Blake Snow

content strategist, embedded 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

Why do successful people often fail at life?

Photo: Platon/New Yorker

Photo: Platon/New Yorker

Clay Christensen, a man I deeply respect, has the answer:

“Christensen had seen dozens of companies falter by going for immediate payoffs rather than long-term growth, and he saw people do the same thing,” writes Larissa MacFarquhar for the New Yorker. “In three hours at work, you could get something substantial accomplished, and if you failed to accomplish it you felt the pain right away. If you spent three hours at home with your family, it felt like you hadn’t done a thing, and if you skipped it nothing happened.

“So you spent more and more time at the office, on high-margin, quick-yield tasks, and you even believed that you were staying away from home for the sake of your family. Christensen had seen many people tell themselves that they could divide their lives into stages, spending the first part pushing forward their careers, and imagining that at some future point they would spend time with their families—only to find that by then their families were gone.”

In other words, you become what you prioritize. Metamorphosis from sustained work-a-holic into a well-rounded and interesting person doesn’t just happen.

My latest for USA Today: Fantastic fjords of North America

Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism

Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism

An edited version of this story first appeared on USA Today

North American is known for a lot of things. Transcendent, soaring, and gaping fjords isn’t one of them. For that, most travelers understandably head to Norway, New Zealand, or Chile first—all renowned for their glacier-carved “canyons” that outlet into swallowing seas.

But the northern half of the continent has its fair share of majestic cliffs cut by frozen (instead of liquid) water, especially in parts of southern Alaska and Canada. As a bonus, they’re more proximitous than Europe’s beloved Grainger Fjord, less travelled, and still rate at least 4.5 out of 5 stars, according to average visitor reviews on Google and Tripadvisor.

Behold, the most fantastic fjords of North America: Continue reading…

10 things I’m thankful for this instant

pointerTo help my brain stay wired for happiness, here are 10 random things I’m grateful for:
  1. Full head of hair. To all my bros (and any women) out there with thinning, balding, receding, or otherwise missing hair, I sympathize with you. I don’t know what it would be like without follicles. I imagine it’s drafty and uncomfortable. I’m grateful for a full coiffure.
  2. A titanium back. Six months ago, I had my lower back fused. Although my participation in high-impact activities involving running, jumping, and extreme bending have been cut short by two thirds a lifetime, I’m grateful for the $26,000 titanium rods, screws, and spacer that keep me upright and mobile now. With a new lease on life, I feel great. Continue reading…

Critic turned fan: Just how “happy” is Disneyland?

Illustration Blake Snow/Disney

Disney

ANAHEIM, Ca.—Comedian Jim Gaffigan once joked, “My favorite ride at Disney was the air conditioned bus back to the airport.” When asked why he paid so much money to wait in long lines for underwhelming rides, he replied, “Because I love my children.”

I love my children, too. But unlike Gaffigan, I’ve been unwilling to visit Disney until recently because I viewed it as a rip-off, an unneeded parental sacrifice, and not nearly as rewarding as natural wonder. Although I have fond memories of visiting Disneyland with my family as an eight year old boy, I have fonder memories of visiting the nearby Laguna Beach that same week. “So I’ll take my kids to more majestic, less expensive places instead,” I’ve told myself ever since.

Deep down, however, I wanted to know: Could so many people be wrong? Why do over 70 million folks visit one of Disney’s templated parks each year, making it the third most-visited tourist attraction on Earth, according to Travel and Leisure? Can a place that averages 4.5 out of 5 visitor stars really be an overpriced tourist trap?

To find out, I caved recently and booked my family for two-day passes to Disneyland. Tickets cost $100 each per day; children were $5 off (that’s it?!). In fact, admittance to the park totaled more than the combined airfare and four-day stay we paid for a well-rated hotel across the street, not to mention the expensive dining we were sure to encounter inside the park.

Upon realizing that, I had buyer’s remorse. Had I make a mistake? Was I turning into sheep? Maybe. But I was determined to find out for myself, if not for humanity’s sake.  Continue reading…

Why I won’t buy an Apple Watch (for now)

Courtesy Apple

Courtesy Apple

Constantly checking your wrist watch is less rude and less distracting than constantly checking your smartphone. It might even improve your life.

Or so says a report from Wired on why Apple chose to manufacture the forthcoming iWatch, which serves as a second, more accessible screen for your iPocket, I mean iPhone.

“Your phone is ruining your life,” writes David Pierce, who, like many others, ignorantly blames the object instead of the abuser. Rather than setting boundaries on his technology, Pierce and others like him egotistically search for reasons to be elsewhere in thought and suffer the consequence.  Continue reading…

Things dance class taught me: Gender roles, body talking, and the Cypress Hill two-step

Snow Family

Snow Family

My wife—hi, hot stuff!—bought me ballroom dance lessons for Christmas. Even though I can cut rug freestyle, I was really excited about taking formal instruction. After finishing the eight week course last week, I am pleased to report it did not disappoint.

I fully expected to learn some new moves, but I didn’t expect the class to broaden my worldview and deepen my appreciation for music. But it did. Here’s what ballroom dance lessons taught me:  Continue reading…

This month’s Offline Newsletter is just three sentences long: Enjoy your life!

From the short and sweet files: “Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”—Dalai Lama XIV

See also: American businessman misses point in life, hilarity ensuesmore offline issues

Food for thought: “Bad days” don’t exist, only bad hours

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

I had a bad day last week. Or so I thought.

After an afternoon full of rejection, major story revisions, and haters hatin’ on my efforts,* I turned to my wife and said, “I had a crappy day at work and am glad it’s over.”

“I’m sorry,” she acknowledged. “Was it all bad?”

In truth it wasn’t. I had a great morning, a nice lunch, and the first hour of the afternoon was smooth sailing, I conceded.

She replied, “A friend and I were talking yesterday, and we decided that there’s usually no such thing as bad days, only bad hours.”

I quickly recalled all the “bad days” from recent memory and realized none of them were that entirely. While I’m sure I’ve had extended periods of bad hours, I don’t believe I’ve ever had a bad day from start to finish.

That’s probably the optimist in me speaking. But country songs are mostly fiction. Very few people (if any) people get divorced, fired, miss all their meals, and lose their dog in a single day.

In other words, “bad days” don’t exist, only bad hours.

* The kind that don’t know how to say “No, thank you” when presented with an opportunity and instead deride, heckle, or discourage you from finding a more suitable dance partner

Smart selling: 7 habits of highly reluctant buyers and how to overcome them

New Line Cinema

New Line Cinema

Selling is a challenge. It requires unwavering confidence, polite persistence, and a deep understanding of buyer demand. It also requires an ability to withstand constant rejection, unfortunate timing, and even bad luck.

Whether you sell to businesses or consumers, overcoming buyer objections in another challenge. Some may be unique to your trade, but most are quite common, regardless of industry. What are they and how can they be surmounted?

To find out, I ransacked dozens of reports, expert analyses, and top Google results. After the dust had settled, I encountered close to 100 specific objections. But most (if not all) of those are merely variations of seven fundamental objections, which I’ve distilled and categorized below.

Before getting down to the nitty gritty, a word of caution: sellers must first understand theirs and their prospects’ available “walk-away” options before addressing any concerns. If you don’t respect those, you’ll fail to appreciate the nuances of your market and have a harder time overcoming legitimate buyer objections.

Furthermore, “objections are a gift,” says Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft. “It’s the customer telling you something that will help you sell to them.” In that sense, buyer concerns are rarely outright rejections—they’re merely requests for more information. Hence, good communication is key to overcoming them.

With that out of the way, here are the seven most common buyer objections and advice for overcoming them:  Continue reading…

5 things everyone needs to get paid for doing what they love (or “The discouraging odds of becoming a professional athlete”)

To many boys (and some girls), professional athletes are modern-day heroes. Iconic celebrities with fame, fortune, and power. What wide-eye youth wouldn’t want the same?

Turns out, a lot of them do. (With oversized Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan posters adorning my childhood walls, I certainly did.) But as with all desirable things in life, getting paid to play sports isn’t easy.

In fact, the odds are downright nasty for aspiring players, according to new data from the NCAA.

Continue reading…

This retro documentary is fun, moving, and almost as good as King of Kong

YouTube Preview Image

My wife and I watched Atari: Game Over last night on YouTube (part II here). It’s an hour long documentary about the fast rise and even faster demise of video games in the early ’80s and the misinformation surrounding their fall (the games, not the decade).

That’s just the pretext, however. The documentary is really about hurtful group think, toxic urban legends, and the unfair, if not tragic, treatment of Howard Warshaw, a talented and pioneering game designer that was ostracized for his largely innocent role.

Although the documentary handles some weighty baggage, director Zak Penn keeps it fun, fast-paced, and peppered with likable characters. When Warshaw is partially redeemed by the end of the movie, I was rattled with sympathy.

Atari: Game Over isn’t as fist-pumping fun as Kong of Kong, which you should watch posthaste if you haven’t already. But the former is more accurate and just as endearing. Furthermore, it challenges the viewer to scrutinize their beliefs before accepting them and encourages us to give others the benefit of the doubt.

Five stars out of five.

I was there: Great moments in rock history (or songs I wish I could play on guitar)

YouTube Preview Image

I learned to play guitar sometime in the spring of 1994. I did it in a single day. Sort of.

Although I knew how to mangle the open chords for A, C, D, E, and G in the months leading up to that fateful day, the instrument didn’t click with me until my brother and his friend Dylan Denny demonstrated how to play bar chords the night before. “You mean I just keep the same finger formation and slide up and down the neck to play any chord I like, even flats!?” I enthusiastically asked. “Yup,” they replied. “That’s the beautify of power chords.”

I was so excited by this revelation — this power, if you will — that I called in sick the next day (i.e. I faked a cough and my mom let me stay home from school).

Armed with this new “life hack,” I learned to play Green Day’s entire breakthrough album by ear that day. I was so elated, I didn’t even break for lunch, let alone breakfast. I just played, played, and played, stopping the CD only to find the right chord. I even learned a few of the album’s basic “fills,” or poor man’s solos, as I call them.

Upon returning from school, my brother and friend were impressed with my progress. It’s not every day a rhythm guitarist is born. From that day forward, I wanted to “play rhythm” forever.

That all changed on a Wednesday night 13 years later.  Continue reading…

Secrets of the world’s most inspiring speakers: How to captivate an audience

flickr/creative commons

flickr/creative commons

What do great speakers such as Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, and top TED presenters have in common? Why do we remember phrases such as, “I have a dream,” “Getting fired from Apple was the best thing to happen to me,” and “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”? What’s the most effective way to persuade a listening audience, either to laughter, action, awareness, or inspiration?

After researching dozens of the Internet’s top search results from a broad range of expert or otherwise popular speakers, we have answers to those questions and more. Of course, there’s no foolproof way to becoming a charming or memorable presenter. But there are several virtues all great speakers uphold. Chief among them: Good orators change the emotions of their audience, rather than just informing them. They inspire them, encourage them to act.

Whether you’re motivating a distrustful audience, leading a team of individuals, selling the next big idea or product to market, or even entertaining a hard to please crowd, here are 10 qualities all good presenters posses:  Continue reading…

Backed by science: 14 ways to boost your productivity

shake

There are a lot of productivity myths. For instance, early birds are more productive, structure kills creativity, adding resources increases output, and more. Although well intentioned, these are all wrong.

So what works? What productivity hypotheses have been tested and proven by science? After sifting through dozens of top search results, reports, and studies, this is what I found. The most convincing, substantiated, and established productivity strategies:  Continue reading…

Must-follow experts on digital transformation

MGM/UA Entertainment

MGM/UA Entertainment

Digital transformation means different things to different people. For some it means “going paperless.” For others, it represents the final step of embracing digital technologies, going from competence to literacy and ultimately becoming fully transformed and influenced by digital.

To others still, digital transformation is just a buzzword that 88 percent of surveyed companies hope to achieve, even though only a quarter of the same cohort demonstrate a clear understanding of how digital tools impact human society.

And that’s really what digital transformation is about—the impact part, not the buzzword part. In other words, making sense of how digital technology affects all human interactions, from commerce, government, and communications, to art and science, medicine, and everything in between.

Whatever your definition, you can quickly broaden it by learning from the experts. And when it comes to grasping digital transformation, highlighting examples of it, and predicting the future of it, few know more than the following five individuals:  Continue reading…

My short-lived career as a copywriter

Howard-Gossage

Howard Gossage was revered for his copywriting skills

Most people don’t know the difference between copywriting and editorial copy. I write the latter, which is generally understood by plebians as long-form “magazine articles.” The former is short-form and widely used in advertising and marketing to persuade someone to buy a product or influence their beliefs.

In any case, I usually don’t copywrite in a technical sense. I sometimes get asked to but usually decline. Unless, of course, Nike asks me to, which they did last year. Here is that story.  Continue reading…

Console Wars (the book) might be better than the very games that fueled the fire

consolewars-coverFor any male readers born from the mid ’70s to early ’80s, listen up—Console Wars by Blake Harris has it all: your childhood, the answer to your next marketing challenge, cultural divides, innocence, under bellies, triumph, and loss.

It’s also the only book I’ve ever read that made me feel as young as I am old. Take these gems, for example:

  • “There was no such thing as a magic touch, and it wouldn’t have mattered if there were, because the only thing it takes to sell toys, vitamins, magazines (or anything) is the power of story. That was the secret. That was the whole trick: to recognize that the world is nothing but chaos, and the only thing holding it (and us) together are stories… When you tell memorable, universal, intricate, and heartbreaking stories, anything is possible.”
  • “Tony Harman was prepared to leave with his tail between his legs (smiling, though, as his thesis that western cultures can make great games too had made it all the way to the top), but he decided to try one more approach. “Let me just ask one more question,” he said, taking a step toward [Nintendo President] Yamauchi. “How many bad television commercials do we make each year?” Continue reading…

Do these things to avoid getting old

My wife's grandmother, Beverly Ridd, was forever young

My wife’s grandmother, Beverly Ridd, was forever young

You wanna know what scares me most about getting old? Becoming calloused, jaded, and crotchety.

To counter that, I try to see the good in the world, surround myself with positive people, recognize the value of younger generations (as opposed to bemoaning their shortcomings), and do things that make me feel young again.

To help with the latter, TIME recently compiled a bunch of anti-aging activities backed by science. Here are a few that stood out: Continue reading…