The following was updated and adopted from a hired-speech I gave to a group of 50 portfolio CEOs and senior partners in June 2015 at the headquarters of NEA, the world’s largest venture capital firm.
Since 2005, I’ve written for half of the top 20 U.S. media publications and dozens of Fortune 100 companies as a featured contributor, branded storyteller, and retained content advisor. In that time, this is what I know for sure: marketing is the way you let people know you exist. Content marketing is the ongoing explanation for why they should care.
As a discipline, content marketing (or brand journalism, executive editorial, and thought leadership) is important, because it allows companies to persuade highly-informed buyers in an increasingly noisy world. Not only is it the fastest growing marketing strategy in recent years, it’s also the most effective for supplying search demand, engaging target audiences, enabling messaging, and satisfying the buyer’s need to read and inform themselves before making a purchase.
What surprises people most that engage me? Here are the top five: Continue reading…
Courtesy Universal Pictures
Best-selling author Marshall Karp used to work in advertising. But then he realized he didn’t like what he was doing because the original architect was a lousy planner.
“This rut that you’re stuck in, this life that you’re trapped in, who planned it?” he writes on Quora. “Not you. Most of us form our life’s plans shortly after high school. I was pushing 40 and still living the dream of some teenage kid.”
So he decided to switch careers and become a screenwriter and author. “My Act Two was conceived, written, produced, and directed by an adult. And I’m grateful for the insight that convinced him to take on the job.”
Credentialed “journalist” Blake Snow playing Wii for fist time on May 10, 2006 / photo by Ryan Block
I’m a writer. At least that’s what I say whenever I’m asked what I do for work. Continue reading…
My wife and I were discussing gender equality over lunch today. On a scale of 1–10 (one being female dominate and 10 being male dominate), we both agreed that America today is probably around a 6.5/10 in favor of men.
That might vary a half point in either direction depending on what part of the country you live in. But overall I think that’s a fair assessment.
What will it take to get to an equal five? Two big things: equal pay for the same job and greater access to leadership roles. I’d also add being able to walk alone a night without fear of being assaulted, but my wife said that’s a tricky one. After all, how much of that perceived inequality is unfounded fear versus actual threat?
Either way, I’d say things are looking up for my daughters, wife, sisters, and mother and hope to be at or around a five within 10–20 years. What do you think?
Before I write another word, let the record show that I admire, appreciate, and even covet Tesla cars. Their instant torque, modern styling, simple engines, and overall innovation are a thing of beauty.
But there’s a fundamental problem with electric vehicles today: they’re all powered by dirty energy and heavily subsidized by government incentives, argues Berkeley physicist Richard Muller. “There is little to no environmental benefit, since in most of the world the electricity is derived from coal,” he writes. In fact, “an electric car in China produces more CO2 than does a gasoline car.”
Even in states such as California, where only 25% of their energy is renewable, we’re still along ways from sustainably clean cars. Obviously, we’ve made progress and don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water. But Muller brings up a good point: Is 100 mpg gas mileage from combustable engines (which we’re approaching) more environmentally friendly than a 250 mpg coal-based electric vehicle?
For the time being, Muller argues no. “Prices of batteries have come down, but not nearly enough to negate the high cost of owning such a car.”
All of that could change, of course, with breakthrough gains in battery storage or clean energy. But for now, we’re still in the “Kickstarter” phase of electric vehicles. Exiting but not fail-proof.
Excluding non-bylined stories for my commercial clients, this is what I published last month:
Thanks for reading.
Michelle Obama and all others courtesy Platon
Since the turn of the century, Platon has made a name for himself (a single one at that!) for his telling portraits of celebrities, especially politicians. As a fan of his work, these are my favorites: Continue reading…
Courtesy Amazon Studios
My wife and I recently watched Manchester by the Sea. It’s a beautifully-acted but heart-wrenching story about a Boston man (played by Casey Affleck) that is left utterly devastated and largely alone after a careless act and some horrifying bad luck. In fact, it’s one of the saddest movies I’ve seen in years.
Although I appreciated the film, I forgot the importance of tragedy while exiting the theater. “For someone who is living in a comedy, is there any value in being reminded that life sucks sometimes?” I asked myself. “Is there any harm in solely watching movies with happy endings?”
With the help of the internet, this is what I learned: Continue reading…
Photo credit: Blake Snow
I wholeheartedly agree with Cal physicist Richard Muller’s optimistic and informed answer to this question.
“Global warming does not threaten humans with extermination,” he writes. “In the history of the world, I would say now is the best time to be born. The problem of global warming is minuscule to the dangers faced by my parents when then had me (i.e. world wars, more tyrants, worse civil rights for minorities and women, more violence, poorer health, less economic wealth). We will handle global warming through mitigation and adaptation. Don’t deny your future children their opportunity to enter this wonderful world.”
I don’t think Muller, I, or any other optimists are delusional in that outlook. After all, history is on our side—humans are survivors, tinkerers, and self-improvers.
Statistically we’re collectively better off now than ever before. Read and try to refute this if you don’t believe me. There’s no looming threat suggesting others—only unfounded human fear, old age, or alarmists rooted in emotion (or self interest) rather than fact.
If you disagree with Muller, Louis Armstrong, or Viktor Frankl, you’re wrong.
Courtesy Argentina Tourism
Excluding non-bylined writings for commercial clients, here’s what I published last month:
To find out why we’re quitting, what we learned, and what’s the future of manliness, listen here. Thanks to everyone who listened to, supported, and funded the show. I will miss it and hope you enjoy this last episode.
- Reading about humanity’s underbelly is hard, but its exposure is important work.
- PREDICTION: “On fleek” will never be as cool as rad, righteous, legit, wicked, or even “groovy.” Like “dank” did before it, it’ll fade.
- Bad news: Corporate spies steal $300 billion from U.S. Good news: Can’t steal ingenuity.
- Nice! This story helps me appreciate “good parent privilege,” less talk, and the danger of overconfidence
- This classy, elegant Mozart masterpiece never gets old. I still adore it two decades after first hearing it.
I was jogging last week and ran past a parked patrol car. A cop was in it.
I make it a habit to wave to everyone I encounter, so I cut the air with my hand and smiled. He waved back and flashed a big grin, as if I had just made his day—as if he rarely gets acknowledged by civilians.
Surprised by the effect it had, I started thinking of other people that might benefit from extra kindness. This is what I came up with: Continue reading…
An estimated quarter of the world’s population doesn’t eat pork—mostly for religious but also for vegetarian reasons. Why?
“Islam and Judaism both originated in a region where pigs were scavengers and rooted through garbage to survive,” explains Jeff Dege on Quora. “They were unclean in every sense in that environment.”
On the other hand, Western civilizations are more accustom to non-scavenger or otherwise domesticated pigs that aren’t as infected as the ones the Middle East grew up with.
“If I lived in the Middle East 1500–200 years ago, I wouldn’t have eaten pig, either,” concludes Dege. “But I don’t and the reasons for avoiding it then and there don’t apply here and now.”
Which explains why the other three quarters of the world happily consume pork, mostly for barbecue, bacon, sausage, and chop reasons.
On a personal note, I rank edible animal muscle as follows—beef > poultry > pork > fish—but I try to limit my intake of it to no more than 2-3 times a week in favor of produce.
Here’s a great quote from Cal physicist Richard Muller on the scientific method: “I see the difference between a scientist and a non-scientist in a simple way:
- A non-scientist is easily fooled and particularly vulnerable to self-deception.
- A scientist is easily fooled and particularly vulnerable to self-deception… and knows it.”
If you avoid distinguishing beliefs and bias from knowledge, you’re not a scientist. If you overstate the truth (even for the greater good), you’re also not a scientist.
True science demands objectivity, guts, free speech, vulnerability, and lots of “we’re still not sure but let’s keep checking.”
Courtesy Lindsey Snow
My cousin recently asked for my stated religious beliefs. This is what I sent him: Continue reading…
Phil Knight seemingly had a lot of slick editors to help him write his wonderful book (4/5 stars) on the creation and rise of Nike. But his passion, character, and insightful war stories all ring true. These were my favorite excerpts:
- What if there were a way, without being an athlete, to feel what athletes feel? To play all the time, instead of working? Or else to enjoy work so much that it becomes essentially the same thing.
- Every runner knows this. You run and run, mile after mile, and you never quite know why. You tell yourself that you’re running toward some goal, chasing some rush, but really you run because the alternative, stopping, scares you to death.
- The Japanese believe climbing Fuji is a mystical experience, a ritual act of celebration, and I was overcome with a desire to climb it, right then. I wanted to ascend into the clouds. I decided to wait, however. I would return when I had something to celebrate.
- After shaving, I put on my green Brooks Brothers suit and gave myself a pep talk. You are capable. You are confident. You can do this. You can DO this. Then I went to the wrong place.
Courtesy Whitelines Snowboarding
Excluding blogging, ghostwritten, and otherwise non-bylined stories for some of these companies, this is what I wrote this month.
Thanks for reading.
- With notable exception to most of Africa, the global economic playing field has been flattened (i.e. the world is flat)
- Giving people remote access to collaborative tools, search engines, and billions of pages of information ensures that “the next innovations will come from all over Planet Flat.”
- True education teaches students how to develop inquisitive minds (i.e. be curious, absorb as much as you can, seek answers to questions that inspire you)
- America is losing its competitive edge of trust, stability, and entrepreneurial infrastructure (i.e. “its secret sauce”) because it’s increasingly becoming entitled, lazy, and out-collaborated by hungrier nations, Friedman argues. It also succumbed to fear-mongering after 9/11 instead of focusing on optimism and hope as it had done so well up to that point.
- Globalization winners take care of their own, but they are also compassionate and considerate of others, not protectionists playing an illusionary zero-sum economic game (i.e. domestic manufacturing jobs).
- Economic success is the result of hard work, thrift, honesty, patience, tenacity, and openness to adapt from others (i.e. “glocalization”)
- Authoritarian Muslim countries (e.g. Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, ISIS) have struggled to adapt to a flattening world because they don’t “glocalize.” More tolerant India, Turkey, Lebanon, Bahrain, Dubai, Indonesia, and Malaysia are notable exceptions to this rule, Friedman argues.
- The roots of terrorism are based on religious fanaticism and an education system that condemns Western decadence to create an atmosphere of intolerance (rather than a “live and let live” mindset).
- Although the U.S. still benefits from being the most dominate popular culture, globalization is is not the same as “Americanization” or American imperialism.
- No two countries that are part of a major global supply chain, such as Dell or McDonald’s, will ever fight a war against each other so long as both remain in said supply chain (i.e. money talks more than peace talks).
Despite Friedman’s verbose and scatterbrain writing, his insights deserve four stars out of five.
I’m an enthusiastic Amazon, Apple, Uber, and Google user because they make my life easier. I don’t think twice before upping my Prime membership. In fact, I like these companies so much, I’ve even willing to pay a little extra for the convenience they offer.
But obsessive brand loyalty will ultimately hurt us, argue two ivy-league economists for USA Today. “Each of us can do our part to make sure Amazon and others never get to the point of ubiquitous domination. It might introduce a bit of hassle and inconvenience into your life, but only a tiny bit. But by taking on this challenge, you’ll be doing the job that antitrust authorities, in an ideal world, might take care of on our behalf – ensuring that consumers and workers, rather than the owners of capital and algorithms – get a piece of the surplus that’s created by new business ideas.”
Make no mistake, I’m a proud American capitalist. But I like it even more when companies compete for my business. “Think about those credit card teasers we all get,” the authors add. “As long as we keep businesses thinking they need to chase after us to try to lock us in, they’ll keep on handing us value rather than using it to pad their bottom line.”
If you agree, consider shopping with competing companies and platforms from time to time to keep your favorite companies on their toes, hungry for your business, and willing to let you keep a greater share of the value.