Monday, August 2, 2010

My little red ropers

I had these red ropers when I was little. I loved them. They were a particularly nice paring to my Wranglers, custom belt-buckle, starched cowboy shirt and cowboy hat. Don't judge. You know you went through a 'western' stage right around the time of Garth Brooks' release of Ropin' the Wind.

What are ropers you ask? (as if that was the most disturbing part of the above paragraph) They're a style of cowboy boot. Duh.

[See image below for a visual: think a smaller version. They'll be cuter that way.]

Although I'm fairly certain I will never own a pair of these clown shoes again, they remind me a part of me I hope to never lose. The country girl in me.

My business partner and I have been brainstorming company names for a little more than a month now. We both happen to be from Kansas so we are hoping to incorporate some things from our roots. Although this process has given me a ginormous headache, I have appreciated the opportunity to dust off a few memories and explore some areas of my life that I didn't think would jive in this oh-so-fashionable city of Angels.

What I'm learning is that L.A. could use a little country. And although I didn't actually grow up on a farm, the days I spent in those sassy red ropers, stomping through the rodeo grounds and clutching the stirrups of my horse's saddle may be enough cowgirl to make a difference out here in the Wild West.

That said, I vow to keep the ropers as a childhood adornment and replace them with red stilettos. You know, as a reminder to keep things real in a more 'relevant' way.

[NOTE: For nostalgic purposes (and my mom, who may be the only one still reading this blog), I offer you the following gem]

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Who You Are

I was in another client meeting this week with my partner in crime and was asked, "So, I know what he does, but what do you do?"

You see, "he" is a graphic designer. It's quite obvious what his contribution to the whole branding process is.

My contribution ... not so visible.

So when I was asked, "what the hell are you here for?" (in fewer words) I sort of ... freaked out. I had been over this question a million times in my head. But let's face it, I'm with them when wondering why I'd pay for someone's 'perspective.' I believe they call it "intellectual property" now, but it doesn't mean the invisible is easy to fork over hard cash for.

The truth is. You're paying for my opinion. You're paying for my thoughts and ideas regarding how we best communicate who you are and why you should be a topic of conversation at the dinner table.

You're paying for the strategy ... the reason behind the killer logo and compelling website. And you may even pay me for some witty copy if you're into that sort of thing.

My problem with this question is that I always wonder if that's enough. And in this particular moment I really didn't have a choice but to tell him exactly what it is they were signing up for with me. Usually I add a few "tangible" things onto the list like, "And I'll also run your Twitter account and ...." This time I didn't. And the lesson I learned from my sudden restraint:

Don't over-sell. If you try too hard to be what you think they would need instead of offering solutions to problems through your unique skillsets, you pigeon-hole yourself into a situation that you will loathe. (Yes, loathe.)

And maybe the more significant lesson ...

Who you are will be enough to the right people.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Who are you?

I mean, who are you really?

Not, who you're trying to be, but ... you.

Go a head and answer. Guarantee it's not as easy as you think. Or maybe I'm just slow (which is always a possibility).

During a meeting with a client this week, there was a conversation around "uniqueness." You know, the "what differentiates you from all the other (fill in the blank)?" question. Which, by the way, is usually asked after the "who are you" question is answered with a jumbled mess of industry buzz words. So we ask again, "what makes you different than everyone else in your competitive grid?"

[Insert Silence. Lots of it]

They suddenly look as me as if i just attacked them. Like I just took that dream right off of the puffy rabbit-shaped cloud and sent it crashing to the ground. And I get it. This is a bit invasive. Overwhelming. Frustrating. It's embarrassing not to know the answer to a question that you, of all people, should be able to answer. Lucky for them, I know how hard it is. So before the self-depravation sends them into a panic, I chime in with some action steps and talk them gently talk them down from the ledge.

This part of the branding process isn't meant to be demoralizing, but when you realize what you've been doing all along is just some variation of what's already been done ... it's a bit of a slap in the face (especially if you've been a glorified copy-cat for most of your career/life. The horror sets in quickly with the thought of attempting to make the same living as ... yourself).

To become "reacquainted" with yourself, so-to-speak, is ... messy. It can bring up some things that have long been stored away. For some, the "what makes you unique" conversation reminds them of middle school and their "unique" frizzy hair, head gear or bi-focal glasses everyone else deemed as free comedic material. Ever since then, unique left a bit of a bad taste in their mouths. For others the word seems to fuel their arrogance and its over-use in their dialog makes it strangely ... forgettable.

Either way, the next time someone asks you what you're about, I hope you're able to tell them why you're different. Not just for the sake of being different ... but because you are ... even if you haven't given yourself permission to own it since that one day in science when someone accidentally lit your uniquely frizzy hair on fire.

The truth: you're no good to us as someone else. So, sit on it for a while and come up with an answer that actually suits you ... not the person you think they want you to be. And if that seems daunting and you can't get past the first question without driving yourself into an invisible riverbank, ask a friend or enemy your trust to give it to you straight. Guarantee they've seen it in you for a while now and they've just been waiting for you to figure it out yourself. And once the lightbulb goes off, it's time to own it. Got it? I'm serious. Don't even do this if you aren't ready to see what you're really made of.

Ok. Now go make it happen.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

remember that post about dreams?

As it turns out, there has been a bit of a merger between new, shiny, diversion dream and old, passion-fueled, unsafe dream.

Here's how it went down:
Ran into an old friend/band mate on a Sunday.
He invited me to an open house for this new vocal studio/bar/musicians movement he is spearheading in Hollywood Monday evening.
Monday evening, I go with husband in tow.
We meet said vocal coach and are on our merry way.
Meeting with old friend/band mate takes place a few days later regarding the details of all the new happenings.
Meeting is then scheduled with old friend/band mate's vocal coach partner friend for the following week to talk about a joint branding seminar for musicians.
Meeting with vocal coach partner friend goes well.
First meeting with vocal student is set for tomorrow.


What just happened?

This abrupt turn down the path of never-in-my-wildest-dreams has led me to freak out a bit. I wouldn't say more than usual, but it definitely funnels my paranoia into a specific area of my life for the time being.

I mean, it can't be this perfect can it? Isn't there a point where things are just too good to be true and the floor falls out from under your feet without so much as a warning?

A good friend of mine asked if I watched for falling anvils when I walked outside. My response, "No, not anvils ... pianos. Grand pianos. You can never be too prepared."

Of course I'm secretly hoping all this is happening because I've worked hard for it and have carved a nice little niche for myself based on deeply rooted passions. But I can't help feeling a bit unnerved (and tremendously guilty) that my career is creating itself before I even got the chance to develop a marketing campaign. Even worse ... had I planned this for myself, I most-likely wouldn't have taken it in this direction because I would have thought it impossible.

Here's to hanging on for dear life and giving myself permission to enjoy the ride every-once-in-a-while. (I'll let you know how the latter part goes shortly ...)

Friday, June 25, 2010

oh the insanity

I've heard it asked before in my line of business, "Can you do that 'iPhone thing' for us?"

And my typical response (in true justifiable sarcasm), "Sure! So you want to sign up for the 30-year contract then ... great! I could use the stable income!"

I mean, seriously? What is it with businesses thinking they can snap their fingers and create a following as loyal (and insane) as Apple's? And at what point did we all fail to acknowledge this movement of brand loyalists began long before the genesis of the iPhone?

This stuff takes time.

If you're willing to let it marinate for a while, you have a rare opportunity to get to know your consumer and what melts their butter. And because of that ... you are able to invoke behaviors out of said consumers that aren't particularly logical.

Like lining up in front of your store a day before a product launch.

I was never that person and, quite frankly, never understood it. Well, at least not until I met my husband. Now, I just consider myself an early adopter by default. Which is why I waited in line with my restless puppy and hundreds of other Apple fanatics for five and a half hours yesterday (IN THE RESERVED LINE) to be one of the first to have an iPhone 4.

The worst part of the entire experience was that I actually enjoyed myself and I would venture to say most people in line had a great time as well. So I may have sipped on the Kool-Aid a bit, but to my credit, it tasted really refreshing. And so did the free coffee and scones they serve to everyone in line for breakfast and the bottled water and candy bars they delivered for snacks. A part of me even wished I could have stayed a longer when they started handing out sandwich wraps, but my dog was out of poop bags and I was too afraid of getting jumped in the parking lot if I didn't move quickly.

All that to say, movements take time. Brand development takes time. And anyone who wants the 'iPhone thing' to happen to them, better be in it for the long haul. Which (in my book) means you sure as hell better believe in what you're doing - whether or not you have people camping out at your doorstep.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

the newbie

I went with a good friend of mine to a networking event last night. Typically I get a sick high off of working a room, but I have to admit, I was a little sheepish.

Ok, a lot sheepish. In fact, my introverted friend had to force me to introduce myself to someone.

Neither of us are used to being the "new people." And if we are, there is at least context to go with the conversation that makes things less ... awkward.

Take, for instance, a film festival. It may be in a new city and I may not know a soul (or anything about filmmaking for that matter), but we already have a foundation built for our conversation: film. I could talk about our film or any other film I happened to see that day. Hell, I could even BS my way through a basic "when I was on set" story.

But this ... this was different.

I felt like I was the person waiting for someone to come talk to me (and was hoping if anyone did approach us, they would set the topic of conversation so I didn't have to guess what was appropriate). Oh, and did I mention this group was for women entrepreneurs in L.A.? Talk about a broad subject base.

"So, what do you do?" Krysta
"Um. I run my own business." Member of aforementioned women's entrepreneur group
"Right." Krysta

No thanks. I'll pass on that dose of humiliation.

Luckily for my friend and I, another new (and much braver) attendee introduced herself and we had a fine conversation. We even exchanged business cards and vowed to check out her new tea shop in Hollywood.

And luckily for anyone who comes to an event I attend/lead in the future, I will be much more intentional about including you.

My suggestion to anyone reading: get out of your bubble if you haven't already. I mean ... really out of your bubble. You may learn a thing or two about yourself. For better or worse.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

adults are liars

I had the good fortune of meeting a young lady this week for coffee.

She just finished her first year of undergrad and has enough passion to keep the city of L.A. lit for a good 25 years. If you would like to meet her (which would only be to your benefit) click here.

As we were sitting there, chatting away, I realized ... I'm 10 years older than her.

How did that happen? I mean, wasn't I just in undergrad myself? And how did I become the person offering career/life advice as if I've got it all figured out?

Then it came to me: Adults are liars.

There. I said it.

When I was 18, I was convinced I was going to change the world. So I met with older, wiser people about how I should prepare for that sort of undertaking.

They had no idea what to do with my gangly, frizzy-haired self. Thank God I ended up getting a "real" career mentor who wasn't afraid of my wild ideas and certainly never requested I be tamed.

I had a gazillion passions that I would later learn funneled back to a core belief that people just need permission to do what they were created to do. (Which, consequently requires a bit of branding and business acumen). But who can make money doing that, right?

As I was sitting there listening to mini-me (only much more intelligent and entrepreneurial than I ever was as 18), I couldn't help but think I don't belong at the big-kid table yet. And I don't think many others do either. Because we don't have it figured out anymore than we did 10 years ago. Our businesses, our lives and certainly the trajectory for our futures are messy and a bit blurry. Yet, the 28-year-olds I remember having conversations with when I was 18 had me convinced that they had it together.

And maybe that made them feel better about themselves ... for a few minutes. But if they were anything like I was the other day, they probably walked away wishing they were 18 again. When passion was plentiful and dreams were endless.

Either way, I've been revived. I was reminded of what it felt like to believe I could do anything. And more importantly, I was reminded that when you're doing what you could only have dreamed of at 18, it's time to start dreaming again.

Oh. And If you're younger than 38, I don't trust you to tell me the truth. God knows you don't have it figured out yet either.