward to hearing from you.
I actually had to read it a few times to understand what was going on. Are they asking for my services? Do they want to partner up on something? I determined it's just a fairly subtle (or very bad) sales pitch. Really odd. If you're going to pitch me, pitch me. Tell me what you offer and how I can benefit. Don't expect me to write back to "learn more." This is even worse than a hard sell, as it tries to be sneaky and insults my intelligence at the same time.

I've got a feeling this is just the beginning.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Shooting in North Carolina

A couple of weeks ago I got word that someone I knew from childhood ended his life in a pretty violent way. It was a barricade situation, and before killing himself he shot a police officer (who is recovering, thankfully).

I was not that close to Steve. We were Facebook friends, but he was one of those Facebookers who wasn't very engaged, and I hadn't seen him since maybe high school.

Truthfully, I had to dig out my old yearbooks to recognize who he actually was, and when I realized and remembered I felt even worse.

As I recall, Steve was a smart, funny kid. Kind of nerdy and brainy. So the way he went out just did not compute.

I learned from the news stories that the last year of his life was pretty tumultuous. Drugs, divorce, getting fired from his job. Apparently he was at the end of his rope and even warned a therapist just hours before that he was ready to do something drastic and violent.

Some people who knew him better and kept up with him are naturally pretty broken up about it, expressing guilt and remorse. It's hard to know what you can actually do for someone in that state -- how you could even recognize just how bad it is and find a way to intervene.

The whole episode is unsettling. I feel bad for him, his family (he had kids) and, of course, the wounded officer. It's also disrupted my view of these things. They're on the news practically every night -- man holed up in house, authorities trying to talk him down.

And you (I) always have a notion of the kind of person it is. Bad. Violent. Terrible upbringing. Loser. And then something like this happens. The Steve I knew, what little I knew, was nothing like that.

These are hard, hard times, and I think a lot of people are barely hanging on. I'll certainly look at these things with a different perspective and a little more empathy.

As one of my friends put it on Facebook the other day: "Thinking about the suicide of my closest childhood friend and how his life will probably be defined by his worst year."

I hope he found peace, and that the people he left behind manage over time to find their own.

Monday, February 27, 2012

What do I do with my arms???

These days I don't love too many photos of me, but I really like this one.

There's something about black-and-white. That and not facing the camera makes for a truly sophisticated and supremely artsy look.

Of course, let's not take anything away from the model. Certainly not that deftly held pencil. Seriously, do NOT take that away. It's so NATURAL!

It's ridiculous but true that photographers and directors are constantly awed by the authenticity of my gestures and object work. I guess they work with a lot of actors and models who forget how to hold a pencil or a coffee mug or fold their arms.

Which always brings to mind this classic bit from 30 Rock (What do I do with my arms??):

This one's not so bad either. But I prefer less of my face.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Easy Come, Easy Go

Last week I got offered an opportunity on the "business" side of my life that I was kind of torn about. Good money over a six-month period. Secure, fairly lucrative.

On the down side? A big time suck. Occasional travel that would disrupt other things, like auditions, bookings, media and speeches. Lots and lots of meetings and conference calls. Being part of a committee that's part of a giant global corporation. So progress in increments and all the other frustrations that come with trying to steer a giant ship with a tiny little paddle.

Not to mention a distraction from focusing on getting this speaking career launched.

Still, I thought hard about it overnight and decided to give it a go. What the hell, right? You never know what other opportunities it could open up. And in the meantime, there's always the money.

As with all these big projects that come along, I don't count my chickens until they're hatched. And so I wasn't too surprised when this morning I was told the client changed course.

I have to say I'm more relieved than disappointed. It just means I'll have to take this time I've now been given and really put it to use.


Monday, February 20, 2012

As Seen on TV

View more videos at:

And here's the video of yesterday's appearance on NBC Chicago. Other than an overuse of hand gestures and the word "well," I think it went great. Also, Stefan kind of butchered my name, but there's only so much I can do about that.

Anyway, this is not the time to pick. (I can do that tomorrow.) Now is the time to savor the moment. And leverage the video for other media and for speaking opportunities ...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Good Week

This week I am a multi-media phenomenon.

This morning I was on NBC Chicago's Sunday morning news talking with Stefan Holt about how we can all do a little more showing and a little less telling -- in presentations, job interviews and even dating. Video to come.

Thursday I'm doing a workshop for 25 people at a PR firm. The person who organized it saw me do a speech last month and booked me. For pay. Including a purchase of 25 books. (Which I have to get there early to sign.)

Friday morning I'm doing a radio interview. It's Internet radio, but I am told it's kind of a big deal in those circles. (I've inquired about getting the spelling of my name right.)

And between all that is another Internet radio program I recorded a couple of weeks ago. It airs Wednesday afternoon (and forever on demand after that). Not sure about this one. I deliberated on whether to even do it. I'll have to see how it turns out and whether it gets the results that have been suggested.

I want to be doing this stuff so much that I don't even have to think about it. With the TV interview this morning I was so careful last night about what I ate, what I drank, how much I slept, etc., because I wanted to make sure I did a good job. It turned out great -- probably in spite of all my care and concern and not because of it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How You Like Me Now?

Around this time last year, I was going back and forth with the publisher, working to get the book in final shape, and I was also thinking about the next stage: public speaking.

I checked out the criteria for the annual international conference of the biggest association of PR people in the world -- the Public Relations Society of America. They required references -- at least three people who could recommend me based on presentations I'd done in the last three years.

I was a little stymied. I had spoken now and again before groups large and small, from communicators to business people to students. But it was in no way an ongoing, organized thing, and I did not have the required references. So I passed.

This year as I filled out the application, I realize I've got nine references from just six months. And these aren't just any old speaking opportunities. They're in front of PRSA's Chicago chapter, one of the biggest in the nation. And the Chicago chapter's young professionals network. And next month I'll be keynoting a conference of all the Western chapters.

I'll be astounded if my application isn't accepted. (Though stranger things have certainly happened.)

Things never seem to move fast enough. Progress doesn't come quick enough. Results don't come soon enough. But when I poke my head up and have a look around, I see I've truly come a long way.

Monday, February 13, 2012

There goes the deductible

I had four doctors appointments in eight days.

It started with a sore, swollen elbow. After four days of self-treating, I was told by Dial-a-Nurse to seek medical care "within the hour." That sounded kind of serious, and after some contemplation I decided to take it seriously and made an appointment for that afternoon.

Diagnosis? Skin infection. They put me on a powerful antibiotic that had its own pretty difficult side effects. Though nowhere on the warning labels did say anything like "Do Not Take Alcohol," so my lifestyle wasn't heavily impacted. Other than general havoc to my digestive system.

The redness left and the swelling went down, but not all the way. So off to appointment #4 with the orthopedist for x-rays and and an exam. Diagnosis? Precisely as I called it in my original Internet research: bursitis.

So now I have a label for it and am back to what I was doing before calling Dial-a-Nurse: ice and advil, as opposed to the heat and antibiotics I was first on. I guess that wasn't pointless. I guess there was a mild infection at the beginning.

I'm guessing another week or so to totally get over the antibiotic, and supposedly another couple of weeks for the bursitis to go away.

It's been a mildly debilitating year. Pinkygeddon had me gimpy for a couple of months, then some small surgery in December restricted me for a few weeks. And now this.

If this is what it's gonna be like for the rest of this ride on earth -- one annoying ailment and injury after another -- I'd like a transfer.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Okay, this is cool

I am more excited about this than I should be: Act Like You Mean Business-branded candy bars.

It's a tactic -- a tiny one -- but I can't help it. I love them. The artwork came out beautifully, the reverse has a turn of phrase so clever I wonder where that instinct was back when we were struggling to name the book.

And there's also a sweet little QR code that links mobile users to the sample chapter on the website. They can choose a mobile-optimized version of it or can even download a pdf, which has all the original graphics.

I'll mostly be using them at presentations as incentives for participation. I've been using free books and that's costly. I can also use them as leave-behinds when I do TV and radio interviews. And I may actually use them in a pitch to a specific reporter ahead of Valentine's Day.

They're off to be printed and I should have them in my hands in a few days. So that was a nice end to the week. A couple of nice ends, actually. Today I got myself booked on NBC Chicago's Sunday morning news program, which I've been pitching for a while now.

And the success of that pitch has given me some ideas for going back to other places like WGN TV.

I needed some good news this week.

Monday, January 30, 2012

15 Ways to Help

Okay, that was a bit of a rant.

I know people are just trying to help, and marketing ideas are always welcome. But there are lots of ways to offer more substantive help. And I have asked -- in mass emails and hundreds of individual emails and messages as well as Facebook posts and actual letters and conversations and blog posts and other things.

So here, for the record, are 15 ways to help with the book (all but two of them cost you nothing but a little time):
  1. Buy a book. Available on Amazon or for $5 off at the book's website using the code "act5."
  2. Buy multiple copies of the book and give them out to people, as several loved ones have done.
  3. Like the Facebook page, and occasionally comment and even posts there if you want.
  4. Follow me on Twitter, and retweet things you like to your followers.
  5. Subscribe to the blog, and Like or comment on posts you enjoy.
  6. Circle me on Google+ and ... do whatever it is the few people who are active there do on Google+.
  7. Share a link to the book's website with your friends, followers, connections and others on any or all of the aforementioned sites. A number of people have done this.
  8. Email three people you know who you think might like or benefit from the book.
  9. Recommend me as a speaker/presenter to the HR Department or events manager where you work or to the organizers of a club, association or other group you belong to. A friend put my name in the hat with a group she belongs to and now I'm flying to Denver in March to be a keynote speaker.
  10. Tip me off to a favorite TV show, news segment, radio show, newspaper, industry journal or other thing you watch/read. Recommendations from friends tipped me off to a weekend show on WGN radio and Martha Stewart's radio network. Another asked me to write for his company's blog.
  11. Do you have a relationship with a reporter? Hook us up!
  12. Encourage your local library to order the book. A Facebook friend did this unsolicited.
  13. Do you know a college professor? One of my Facebook friends is using the book in his classes this semester. Another asked me to send a book to a professor friend, which I was happy to do.
  14. If you read the book and enjoyed it, write a review on Amazon.
  15. Write a testimonial.
I'm sure there's even more that I haven't thought of, but that'll do for now.

And, yes, ideas are always fine, too ...