Business Lesson From The Wild

Recently, I found a blog article by Paulo Coelho published in 2007 about how mother giraffes parent their calves.  Paulo Coelho wrote:

The giraffe gives birth standing up, so the first thing that happens to a new-born giraffe is a fall of about two metres.

Still dazed, the baby tries to stand up on its four legs, but its mother behaves very strangely: she gives the baby giraffe a gentle kick which sends it sprawling. It tries to get up and is again knocked down.

This process is repeated several times, until the new-born giraffe is too exhausted to stand. At that point, the mother kicks it again, forcing it to get to its feet. After that, she does not push the baby giraffe over again.

The explanation is simple: in order to survive predators, the first lesson a giraffe must learn is to get to its feet quickly.

As you can imagine, this sounds like one of those online stories that makes the rounds that has no basis in fact but delivers a message about life. However, a quick visit to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation bore out the claims made in Paul Coelho’s article.

Many of you may think you know what is about to follow in this article, and perhaps you do.

The fact of the matter is that the business world is a special jungle all its own, and as with every jungle, there are a few predators out there waiting to make a meal of you:  lions, hyenas, hunting dogs and leopards in business suits.

For those of you who are young entrepreneurs or who have just entered the world of self-employment, you may want to pay close attention to how a mother giraffe’s behavior can be translated into the business world.

Surround yourself with like-minded mentors who are willing to  push you forward when you come up against situations where you put yourself at risk.  If they give you the equivalent of a giraffe kick, thank them because they’re forcing you to learn what you need to know to thrive in the business jungle.

Take a page from their book of experience and learn to recognize who your allies are, and where they can be found.  Know where dangers lurk so you can sidestep them.  And if you should find yourself in the company of lions, hyenas, hunting dogs or leopards in business suits, know how to circumvent interactions that jeopardize you and your business.

The important lesson to take from the behaviors of the mother giraffe sit that no matter how hard you fall, get back up on your feet right away and keep moving forward.

Elyse Bruce

How Young Is Too Young?

Every once in a while, someone sends me a link to a young recording artist with talent.  I listen to the music or watch the video, and almost always I like the kid.  When the video and the song are age appropriate and positive, I’m impressed with the adults who are championing the kid.

That being said, I don’t buy into the idea that it’s appropriate to sign a kid to a recording contract when they’re so very young, and there are lots of good reasons why I don’t buy into the idea.

Tanya Tucker made her debut with Mel Tillis back in 1969 when she was 10 years old.  She had loads of talent.  Three years later, she had a hit with the song “Delta Dawn” and she became one of the youngest stars ever to enter country music.  Over the years, her stormy relationships, May-December romances, and addictions were splashed all over print and broadcast media.

I remember seeing Britney Spears perform on Star Search when she was ten years old … back in 1992.  Like Tanya Tucker, she had loads of talent.  Her stormy relationships, outrageous behaviors, and legal woes were also splashed all over print and broadcast media.

Lindsay Lohan also began her acting career at the age of 10 on the soap opera, “Another World.”  She had loads of talent.  And like Tanya Tucker and Britney Spears, the pitfalls and downward spiral of her life became the fodder of print and broadcast media.

Billy Ray’s daughter, Miley Cyrus, had her debut in Tim Burton’s movie, “Big Fish” when she was 10 years old.  She had loads of talent.  And yes, her behavior and antics have been traipsed through print and broadcast media for quite some time.

It seems that it’s the norm, not the exception, for talented children growing up in the arts industry to somehow wind up in a tailspin of varying magnitudes as they grow up.  Perhaps it’s just those who are 10 years old when they’re discovered who get pulled into the negative vortex, but I don’t believe so.

Justin Beiber was discovered on YouTube when he was 13 years old.

Brad Renfro began his acting career at 12 years of age.

Jodie Sweetin began her acting career at 4 years of age.

Macaulay Culkin began his acting career at 4 years of age.

Drew Barrymore made her first appearance as an actress when she wasn’t quite a year old.

The list goes on and on.

Now, I’m not saying that every kid that gets involved in the arts industry is doomed to a life of difficulties and ridicule and judgment.  Not at all.  After all, there are those like Shirley Temple Black and Justin Timberlake who have navigated the waters of ever-present disasters and troubles lurking in the dark, waiting to scuttle them on their shores.

However, I do believe that children should be allowed to be children, and no matter how desperately they want to grab at that brass ring, they should be encouraged to enjoy their childhood.

According to the CDC, the average American can expect to live  to be about 78 years old, so doesn’t it make sense to let kids be kids for the first 18 years of their life?  After all, there’s another 60 years after that for pursuing a career in the arts industry if that’s what they want.  If they’ve got loads of talent, the world will embrace them when they hit that eighteenth birthday.

In the meantime, encourage them to enjoy their talent.  Encourage them to volunteer their talents for fun events and school concerts and church gatherings and other such things.

Let them be kids.

Elyse Bruce

Idle No More: There’s A New C.I.A. In Town

According to this website, April 26th marks the date when thousands of people will meet in Washington, D.C. to send a final, unmistakable message to President Obama.  The message will be that it’s time to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, and to make good on his promise to protect the land, water, and climate.

History has told the many stories of settlers, colonials, and North American Indians clashing over water, land, and hunting rights.  But there have been times when they have come together to protect the water, land, and hunting rights against greater dangers.

Opposition to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has brought communities together in 2014.  Tribes, farmers, ranchers and allies consider it their duty as stewards to conserve the land and protect the water for future generations.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has documented the discrepancies between the claims about the Keystone CL Pipeline and the realities.  The include, but are not limited to, some of the following:

  • KXL will not directly create 100,000+ jobs; it will create 3,900 short-term jobs and 50 long-term jobs.

  • KXL will not produce billions in corporate tax revenues.  Due to tax loopholes most Americans do not know about, those corporate tax revenues will be considerably less.

  • KXL will not be safe from disastrous leaks.  It will, however, be exempt from corporations paying into a key disaster insurance fund because it is “unconventional oil.”  This means that taxpayers will find themselves on the hook for billions of dollars to pay for damage done by leaks along the pipeline.

  • KXL will not make America energy independent.  Most of the tar sands oil is planned for export from the Gulf of Mexico via tankers to foreign countries.

  • KXL will not be climate neutral in spite of the claims made in an assessment prepared by an industry-linked group.  Studies claim that it will speed climate change and global instability.

A group of high schools students from Port Townsend, WA left on March 27, traveling 3,000 miles by train to the Washington, D.C. to lobby for climate action, in solidarity with the Cowboy Indian Alliance (C.I.A.). AS they cross from Washington State to Washington, D.C., they have been collecting — and will continue to collect — petitions from students across the US.  Their journey is taking them through tribal lands in North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota.

They can be found on Facebook under the moniker “Students For Sustainability” by clicking HERE.

On April 26th at 11:00 AM, the Cowboy Indian Alliance (C.I.A.) and their supporters will meet at the encampment on the National Mall.  From there, they will march together to present a hand-painted tipi to President Obama. This tipi will represent the sincere hope that he will reject the pipeline.

If, however, President Obama chooses to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and allow the pipeline to move forward, the Cowboy Indian Alliance (C.I.A.) and their supporters have promised that the action will be met with the fiercest resistance from the Cowboy Indian Alliance (C.I.A.) and their allies.  Together, they will protect our land and our water.

More details can be found by clicking THIS LINK.

Elyse Bruce

The 7 Cardinal Rules Of Doing Business

If you haven’t heard the expression before, a cardinal rule is a fundamental rule.  It’s a basic rule, and it’s an essential rule.  In business, as in life, there are cardinal rules, and if you disregard them, the consequences will impact negatively on your business.

1.  Social skills that impact positively on others are vital.

Like it or not, the world is divided into two groups at all times, although the membership in each group is never static.  The two groups are “Us” and “Them.”  It’s so entrenched in society that the tendency is to gravitate to marketing messages that clearly show who the “Us” people are, and who the “Them” people are.  The cardinal rule when it comes to social skills is to hone your ability to adapt and fit in so your business can survive … and to do so without sacrificing your core values and beliefs.  In refining your social skills, you should be able to travel inside the “Them” camp without alienating the “Us” camp, and vice versa.

2.  The real world isn’t anything like the virtual world or the contrived world.

In books and movies and plays and songs, everything turns out exactly the way the copyright owner(s) says it will because complete control of the end result lies with the copyright owner(s).  In the real world, nothing is static.  Everything is constantly in motion.  Again, as with social skills, learn to adapt and fit in with what reality throws at you without sacrificing your core values and beliefs.

3.  Time cannot be replaced.

Don’t waste other people’s time, and don’t let other people waste your time.  Once time has passed by, it cannot be recouped. Instead, make the most of the time you have, and make the most of the time you are granted by others.  The closer you adhere to this rule, the more you will attract others who also respect the value of time … their own as well as yours.

4.  If something sounds too good to be true, it’s too good to be true.

You’ve probably heard a parent or grandparent say something along the same lines.  This cardinal rule is the corollary to the rule that says, “If it’s a good deal today, it will still be a good deal tomorrow, and if it isn’t going to be a deal tomorrow, then it wasn’t a deal today.”  Do your research and check the facts with more than one source.  An honest professional will urge you to do due diligence; a dishonest professional will be insulted and offended by your actions.

5.  The best deals are the ones where everyone comes away a winner.

You’ve heard terms such as win-win and win-win-win.  The fact of the matter is that there should be as many winners as there are partners involved in the deal.  If there aren’t, that means someone didn’t come away a winner.  If that’s the case, just remember that someday, you might be the one who doesn’t come away a winner.  If you wouldn’t like that happening to you, then don’t let it happen to anyone else.  Negotiate everything until everyone gets a slice of the pie.

6.  Leveraging matters.

Yes, money matters, but leveraging matters more.  Why?  Because there are some situations where leveraging wields more power than money.  When used effectively, leveraging is what makes the best deals where everyone comes away a winner.  Don’t let the success or failure of a business idea rest solely on who has the most money to invest in the venture.  Take into account the talents and skill sets that everyone brings to the project, and work from there.

7.  You don’t know everything.

The good news is that nobody else knows everything either.    This allows you to benefit from two important facets in business.  The first is that you have an opportunity every day to learn something you didn’t know before.  The second is that you don’t need to subject yourself to the pressure of knowing everything, and can surrender micromanaging your business by working cooperatively and collaboratively with other professionals.

Final Note On Cardinal Rules

Are there other important rules when it comes to doing business?  Of course there are.  In fact, there are some who have other cardinal rules on their list that I haven’t mentioned.  Why?  Because for me, these seven rules are the main rules that open up to secondary and tertiary rules.

Take some time away from your business to identify and record the cardinal rules you follow in business.  Keep them in a safe place, and remember to refer to them often.  Daily even.  You’ll be glad you did.

Elyse Bruce

 

Being Creative Is Serious Business

Except for when it isn’t.

Yes, it’s important to take your art seriously, regardless of the domain in which it can be found.  But it’s just as important to remember that being serious about your art all the time will stifle the creativity that makes your art unique.

Recently I was commissioned to create ten illustrations for an anthology of pulp fiction short stories.  It’s being edited by award-winning British-Canadian journalist, novelist, screenwriter and producer, Joel Mark Harris.  And yes, I’m taking this commission seriously.  Ten short stories.  Ten illustrations.  Ten authors to please.

The first illustration was for a short story written by Thomas D. Taylor.   His main requirements were that the illustration have a cabin cruiser that was big enough for accommodate a small group of people comfortably, tied to a dock on a dark and stormy night, with a gaudy, Art Deco home somewhere on the island.

Thomas Taylor_JPG_Small

The second illustration was for a short story by Glenn Muller.  His main requirements were that the illustration have a Beretta F compact style revolver, an envelope with an official document inside, and a tropical drink … perhaps with a little umbrella tossed in for good measure.

Glenn Muller_600 DPI_Signed_Small
Next came an illustration for a short story by Jorge Avalos.  His main requirements were that the illustration have a car that was similar to a Chevy Malibu and an 18-wheeler.  With that, I created this illustration.

Avalos_COLOR_small

This takes me to the fourth illustration, with this one being for Allison Cosgrove.  Her main requirement was that the illustration be seen through the dead person’s eyes, lying at the bottom of a set of stairs.

As you can tell, pulp fiction murder-mystery is serious business.  There’s nothing funny about it.  Something terribly sinister happens and before you know it, there’s murder, mystery, and mayhem all over the place!  But in the midst of all that, I found a humorous nugget.

I sent a quick note to the editor, letting him know that the next illustration would be black.

Completely black.

Top to bottom, and side to side.

Black.

Before I go on, I have to admit that the editor and I have built a good working relationship with each other, and it’s this good working relationship that allowed me to share the humor with him.  I may have refrained from sharing my ‘vision‘ if the editor was a different editor and our working relationship was a different working relationship.  However, Joel has a great sense of humor himself and I knew that, while my comment might throw him at first, he would get it.

So, having shared my ‘vision‘ for the fourth illustration, I quickly pointed out that taken literally, this is what Allison had requested.  You see, when someone is dead (dead as dead can be as they are in pulp fiction style stories), they don’t see anything.

I know that in Jules Verne’s book “The Kip Brothers” published in 1902, it included the wildly popular belief of the time that the image of the last thing seen at the moment of death remained imprinted upon the retina of the eye.  In fact, in the final chapter, Jules Verne wrote:

For some time now it has been known — as a result of various interesting ophthamological experiments done by certain ingenious scientists, authoritative observers that they are — that the image of exterior objects imprinted upon the retina of the eye are conserved there indefinitely. The organ of vision contains a particular substance, retinal purple, on which is imprinted in their exact form these images. They have even been perfectly reconstituted when the eye, after death, is removed and soaked in an alum bath.

It was such a widely held belief that it was used in the investigation of the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888.  Scotland Yard hoped that they might be able to solve the case this way, and engaged a professional photographer to assist them.  The results were recorded thusly:

In an attempt to be scientific, the police pried open Annie Chapman’s dead eyes and photographed them, in the hope that the retinas had retained an image of the last thing she saw. But no images were found.

Keeping this in mind (and knowing that the science had long been debunked), literally speaking, the illustration would have to be completely black, top to bottom, side to side, to be factually correct.  I also knew that figuratively speaking, this isn’t what the author (or the editor) wanted.

But pranking the editor with such an exact illustration was irresistible, and so I sent my ‘vision‘ along to him.  The message was received in the same light-hearted manner in which it was sent, and after a good chuckle together, I have begun work on the fourth illustration which will have several other colors aside from the aforementioned black.

While being creative is serious business, always remember to set aside some time to be less serious.  You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll return to your work with renewed vigor, energy, and creativity.

Wait.  Is that a noise I hear outside my office window?  Who’s out there?

Illustration Humor

Elyse Bruce

Idle No More: What’s Good For The Goose

On March 28, the Ottawa RedBlacks — the newest team welcomed into the Canadian Football League (CFL) — team owners, along with their marketing and promotion whizzes, unveiled their mascot.  It was a gutsy move to go with a decidedly uniquely Canadian-stereotype mascot … a lumberjack in a red checkered flannel shirt who goes by the name of Joe Mufferaw.

Big Joe Mufferaw_Tweet_28 March 2014_IMAGE
The problem is that the team owners, along with their marketing and promotion whizzes, had misappropriated a certain group’s cultural identity.  Yes, the Francophones were decidedly upset over the misappropriation of Joseph (Jos for Francophones and Joe for Anglophones) Montferrand … pronounced by most non-Francophones (at the best of times) as Joe Mufferaw.

But you know, sometimes people who are busy misappropriating another group’s cultural identity prefer justification above all else, and so it was with this situation when the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment group explained that the mascot was named for a fictional lumberjack Stompin’ Tom Connors sang about back in 1970.  Why, Stompin’ Tom Connors even named his album after that fictional character, Big Joe Mufferaw.

The team owner, Jeff Hunt, claimed that he’d researched the name and came across this fictional character.

He said he had researched the name of the fictional character.

Once he realized that Jos (for Francophones) aka Joe (for Anglophones) wasn’t fictional, he consulted with francophone media and advisors.

He consulted with francophone media and advisors after the fact, not before the decision was made.

It wasn’t long before he was telling the Ottawa Morning radio show that he was surprised that some people “felt like it was not a fair tribute” and were offended by the team’s obvious homage to the great man himself.

It was not an homage; it was a misappropriation of French-Canadian history.

Let’s jump back a hundred or so years, and brush up on some Canadian history.

Joseph Montferrand  (25 October 1802 – 4 October 1864) was a hero and defender of francophone rights in the 1800s as well as a voyageur (and son of a voyageur), raftsman, lumberjack, boxer (he defeated the reigning Canadian Boxing Champion at age 17), and strong man.  The stories of what Jos Montferrand accomplished were widely circulated in the oral tradition and it wasn’t long before those exploits were immortalized in literature and song.

Oh my!  The fictional character actually existed once upon a time!

Getting back to present day, the team owner along with his marketing and promotion whizzes decided to fix the problem … sort of.  They decided that Big Joe Mufferaw would henceforth be known as “Big Joe” in English and “Grand Jos” in French, and while his lumberjack appearance wouldn’t change, he would no longer be a Montferrand or a Mufferaw.  He was just Jos … or Joe.

Everything was back on track by March 31.

The uproar seems to have quieted down, and that’s a good thing.  However, I would like to point out the inequity here.  When the Francophones took a stand against having their culture and heritage misappropriated all in the name of CFL team spirit, the issue was addressed quickly … very quickly.

But when First Nations peoples take a stand against having Indigenous culture and heritage misappropriated all in the name of team spirit, the issue is swept under the carpet, protestors are vilified, and the protests continue year after year after year … in some cases, for decades.

Inequity is the lack of fairness or justice.

There seems to be a lot of inequities when it comes to indigenous issues.  Maybe it’s time everyone took the time to admit that it’s time to set things straight with regards to misappropriation of other people’s culture and heritage.  It’s time to treat such matters fairly, without discrimination, without partisanship, without prejudice, without favoritism, and with compassion and understanding.

No group deserves to be marginalized and diminished for objecting to misappropriation of culture and heritage while another group receives a prompt reaction to their objections.

Elyse Bruce

Are These 5 Behaviors Killing Your Business?

It’s a fact that productivity ebbs and flows throughout the year for any number of reasons.  Sometimes the reasons are beyond our control, but sometimes they’re completely within our control.  So what are some of the reasons this happens?

Negativity

Negativity has an effect on your energy levels, and takes focus off critical attention that should be paid to outstanding work that needs to be completed.  The effects from that negativity busts your morale down, and damages your ability to interact effectively with business associates and colleagues.

The solution is to nip the negativity in the bud.  Identify what the problem is, and resolve the issue responsible for creating the problem.    Sometimes fixing the problem is as simple as taking notice of the details that are interfering with overall flow of your work day.

Overwork and Overcommitment

Like everyone else, each of us only has 24 hours in a day.  There’s no sense in trying to fit more than 24 hours worth of activities into every 24-hour period.

Manage your time efficiently and effectively so you don’t find yourself agreeing to more work than you can reasonably complete to your standards.  Rely on daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly calendars to keep your professional and personal life on schedule … and then stick to them.

When you learn to use the word “No” you realize that an honest “No” will garner you more respect from others than a hopeful “Yes” that will probably fall through.

Unclear Goals

Without a plan and without calendars to keep you on track, it’s nearly impossible to know where your business is headed, and how to accomplish your goals.

I compare lack of planning and lack of scheduling to getting in a car, hoping to wind up in New York or Los Angeles at some point — but you haven’t decided when ‘at some point‘ is, you aren’t sure if you want to be in New York or in Los Angeles (or maybe somewhere else you haven’t thought about yet), you don’t really know how you’ll be paying for gas and hotels, and you’re undecided as to what you’ll be doing once you get to New York or Los Angeles.

When things go wrong — as they oftentimes will with such a scenario — is it any wonder that those involved will wind up feeling frustrated, angry, and dissatisfied with what happens along the way (not to mention the disappointment at the end of the trip)?

Meddlesome Distractions

From time to time, you deal with a client who mistakenly believes that meddling in a situation is the same thing as managing a situation.  This doesn’t mean that you completely shut the door on input from  clients.  It means that you take the time to outline what are acceptable terms of work, and holding the line when the client oversteps his or her bounds.

A good client knows when to engage and when to allow the contractor to work unfettered.  And a good contractor knows when to ask for direction, how to ask for more information as needed, and to follow the parameters of the contract.

Mediocrity Rules

For some, it’s easy to go with the concept that mediocrity is good enough, and excellence is over-rated.  The fact of the matter is, mediocrity isn’t good enough.  The mediocrity rules mindset is often what leads to overcommitment because it fools one into believing that he or she can simply pop this off and toss that out and have it pass as quality work or their best work.  The more an entrepreneur subscribes to the concept of mediocrity rules, the more dissatisfied his or her quality clientele will become, leading to quality clientele moving on to another contractor.  Likewise, more and more mediocrity rules clientele will take up the entrepreneur’s time.

Final Note

If you want to pull out of the deteriorating performance downward spiral, you have to address those issues and beliefs that are dragging you down the proverbial drain.  Take a step back and re-assess how you want to do business and value the results of doing your best work in each job you undertake.

Elyse Bruce

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