What Would You Tell the 25 Year-Old You?

A post on LinkedIn by Inc. columnist Jeff Haden has been making the rounds. In it, Haden reflects on some of the things

Annie The Musical,

Annie The Musical, (Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer)

he might have told his younger and less experienced self. He makes some strong points that would likely sound jaded to his younger self, including #14: “Don’t expect to get back what you give.”

No kidding.

Haden ends by asking “What would you tell your younger self?” Not an easy question to answer.

I’m not sure that I’d want to be able to offer advice to my younger self. Because part of growing up means letting go of everything that you think you once knew and much of what you held important. It means holding onto your core self, values and passions while discovering and excavating your long-term self. It means learning from those awful, painful life experiences that you thought would crush the life out of you, but never actually did.

During a bout of end of year office cleaning, I found a now worthless stock certificate for a company I’d helped co-found during the height of the initial Dot-Com boom. I did a double take at the number of zeros after the initial 1,4 and 7. And then another. Because well over a decade after the fact, that piece of paper isn’t worth upwards of a million dollars, but more like a great big round of zeros.

So my best advice to myself right now? Let life change you, but don’t let it break you. If I’d have known at 25 that I’d be capable of building great things that would then fall mercy to the vagaries of the business world and stock market, I might never have tried to build anything at all. And I’d certainly never have learned how to be smarter and more resilient both personally and professionally. Had I warned my 25-year-old self not to fall head over heels in love with the wrong men, I’d never have known the qualities to look for in the right one. Had I warned my 25-year-old self that I might face not so subtle sexism and overt racism and repeated condescension in a work place and world that claimed these things no longer existed, I might have given up instead of continuing to move forward. Had I warned my 25-year-old self that I’d fail more often than I succeeded, I might not have realized or appreciated the caliber of my success and just how sweet it tasted after facing ongoing adversity. And had I known just how hard it all was and continues to be, I might have despaired and given up.

So I’m not sure that I would have told my 25-year-old self much of anything.

Or maybe just one thing: Don’t ever lost your optimism.

And I haven’t yet.

Back With a Vengeance…

…Or perhaps a whimper.

iPhone voice memo

iPhone voice memo (Photo credit: James Cridland)

Maybe even a clever quip or two.

The thing is that after a year of incredible upheaval and dramatic change, it’s time to start fresh–but not start over. So here’s the deal, we’re going to be spending a lot more quality time together in 2013.

That’s all for now, but watch this space for updates and news (or at the very least, more frequent blog posts)

Wu Hoo!

Following their recent success with Missoni, Target will be launching a collaboration with designer Jason Wu, best known for designing Michelle Obama’s gown for the inauguration.*

WASHINGTON - MARCH 09:  First lady Michelle Ob...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Last year, I pontificated in the style pages of Metro about the trend of high fashion couture designers including Versace and Karl Lagerfeld pairing with lower end or mass market retailers. I don’t mean to get all cranky, but I find myself somewhat troubled reading NPR’s dismissive description of the cult Missoni brand “Few people had heard of Missoni until the venerable Italian fashion house partnered with Target last year. The launch made headlines after Target’s website crashed from all the traffic.” Just because people can’t afford couture clothing doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t aware of them. The site crashed in part because Target also underestimated their brand aware purchasing public’s desire to own affordable, limited edition designer goods and didn’t properly shore up their web structure.

The idea behind design collaborations of this nature is to connect new consumers with classic brands that are usually out of their price range. It adds an element of instant glamor to a mass market retailer and a quick infusion of cash and attention to brands that might be struggling despite the hype that the luxury market hasn’t suffered due to the economy. In a depressed economy anything that spurs sales seems like a great idea.

*(I thought of following NPR‘s lead and describing it as her inaugural gown, but then wondered at the fashion & grammatical implications of making it sound like it was the first gown she’d designed).

The $25,000.00 Deal

Companies like Groupon create unique buying deals and heavily discounted flash sales on anything from

English: An oven mitt. Français : Une main cha...

Image via Wikipedia

fencing or massages to yoga and permanent hair removal. They count on huge quantities of sales to spur buying and brand recognition. Reviews are mixed on the long-term benefits for the companies partnering with Groupon, with some small business claiming their deals ruined their business.

I noted a curious come on the other day with a fairly startling price tag– a private cooking lesson with Chef Todd English for only $25,000.00. This steal also includes signed copies of his book and a double thumbed oven mitt.

I’ll admit to being baffled. If you’re a company appealing to bargain hunting luxury lovers, then $25,000.00 seems a fairly steep price (even for a package that includes a double thumbed oven mitt). If you’re appealing to the alleged still thriving luxury market , then the panache factor seems to be lost, since bargain hunting just doesn’t seem to be their thing ($88 million dollar apartment buying offspring of oligarchs, I’m looking at you).

If however, you’re trying to light a fire under your company around holiday time by getting marketers and journalists all hot under the collar trying to figure out your motivation and then give you as much (virtual) ink as possible, well then my friends….You’ve likely launched the next $1,000.00 frittata.

Bon Appetit & Happy Holidays!

Think Before You Link(In)

You’re going about your day when an e-mail arrives in your inbox from a complete stranger, forgotten

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

colleague or past co-worker with that one tedious line: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

If your mind is like the proverbial steel trap, you’ll instantly remember your connection and be able to decide whether or not the contact is interesting or worth your while. If you’re like most people though, you’ll likely be racking your brains to recall who this so-called friend is, why you lost touch in the first place and why you’d choose to reconnect so publicly.

Worse yet, is when you actually click on LinkedIn and find your proposed connection’s information to be hazy or mysterious. While some people find LinkedIn to be a powerful business tool, others find it to be yet another time-wasting variation on social networking. Whatever your experience is, why would you waste the time of someone you’re trying to connect with and the potential of working together again? If you’ve been too lazy to personalize your note to them in any way, why would you think it appropriate to then ask them for a recommendation on the site? And yes, this just happened to me, repeatedly.

So before you send out your next request on LinkedIn, Take a minute to craft a personalized note or invitation. If you think they may have forgotten you, briefly remind that person how you know each other, invite them for lunch or a quick phone catch up. While generic works, it’s so much better to stand out. And if you’re going to ask someone for a recommendation, make sure that they’ll have something nice to say about you before hitting send!

On Mid-Century Mash Ups & Ice Cube

I am a bit enamored with Mid-Century fashion, style and design*.  Some might say obsessed. So I salivated somewhat on hearing about the new exhibit at the Getty Institute “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980,” which explores the postwar Southern California art scene.

I was a bit confused though, by some of the posters, including one of the rapper Ice Cube celebrating Mid-Century design darlings Charles and Ray Eames. Their style, ethos and aesthetics seemed incongruous at best, with those expressed or articulated by Mr. Cube*.

According to a recent New York Times article, it would seem that Ice Cube studied architectural drafting in the ’80s. He has a particular fondness for the mix and match and recreate ideals of the Eameses which he likens to sampling or mash-ups, the musical equivalent of combining seemingly unrelated music elements to create a new iconic sound.

Best yet, Ice Cube expressed an inspiring world view on life, business success:

What I learned from architectural drafting is that everything has to have a plan to work. You just can’t wing it…

Whether it’s a career, family, life — you have to plan it out.

And as evidenced by the Eameses and Ice Cube – plan anything well enough, and it will seem to effortlessly fall into place.



*I literally wrote the book on it- Hello Gorgeous! Beauty Products in America ’40s-’60s which will be reissued in 2012

*Insert your own cheap and easy joke about Cubism here

How To Ace On-Camera Interviews

If you happened to be in Times Square on Tuesday and looked up at just the right moments, you’d have

sneaked a peak of me, or at least a picture of me, four stories high and gracing the PR Newswire building. My celluloid self was promoting a live Twitter chat interview with me on how to look and act your best while on-camera.

Amazingly enough, while I’m mostly at ease on camera and on the radio (that morning I taped a series of interviews about the new Coke holiday can design), I found the Twitter interview format fraught with unexpected hiccups. Like how do you sound interesting, engaged, amusing and professional while furiously typing 140 character snippets that also had to include a hashtag?

I’ll let you be the judge of how well I did – the recap is here.

Say What You Mean. Mean What You Say.

I loved this post by Dan Pallotta in the Harvard Business Review in which he states that he really doesn’t


Image by Robert.Nilsson via Flickr

understand what people are saying in business conversations anymore. Between acronyms and meaningless expressions, he’s found that people blather on without really saying much. Before you engage in your next bout of corporate double talk, try to take a step back and think about what you really want to say and if the popular or accepted expressions help you to say it best.

ISNBIBMOM (I’ll stop now, before I begin my own meanderings.)

On Bras and Branding

I’m something of a word geek and eagerly await my word of the day e-mails. Today’s treat was Cacique or

1869 tobacco label portraying Boss Tweed, from...

Image via Wikipedia

“A local political boss” originating from the Spanish. The only Cacique I’d previously heard of was the plus-size lingerie line from Lane Bryant.

I’d never previously given the word or brand much thought. When I did, I imagined it to mean something sexy or flimsy, or a word invented by the marketing team to sound just French enough, while expressing supportive yet alluring products.

On the one hand, I can see how Lane Bryant might have chosen the brand name to express a certain bold and powerful woman wearing their products. On the other hand, it makes the brand seem a little cheaper or more obvious and a whole lot less sexy.

Then again, company names like Wacoal or Vassarette don’t seem to have influenced buyers’ habits one way or another, and Victoria’s Secret seems more than a bit obvious.

5 Questions for Joel Stein

I’m fortunate to know a lot of interesting people personally, professionally, peripherally and virtually. Some of them have cool careers or unusual outlooks on work, fun or life in general. A lot of them are leaders in their industry or have carved out an interesting career niche for themselves.

Some of them have been kind enough to agree to let me interview them for 5 Questions for the Interroblog. Their quirky outlooks or creative ways of doing their job have inspired me and I hope their words, wit and wisdom will offer inspiration to you as well.

First up is Joel Stein who describes himself as “Just a Time magazine columnist who is finishing a book.”

Interroblog: I noticed your new signature:
I have changed my email signature to this, because I’m a self-promoting tool:
My first book, Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity, comes out on May 22.
Elegantly understated. How do you feel about the fact that not only do you have to write these days, but you have to promote yourself as well? Has it taken any of the joy out of writing? Have you learned any fun tricks you’d like to share?
JS: I am psyched for the publicity part. The writing part is the part that sounds awful. All the authors who complain about the publicity – I don’t get that. You chat some radio host, drink free tea in a green room, you sign your book – I love all that stuff. I basically wrote a book to try to fulfill my lifelong dream of being on David Letterman. I’ve been thinking about the publicity for longer and better than my book.

I just realized that I am not a real author.

Interroblog: Let’s talk about humor as your product or Joel Stein the brand. How do you constantly ensure the quality of your product? Any advice to business people on injecting more humor into their work life? Is it weirdly creepy when marketing people talk about you as being a brand?

JS: I ensure the quality of my product by putting out a lot of it. I hope people say, “Well that wasn’t that funny, but it was pretty funny considering he wrote 20 things this week.” The great thing about the internet is that only your good stuff gets passed along so most people only see two articles from me a year, and they’re my best. Or my most offensive. The internet kind of screws me on that.

I love to be talked about as a brand. I never dreamed as a kid that I could be a brand. But it’s very fulfilling.

Business people should not try to inject more humor into their lives. That will go badly. Because all business people are horrible racists.

Interroblog: What about when a joke/theme/riff goes horribly wrong? Any tips for people on how to extricate themselves from potentially awkward situations?

JS: Apologizing – even if it’s done the right way, without a “but…” – never works. At least in public. A one-on-one conversation could very well work, but a mass apology feels calculated and fake, because it is. Just move on if you can, and learn from it. I’ve given a lot of horrible wedding speeches because people idiotically assume that writers are good talkers (we’re not: that’s why we write). And you just power through it. And then drink and slink away.

Interroblog. Please shamelessly promote your new book. What made you decide to write about your stupid quest for masculinity? Are we going to learn about your warm and mushy side?

JS: When I found out my wife and I were having a son I kind of freaked out. I suddenly thought about having to teach him to camp and fight and throw a football and all kinds of stuff I can’t do. So I went out and tried to learn it. He’s two and a half now and seems like a wimpy kid, so I may have wasted my time. But we’re going to camp whether he wants to or not. We’re also going to do Brazilian jujitsu. I didn’t learn all this stuff for nothing.

Interroblog: Any thoughts on the evolution of the publishing industry in general? As a columnist now author, you’ve got to have seen a lot of changes going on. Care to predict anything about the future of a professional writer?

JS: It was ridiculous that I ever got paid to write. I figure it can’t continue. Too many people – talented people – are willing to do it for free. I do it for free on Twitter for no good reason. I’m going to wind up as the oldest law school student in history.