Opting out(side)

rei-optoutsideIt’s no secret that the mere thought of Black Friday sends shudders down my spine. It’s also no secret that I love good marketing–which, thronging hordes of turkey-belching people aside, is a big part of my aversion to this crazy day. (Read why HERE.) I stoically refuse to join the masses and stay home. Every. Single. Year.

Yesterday I came across an organized alternative to the shopping frenzy, and I rejoiced. In fact, I’m still rejoicing.

The surprising part is that the alternative comes from a retailer. Instead of discounting to the masses, REI has decided to close all 143 of its stores and encourage employees (and customers!) to go outside. If you aren’t impressed, remember that Black Friday is the biggest retail shopping day of the year.

Still not impressed? The company will pay its 12,000 employees anyway.

No revenue + paying employees = an expensive proposition.

That’s taking a stand for your brand.

And that’s why I love this idea so much. Who better to promote outdoorsy-ness than REI, a seller of outdoor gear and clothing, a company which professes that “for 76 years our passion has been to bring you great gear to get you out, too”?

Sure, giving up a (big) day of sales is a gamble for a retailer, but oh, how very authentic its brand just became for me. The company believes so much in its mission (“we are dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship”) that it intends to make the mission a reality–not just a sales gimmick.

And that’s the brilliant part of branding: walking the talk.

It’s what makes people seek you out. It’s what keep them coming back. It’s what builds your tribe.

When people believe what you say about yourself because they see you doing it, they trust you. With that trust, you start building loyalty. If you’re an individual, that’s how you make friends. If you’re a company, that’s how you grow your customer base.

Sure, REI is taking a risk with this move. It may prove too expensive for them to be able to ever do again, but I’m betting it will pay off in the long run. After all, when you focus on fulfilling the mission and not the sale, you usually end up succeeding at both. I really, truly believe that.

While I wait to see how it turns out, I’m joining the movement; I’m going to #OptOutside. Kudos, REI, for the on-point brand lesson.

Read the Forbes article about #OptOutside HERE.

Check out the REI Opt Outside website HERE.

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Stop the madness (again)

Sometimes I can’t seem to stop escalating an argument–or a non-argument. When I stumbled across this post in the archives, it felt right to dig it back out. I wish I would have remembered this a few times over the last couple of months. Oh well, it’s not unusual that I have to re-learn the most important lessons!

Every now and then, someone sends me a message that really ticks me off. These messages are generally short, snarky, and pointless, designed simply to throw a barb my way for a perceived slight. I don’t get mad when I’ve really done something wrong–humble and embarrassed, maybe, but not mad. Strangely, it’s the undeserved barbs that hit their mark.

I got one of those messages this morning. I can thrust and parry with almost anyone when it comes to words, and I quickly typed my equally snarky response. And then I retyped it. And retyped it. I continued honing it to get it just right. With my cursor hovering over the send button, I hit delete instead. On purpose.

I’ve never done that before.

I’ve always risen to the challenge right along with my hackles. I respond in kind (that’s a funny expression when the response is usually not kind at all), and I end up sputtering and seething. And the cycle continues. No one needs that.

Inexplicably, this time I realized some key points. First, I didn’t act inappropriately to this person. Second, I didn’t owe him an explanation for anything. Third, he knows how to push my buttons, and I was poised to let him do it. By the time he had sent the message, he was already on to the next thing. Why should I spend the rest of my day stewing in this one?

It was up to me to continue the madness, and for once, I didn’t. I deleted my response, deleted, his email, and–writing this post notwithstanding–moved on. For whatever reason, I realized that it only takes one person to stop the madness. Anyone can be that person; today it was me.

Music to my ears

I’m not the world’s best parent. Truth be told, I’m not even close. Once in a while, though, I get something right.

With two teenagers and a dog in the house–and me as the antithesis of Suzy Homemaker–the messes and chores never end. I keep looking to my kids for relief. Their able bodies should be able to unload the dishwasher or fold a load of laundry, or even *gasp* hang up their coats.

And, grumbling notwithstanding, they usually do–when I ask.

Futilely, however, I keep hoping that they will notice what needs to be done and just do it. After all, the dishes don’t magically disappear. Without a list or a specific request, though, I’m convinced my kids have tunnel vision in the house. This panics me, because I wonder how they will ever manage on their own.

Note to self: continually dropping passive aggressive hints does not work.

Like putting all the clothes from the bathroom floor into the sink. (They just use a different one.)

Or wondering aloud if I am the only one who ever loads the dishwasher. (No reaction.)

Or asking why that coat is on the table, again. (I really had to go to the bathroom when I got home, so I just threw it down. [Yet there it remains.])

Note to self: nagging does not work.

Who is going to do this stuff when you live on your own?

You left your dishes in the sink–AGAIN.

Your bathroom is a disaster!

And if one of those tactics doesn’t work alone, neither does an alternating chorus of them, nor does repeating them over and over. And over. It just becomes the equivalent of shouting at a person who doesn’t understand the language.

Finally I smartened up and tried something new. When I leave the house, I don’t give them a specific list of chores anymore. They’re clearly not learning from that. Instead, I give them a number and vaguery.

Today I want you to do three meaningful things around the house. You get to pick what those are, but they have to have significance. (Folding three pieces of laundry in one load does NOT constitute three things.)

Holy moly. The results I got with that approach far outweighed anything else I had tried. It forced them to take note of their surroundings and self-evaluate (is it enough?). The first time, I got a clean toilet, a clean kitchen, and a vacuumed floor. Oh, joy of joys!

I don’t know why we (read: I) don’t look at our home lives like we look at our professional or social lives. We fall into ruts and don’t even think about changing them. People are people, and the same principles apply: if someone doesn’t get it, increasing the volume won’t help. Change the way you communicate.

Stop nagging and get creative.

Inspired interruptions

Fry-lightbulb-on-forehead1I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a brilliant idea–absolutely, positively the best one ever.

And then *poof* it was gone. Disappeared into the ether. A faint contrail in my cerebral atmosphere. The footprint of a memory.

Too often, when thoughts flit through my consciousness, I swat them away instead of grabbing them. Usually it’s because I’m busy. I need to finish writing a brief, make dinner, wrap up an email. I think, Ooh, you’re a good one! Hold on a sec while I finish this up. I’ll get right back to you.

The trouble is, I don’t always get back to it and that germination of an idea dries up and blows away for lack of nurturing.

Or when I do jot it down, it finds its home in the margins of a notebook used for something else, on a post-it note that loses its grip and flutters to the floor, or on the back of a grocery list that gets crumpled in the bottom of my purse.

How many ideas have I missed because I let the good ones go?

How many problems have gone unsolved?

How many times have I settled for less?

We all have good ideas, big ones and small. It’s not about not having the inspiration; it’s about being willing to embrace it when it comes.

Inspiration rarely descends upon us when it is convenient. Don’t resist the interruption.

***On another note, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to RLK, my BFF and rock in all storms!***

Babes and their mouths

Bhs_int_classroom_ssWinter weather has arrived, and with it have come the requisite school closures. This year, my kids have the benefit of e-learning: online coursework assigned on cancellation days to keep them in the swing of things and, more importantly, to allow the school to avoid tacking extra days to the end of the year.

Lately my 13-year-old daughter has been asking me to take her to school on those days. (Strangely, though the weather is bad enough to cancel school, they open the doors for kids to come in and access their computers.) I questioned her about this.

Last night you begged and pleaded and hoped for a cancellation. Now that you’ve got it, you want to go to school. What’s up with that?

She told me that while she didn’t like to be IN school, she liked to be AT school. And I couldn’t argue one bit with what came out of her mouth next.

School just ruins the purpose of learning, Mom. Learning is so much fun, but the way they want to define everything by a letter just messes everything up. It takes away the incentive to really learn anything–just what they want you to know for the test.

I’ve long been concerned for the dwindling critical thinking skills in our society, (see one of my very first posts HERE), but my middle schooler got to the heart of the issue better than I ever could. If we just start with what she said and get back to really learning–asking questions, making discoveries, connecting the dots–the rest might just take care of itself.

Give that girl an A.

Language lessons

Recently I worked on a side project that fell just a bit outside my realm of experience. It wasn’t that I hadn’t done similar things before; I just hadn’t done that particular thing. I viewed it as a surmountable challenge, and I dove in.

I made a few calls, asked a few questions, and got what I needed to move forward: the right words. You see, I knew what I needed to accomplish, but I didn’t know how to talk about it in a way that would make sense to the right people.

So I put myself out there and asked questions. I asked them until I could describe my subject in the vernacular of people in the know. The conversation to get there went something like this:

Me: Hi! I’m working on this project and I need to do XYZ. I also need a bit of an education.

Guy on the phone: Sure. Will you help me understand what you’re looking for?

*He asks as few specific questions, which I answer.*

Guy on the phone: Oh, you need [specific term].

Simple as that. Once I knew what to call my project, I was home free. My Google search results changed dramatically when I knew what to input. I found the right people to contact and could describe the project in their terms. Now I could get things done.

It’s funny how finding a simple key to a situation makes me giddy. And of course, I analyzed the heck out of it so I could boil it down to a couple of key lessons. First, don’t be afraid to ask questions–ask people who know and keep asking them till you get what you need. Second, speaking the right language gets results. When it comes down to it, words do matter.

Keynotes

mos cardAs you might expect, my recent job change brought a few surprises with it. Realizing how challenging it is to be new at everything. Opening my closet door to find to find a stockpile of clothing that no longer seems appropriate. Being able to have lunch with my mother during the workday for the first time ever. Struggling to find a new writing routine. Something that surprised even my surprised self, however, was the attention generated by the announcement of my new venture.

My new company announced my arrival with a press release–pretty standard fare. In my previous position, I had even written several of those for others. The part that surprised me was the way others viewed the PR as a marketing opportunity. My grad school alma mater tweeted it to tie the success of an alumna to its own value. A local auto dealership sent me a letter outlining the advertising opportunities it offers. The Jehovah’s Witnesses sent me several tracts and a handwritten note that tried desperately to explain a nebulous connection between them and my new job. I found this all very fascinating.

I did, however, find one missive to be very well executed. I received a tasteful, well-written note from an upscale restaurant offering nothing more than congratulations–and a $25 credit with no strings attached. Brilliant. No gimmick, no expectation. The restaurant gave something to me; it didn’t expect something of me. Now, $25 won’t go far at that particular restaurant, but the gesture does make me inclined to pay it a visit.

What a terrific illustration of the potency in valuing people, of being willing to give in good faith in order to build a relationship, of giving people reasons to want to come to you, not to have to.

There’s a lesson in everything, even one little note.

P.S. Click on the photo above and read the card if you have a chance. What it said made all the difference. Words do matter.