Of Music and Inspiration…

After thinking about my last post a little longer, I realized that finding something you really love to do often takes inspiration. This idea has changed some for me in the past few years because I have a wife and daughter who I love simply to spend time with. So, when I talk about needing inspiration to do something I love, I’m looking to do something productive that reaches outside of my family.

In that regard, I’ve found inspiration in a number of things. Music, though, has always proved to be a powerful motivator. I don’t know if it matters what type of music, but it helps if it’s either loud or at least playing through headphones because music is meant to be felt – not simply heard.

It’s sort of a mood-thing – the right music for the right time. Right now I’m listening to some mixes at designers.mx; I started on Let’s Make Sweet Pixels 2, then moved to How Each Friend Departed for a few songs and then realized that I needed something more mellow and… I’m not sure what to call it, but I found it on Night Tremors.

Sometimes I think that I use the music to help block out a portion of the crazy thoughts in my head long enough to focus on creating something.

Whatever the reason, whatever the inspiration, just find some and then do something you love – something that will shake the world and make it better because you found your inspiration.


1 Step to Happiness and World Transformation: Do Something You Love

This post is simple – Do something you love today.

In fact, do something you love – every day. I can’t image a better way for us to transform the world than for us to sit down and think “What can I do, create, change, etc… today that would really make me happy?” and then do it.

Some would argue that I’m empowering people to live self-indulgent lives and even do things that would harm others.

I would tell those people that I’m not concerned about bad people doing bad things – they’ll do those things if I encourage them to or not. I’m concerned with encouraging good people to do good things. And doing good will come naturally to good people because it’s what they really love to do. I’m convinced that happiness can only be maintained by doing good consistently.

And I’m sorry if you don’t agree.

Well, maybe I’m not. Go do something you love and let me know if it made you happy – if it didn’t, maybe you should reevaluate what you love.

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
– Unknown

6 Things You Can Learn from Groupon’s Marketing

I’ve been on Groupon’s mailing list for a little while and have noticed their freakishly fast growth. I wondered if there were some magical marketing ideas that I could glean from them. So, in the spirit of “talent borrows; genius steals”, here are 6 things that we can all learn from Groupon’s marketing machine:

1. Have a Mobile Version of Your Website… That Works.

I’m not sure how else to say this, so, a lot of mobile websites suck. They are hard to use, they don’t have all the main features of the full site or they have features that don’t work. Groupon’s mobile website, however, is like a cool ocean breeze on a hot day of bad web programming.

This dawned on me the other day when I opened a Groupon e-mail on my iPhone and clicked (tapped?) a link. Up came my browser with the expected content in a readable font with a few, big buttons as calls to action that gave me all the options I needed and wanted (including a large “Buy Now” button, since that’s what they ultimately want users to do).

And that is exactly what we need in our mobile sites: speed, clarity of content, big, easy-to-tap buttons and relevant calls to action that look good on a phone.

2. Be Consistent

Green and dark gray. That’s who Groupon is. From their e-mails to their website to their mobile app, you are always well aware that you still in the Groupon ‘system.’ And it’s basically seamless – the image they use in the e-mail is the same image you see on the landing page and is the same image they use in the app. Why? So users don’t get lost.

I’m going to say that again “they are consistent so their users don’t get lost.” No one wants to reorient themselves when they click a link – they’ll just leave your site and find another that is more simple; and trust me, there are other sites that do what you do.

3. Focus Your Message

Why do people use Groupon? To buy products and services at a discount. So, why would Groupon want to talk about or promote anything else?

They wouldn’t.

And they don’t.

I’m not sure I can be any clearer than that.

4. Maintain a High Level of Quality

I would never dream of seeing an e-mail from Groupon with a typo – maybe it happens, but it would definitely be the exception. Their bar-setting quality standards go beyond just making sure they’ve proof-read their communications (I mean, we all do that… right?); their clean, high-quality look is accentuated in their layouts, choice of colors and images they use for their deals.

Let me be bold enough to say, “If you don’t have a super-creative graphic designer on your marketing team, you need to hire one or get a contract with an outside agency.” It’s no coincidence that Groupon’s website conforms to the 960 Grid System (www.960.gs) or that their main color is green (the color of cash); most importantly, it’s no accident that they proof-read their writing. It’s a very intentional level of quality from very creative, very professional graphic artists and writers. And you need some of those.

5. Participate on Facebook A LOT

Groupon posts a status update every couple of hours – from links to their deals to job listings to videos of llamas, they are active with share-able content and their followers love them for it.

Their sales team loves them for it, too. Why? Because they are keeping Groupon top-of-mind for their customers and giving people ample opportunity to share a Facebook post with their friends, thus getting more fans. Sales people love fans because fans buy things.

I’m not suggesting you start posting non-sense on your Facebook wall – but if you want people to talk about you, and interact with you, you need to post things that your target audience will enjoy reading and, more importantly, sharing. And you need to do it with a frequency that lets people know you’re still there.

6. Have Fun with It

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Groupon shared a link on Facebook to a video of a llama and a cat interacting with each other. On top of that, their posts look like they were written by a real person.

That might be the bigger thing to remember – your customers are real people and they expect to interact with real people. The best way for you to show that your company is full of real people is when you can have fun with what you do. You don’t have to post links to llamas on your Facebook page or website, but you need to find a way to bring a human-touch back to your marketing.


*Full disclosure: at the time of writing, the author has no relationship with Groupon outside of occasionally using their service. And I like coupons.

Did I miss something that you think is important? Or do you not agree with any of those? Let me know in the comments – I’ll make sure to argue loudly if I don’t agree.

5 Things I’ve Learned about Change from my Baby Daughter

Growing and changing takes a lot of work and no one knows that better than a baby. Babies learn how to eat, sleep, move, play, walk and talk in the course of about 2 years – and we complain about learning new skills to jump to a new career. Change isn’t easy, but it is intuitive; here are 5 things that my baby daughter showed be about change:

1. There’s always a reason for change

Babies don’t do much when they’re first born. They eat, sleep, poop and repeat. Oh, and they cry when any of those activities is delayed. Babies also wouldn’t survive very long like that if left alone, so they need to learn to eat on their own, go to sleep by themselves and how to clean up when the need arises. If babies did not change when the call to change came, they would not be around long enough to do fun things that adults do – like read articles.

And you and I won’t be around long enough to do the fun things that successful people do if we’re not willing to change based on the need that arises.

2. You must push yourself to change

The hardest thing for me to learn as a dad was that sometimes I needed to let my little girl work hard at something, get frustrated and then figure it out. For instance, a mandatory practice called “tummy time”.

Tummy time is a routine of 20 minutes a day where you put your baby in the one position that she is almost never in – on her belly. This generally made my baby mad. “Why,” I thought, “Would I want to put her on her belly if all she’s going to do is cry? That’s just mean.” Well, apparently, tummy time helps babies strengthen their necks so they don’t look like bobble-heads all the time. Babies need to be ‘forced’ to lay in an unfamiliar position in order to change for their own good.

Sometimes we all need to force ourselves into unfamiliar, uncomfortable positions in order to achieve the change that we need.

3. Change can alter the way you see the world

When my daughter was only a few weeks old, I remember my mom saying, “Babies will get more fussy whenever they do something new.” At first, I didn’t think that made sense; wouldn’t the baby be happy that she figured out how to do something? Wouldn’t she pat herself on the back for a job well done?

I found that babies can’t reach their backs… and that they get fussy when they do something new. A nurse at a local mommy-and-me (and occasional daddy-and-me) program explained it this way: she said, “When babies do something new, like walk, they are basically rewiring a part of their brain – and that can be stressful because their perspective literally changes; from being on the floor to standing on two feet.”

So, then, don’t be afraid when you do something new and find that your perspective has changed – take a minute to catch your breath, relax and then look around and see what new doors are now within reach.

4. Necessity drives pace

Have you ever noticed a baby’s arms in proportion to her head? My wife had to point this out to me. If you put her little hands up as high as they will go – it’s only about to the side of her head. Now, lift your hands up as high as they will go.

See how much longer they are than your head and neck?

Get to the point – OK. Basically, it is more important for a baby’s brain to grow than it is for her arms and legs; so her head gets bigger and bigger while her little appendages take a while to catch up (like 13 years – hence the middle school awkwardness).

The pace of your change will be set by the necessity of that change – and if you get your priorities out of order, you’re going to end up with really big arms and a really small head.

5. Sometimes, you just need to cry it out

I hate when my baby cries; it’s one of the most heart-wrenching sounds I’ve encountered. What I’ve found, though, is that sometimes it’s good for her to cry. As she has been learning to sleep on her own, she will default to wanting my wife or me to hold her while she drifts off to wonderland. And although I would love to rock her to sleep the rest of her life, that gets unreasonable at a certain age – in fact, I would be doing my daughter a disservice if I picked her up every time she was crying in her crib as she would have trouble figuring out how to sleep when I can no longer be the one to do it for her.

This is a hard lesson to learn – but believe me, when you’re on the verge of tears and about to give up, just cry it out and keep pushing forward; you’ll be glad you did.

Has your baby taught you anything notable? Or maybe you learned about change from another unlikely source – let me know in the comments.

Because no one should wait for justice

Sex Trafficking exists and is shockingly huge.

I’ve been following the work of International Justice Mission (IJM) for a few years and really like what they do. Part of their work is informing the public about what is going on globally and in our own backyards (the week of the Super Bowl is one of the largest sex trafficking events in the US every year).

IJM in 2010 released a Factsheet on Sex Trafficking:

The Facts

  • After drug dealing, human trafficking (both sex trafficking and trafficking for forced labor) is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today, and it is the fastest growing. (U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services)
  • Worldwide, there are nearly two million children in the commercial sex trade. (UNICEF)
  • There are an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 children, women and men trafficked across international borders annually. (U.S. Department of State)
  • Approximately 80 percent of human trafficking victims are women and girls, and up to 50 percent are minors. (U.S. Department of State)
  • The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion. (U.N.)
  • Sex trafficking is an engine of the global AIDS epidemic. (U.S. Department of State)

I don’t know if I can say anything that those facts don’t already, but let me emphasize something: Two million children are in the commercial sex trade.


That’s more than the population of 6 of the top 10 cities in the US (Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas and San Jose). If one of us saved 1 child out of the sex trade every day, it would take us 70 lifetimes.

Unfortunately, you and I only get one lifetime. And this is where IJM comes in.

IJM works with local governments and law enforcement (and international law enforcement if needed) to find, free and rehabilitate child, women and men who are subjected to the terrors of the sex trade and other slavery/oppression/unlawful treatment that are around. I encourage you to check out their work at http://www.ijm.org and consider joining their mailing list and maybe volunteering or donating.