Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

Hi, I'm Blake.

I run this joint. Don’t know where to start? Let me show you around:

As seen on CNN, NBC, ABC, Fox, Wired, Yahoo!, BusinessWeek, Wall Street Journal

The IRS considers these two my oldest and youngest dependents.

But oh! How I depend on them, including the ones not pictured.

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life,” says Richard Bach. “A happy family is but an earlier heaven,” adds George Bernard Shaw.

I’m grateful for mine.

MAP: Where in the world have I been?

courtesy traveltip.org

To date, I feel lucky to have visited 11 countries on five continents: United States (home), Canada, Mexico, Cayman Islands, Brazil, France, Switzerland, Italy, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Each have touched me in a unique way. And yet I’ve only scratched the surface—just 5% of the world’s 195 countries.

Furthermore, the above map is grossly skewed. I’ve only visited two thirds of America instead of the whole she-bang (and much of that was only sections of larger states). I’ve yet to visit mainland Mexico or Canada—just Cozumel and Newfoundland (what a place!). I’ve never visited massive Asia, Eastern Europe, and 90% of the rest of Africa. And I’ve visited just one giant state (New South Wales) of the USA-sized Australia.

Granted, I have no intention of visiting every country or plot of land in the world. It doesn’t take that many to realize we’re all largely the same and that we live on the most beautiful rock in the observable universe. Plus, I still have a lot I want to do in my own backyard, not to mention repeat trips abroad (i.e. New Zealand take two).

But I do hope to visit all seven continents someday, if not next year. Not only does distance makes the heart grow fonder, but a change in geography is good at keeping us on our toes.

Love you, Earth!

PS—Airplanes are amazing and travel is overrated for the following reasons.

My approach to selling all boils down to this:

Courtesy New Line Cinema

Courtesy New Line Cinema

“Hi, human. I sell this thing (in my case writing) for a living because I believe in it. It’s benefited myself and others you may know. Are you the right person to pitch? If no, do you know someone who is? If yes, is now a good time?”

I’ve been writing full time for 10 years now. Much of that time, if not half of the time, is spent asking people if I can write for them. In that sense, I’m either a writer who knows how to sell, or a seller who knows how to write.

Either way, I’ve followed the above pitch for the last decade. I don’t know if it’s the best sales approach, but it’s worked alright for me, and it’s one I feel is the most respectful.

Know a better way?

15 years later…

Courtesy Robert Clark/TIME

Courtesy Robert Clark/TIME

“Once the dump trucks and bulldozers have cleared away the rubble and a thousand funeral Masses have been said, once the streets are swept clean of ash and glass and the stores and monuments and airports reopen, once we have begun to explain this to our children and to ourselves, what will we do? What else but build new cathedrals, and if they are bombed, build some more. Because the faith is in the act of building, not the building itself, and no amount of terror can keep us from scraping the sky.”—Nancy Gibbs (written three days after the bombing of the Twin Towers, but before the big holes were “built” in their place)

5 things I learned recently after watching Dishonesty documentary

Courtesy YouTube

Courtesy YouTube

I recently watched (Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies. This is what I learned:

  1. Honor codes, moral self-reminders before brushing with temptation, and asking others to be honest in tempting situations can reduce dishonesty to almost zero, researchers found.
  2. People are increasingly dishonest as they distance themselves from tangible things (i.e. its easier to steal digital money than tangible money, and it’s easier to cheat in golf by kicking your ball while looking away as opposed to picking it up). To heighten honesty, look at ill behavior right in the face before doing it.
  3. Everybody is dishonest. Everybody. And all nationalities are equally dishonest, researchers found. It’s just that foreign cultures feel more dishonest because they cheat in unfamiliar ways.
  4. Scandinavian economies and The U.S. have the world’s highest levels of social trust—Africa and South America the least, which has a dramatic effect in the size and health of those respective economies.
  5. Bankers cheat twice as much as politicians. Lying can be appropriate when it’s done for the good of others as opposed to selfish reasons and only if the truth wouldn’t later upset the person that was deceived (i.e. telling a hysterical passenger on a crashing plane that you’re an aeronautics engineer and everything is going to be okay or lying to your children to keep them out of imminent danger or harm’s way).

Highly recommended. Four stars out of five.

Fewer parts which can fail: The most convincing argument for electric cars

motors

The world wouldn’t be as amazing today if it weren’t for the combustable car engine, pictured at left.

But this engine is 100 years old, has a lot of moving parts that can fail, and isn’t nearly as simple, efficient, or as powerfully fast as the much simpler and smaller engine pictured at right—a newer Tesla motor that fits neatly between rear wheels.

“I think many people don’t realize what we are witnessing at the moment,” writes Quora expert Andrius Adamonis. “Several years from now, we will look back and think, ‘WOW! We used to have engines that were powered by small EXPLOSIONS inside!'”

Getting smarter: The myth of STEM shortages and world education rankings

wikimedia commons

wikimedia commons

To improve the future of education, America must focus on science, technology, engineering, and math fields (aka STEM). We must also meet, if not exceed, international test scores.

Or should we?

Said focus has increasingly been criticized in recent years—ironically due to a lack of scientific evidence. After researching “hundreds” of reports from the past six decades, for instance, Robert Charette of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers said the so-called STEM shortage “is a myth.”

Continue reading…

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Psychology study: 99 cent pricing boosts sales by 8%

ShamwowWTFDoes .99 cent pricing really work? Wouldn’t it be easier to round everything to the nearest dollar?

The answer to both those questions is a resounding “yes.” Although it would be easier to round up, stores use so-called psychological pricing because it demonstrably boosts sales by 8%, according to one study of 60,000 mail-order catalogs.

In short, the 30,000 customers that received rounded up pricing spent 8% less than the 30,000 catalog recipients of 99 cent pricing. (Note: The two catalogs were identical except for pricing.)

Granted, this study was performed 20 years ago. But with those kind of gains, the trend is sure to stick around for a long time.

The meaning of life: 13 things I learned from the world’s greatest thinkers

I don’t always study philosophy, but when I do, I make it count.

Case in point: A friend and I were recently discussing the human condition over email. Exhilarating stuff, I know. I’ll skip to the best part.

Basically, we decided that humans struggle to internalize both complex and simple realizations. Complex ones because they’re harder to grasp, and simple takeaways because we’re usually too distracted by temptations, desires, and pleasures to see them through, even if we believe in them (or so argues Aristotle; more on him later).

At this point, I asked my buddy, “So if humans struggle to comprehend both complex and simple ideas, what in the HELL are we good at?”

His reply, “Entertainment. And nothing else.” Full stop. The gravity and strategic double periods of his remark made me do this:

MGM Studios

MGM Studios

At which point I enrolled in a 36-course undergraduate class from Smith College. Not exactly. But I did download the audible version of the classThe Meaning of Life: Perspectives from the World’s Greatest Thinkers, from Amazon!

Having already graduated (go, fight, win!), I did this solely for my own enlightenment. Little did I know how much impact professor Jay Garfield’s masterful curriculum would have on my worldview, existential outlook, and shared beliefs with others.

Here’s what I learned:  Continue reading…

How to make better decisions: Focus on important, non-urgent things

Eisenhower_Matrix

Where should you spend most of your time? For maximum enjoyment, biggest impact, and lifelong fulfillment, the magic happens in the urgent/not important quadrant of President Eisenhower’s popular Decision Matrix.

Take nurturing a child or business, for example. Both are critical but rarely demand your immediate attention.

In other words, quality time is never urgent. Fostering future sales is easy to put off, especially when current income is steady.

Obviously Eisenhower’s matrix isn’t the end-all, be-all of decision making. But I believe the most successful people in life—both personally and professionally—are the ones that ignore non-critical/non-urgent distractions the most. They don’t check or even react to their “inbox” as much as others, opting instead to focus on forward-thinking but non-urgent tasks.

And they delegate or otherwise prioritize urgent but unimportant tasks better than most.

Feel-good poetry on the meaning and purpose of waves

giphy
My talented friend Davey Saunders is at it again. The below was first appeared on his Facebook page and is republished here with his permission. Pessimists are encouraged to skip this post.

Metaphorical waves roll into our lives on a pretty regular basis.

Emotional. Physical. Mental. Spiritual. Some we are able to ride out, some we can tuck under, and some break right on top of us —driving us helplessly into the water and currents beneath, until we regain our senses and are able to right ourselves again.

Some waves are rogue, and some come in sets that seem to have no end. There are times I have been, literally and figuratively, pulled from the grasp of the relentless seas. And there are times when I thought I had already drowned.

I am not upset by the challenges the ocean brings. If there was no water, how would I learn to swim? If there was no current to fight, how would I build the strength to hold on? And if there were no waves, how would I ever learn to surf?

So let them come. Let them bring their wrath and their might.

Just remember: with each shove and push from the waves, we are brought closer to shore. And then suddenly we find the furious roar that used to beat us down is now the very soothing sound of the surf… playing its sweet rhythms as we rest in the sand.

Published works: Predicting the office of the future, women in tech

2016 cisco logo

I started freelance writing for Cisco.com last month. Here are my first few stories:

Using numbers to look your best

suit

ABC

The world is full of qualitative statements. Exaggerations. Subjectiveness that cannot be measured. The people that make such statements are easily forgotten.

Quantitative statements, on the other hand, leave an impression. They measure your place in life. My father taught me this at an early age.

When I was nine years old, I ran a fast 400 meter dash, which is no easy feat. The thing about the 400 is not a lot of people run it. It’s difficult, because it’s not quite a sprint and not quite a distance race. As such, few amateurs compete in it. At least that was the case when I ran it.

So my father encouraged me to run the 400. I did. All the way to the ’88 state finals. Here’s how it happened:  Continue reading…