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

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

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…

No pain, no gain: Short-term discomfort is the price of long-term health

Why do some people willingly participate in unpleasant things like regular exercise, cold  showers, bland but healthy food, sacrificial restraint, and drinking lots of water, which cause a lot of annoying bathroom runs?

The short answer: Everything has a price. Good health is no exception. In exchange for long-term health, humans must endure short-term discomfort associated with the above.

In more succinct terms, “no pain, no gain.” That’s the catchphrase Jane Fonda popularized in ’80s workout videos to express that rewards are worth the work. Or as David Morris wrote in The Scientist, “The road to achievement runs only through hardship.”

In my experience, that’s the case for good health as much as anything in life. Of course, knowing that won’t make difficult things easy. But it does give them meaning, which I believe lessens suffering.

How to stay focused in a 24/7 world

wikimedia commons

wikimedia commons

Humans are more distracted now than ever before, at least since we’ve started keeping records. Over the last decade, the average attention span has dwindled from 12 seconds in 2000 to just eight seconds in 2014, according to the U.S. Library of Medicine. The kicker: our eight second attention spans are one second shorter than a goldfish’s. No joke.

Who or what’s to blame for such abhorrent focus? “External stimulation,” says the Library of Medicine. That’s code for mobile internet, apps that vie for our attention, push email, social media alerts, work from anywhere, persistent connectivity, and our enthusiastic adoption of “the internet of things.” In other words, the only person we can blame is ourselves.

What’s a working professional to do then? You have three options, according to popular thinking: fall off the grid, stick with default technology settings for substandard productivity, or my personal favorite, set usage boundaries to upgrade concentration, contributions, and welfare levels.

For those interested in options one or two, this article won’t be any help. But for for those interested in the latter, there’s quite a lot you can do to stay focused in a 24/7 world. After extensive online research, here is the most celebrated and pragmatic advice for doing just that:  Continue reading…

There’s no such thing as an honest person, only practicing straight-shooters

Fox Networks

Fox Networks

Even if you think you’re honest person, your integrity will forever be challenged, usually when you least expect it.

I recently learned this lesson after a client tried to overpay me by $20,000 on two separate occasions. The first time they simply wired the money into my account without realizing I was already paid. “Either they sent duplicate payment or liked my work so much they gave me a huge bonus,” I thought to myself. I knew it was the former, but sat on the blunder for a few days before notifying the client.

The reason: The devil on my left shoulder made a convincing argument. “Blake,” he said, “maybe you didn’t invoice them the first time?” Nope, I checked my records. I’ve been paid in full. “Okay,” he went on, “but they’re a billion dollar company. They won’t even notice the misplaced $10,000.”

“I doubt it,” the angel on my right shoulder replied. “Imagine if someone got fired for this. Besides, you didn’t earn this money. It doesn’t matter if you omit or commit theft—stealing is wrong. You’re better than this.”  Continue reading…

Man counterfeits $200 million, keeps $50 million, and only serves 6 weeks in plea deal

courtesy frank bourassa

courtesy frank bourassa

What a story. What a character.

Wells Tower writes for GQ: “Frank paid a few visits to the U.S. Secret Service’s website, which, handily, offers an in-depth illustrated guide to serial numbers, watermarks, plate numbers, and all the other fussy obstacles to the counterfeiter’s art. ‘I thought, if I’m going to do this, I’ll go big or go home.'”

At the turn of the decade, the Canadian ended up printing more than $200 million in twenty dollar bills — an elephantine amount compared to most counterfeiters. “If he’d printed a measlier number of millions, he would have lacked a big chip with which to bargain for his liberty,” explains Tower. “He would certainly have been jailed longer. In other words, had Frank not gone big, it could have been quite a long time before he’d have been free to go home.”

Superb read. I highly recommend it.

Polite people know that everyone has it hard

Paul Ford shared some inspiring advice recently on being polite. He writes:

“Here’s a polite person’s trick, one that has never failed me… When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: ‘Wow. That sounds hard.'”

This works because everyone believes their job is difficult, Ford says, which is actually true when you consider their circumstances. “People silently struggle from all kinds of terrible things,” he continues. “They suffer from depression, ambition, substance abuse, and pretension. They suffer from family tragedy, Ivy-League educations, and self-loathing. They suffer from failing marriages, physical pain, and publishing.

“The good thing about politeness is that you can treat these people exactly the same. And then wait to see what happens. You don’t have to have an opinion. You don’t need to make a judgment.”

You just need to care, he concludes. You can start by looking others in the eye and asking their name with a smile and firm handshake. Then keep it up over time to ensure your politeness is enduring. After all, fleeting politeness is forgettable, Ford says. Lasting politeness is memorable and makes an impact.

How to get through the rest of winter

credit: lindsey snow

credit: lindsey snow

Thanks to my wife, I’ve grown to appreciate winter instead of loathing it. Still, the persistent cold, dormant life, and extended darkness can take its toll on our mood, especially near the tail end of the season.

That said, here are four things everyone can do to beat the winter blues, according to USA Today:

  1. Volunteer, it will warm your heart. To get inspired, visit United Way.
  2. Eat healthy, from scratch foods; mostly plants, no seconds, but don’t vilify entire food groups (including sugar). The right nutrition can improve your mood.
  3. Schedule leisure. Lunch with friends, night out with a loved one, or your next vacation. Anticipating events does wonders for your mood. Planning yearly vacations in late January (after the tax man takes his cut) has served my family well.
  4. Get moving. Exercise is a dead horse. But I’ll kick it again, because it works. Don’t know where to start? Try a 20 minute outdoor walk everyday or the scientifically proven 7 minute workout.

See you in spring.