Meshell’s new album is out! It doesn’t sound much like an old soul record, but I’m diggin’ it anyway. She’s a genius.
Kiss will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is a big deal! I was six years old when i became a fan. Destroyer was my first album. I’ve never been what I’d call a fanatic, but I’m definitely a huge lifelong fan, and I’m pretty sure I’ll do whatever it takes to be at the ceremony.
I created this image as a tribute. Even made a Facebook cover. G’head, grab it if you wanna!
There are a few good reasons I got myself all tangled up in this 3% Conference business.
Never heard of the 3% Conference? Well, it’s only in its second year, but it’s quite buzzy in ad circles and here’s why: only 3% of all Creative Directors in advertising are women. And the majority of all advertising targets the household purchase decision makers who just happen to be…you guessed it, women. So there’s a disparity there for sure, and the contributing factors make for deep discussion about business, life, and people in general. The conference aims to bring awareness to the issues and provide a forum where actual work can be done toward changing the ratio.
So why me? Why would I – a guy who pretty much abandoned a career as a creative executive in favor of spending most days working alone in my attic – wanna get all busy and involved with ad people again? On the surface, it seems to be a bit of a mystery. And you can believe that more than a few of my guy friends – even the creative pros among them – have raised an eyebrow at me and joked around about “that woman’s thing” I’m working on.
Reason One is easy. I have a daughter. I’ll explain the other reasons shortly, but make no mistake, this is the reason that matters most, and the seed of reasoning behind every step forward I take with this thing. And it’s not just because she’s a creative kid (they all are), it’s because no matter what field she gets into, I want the fucking Ol’ Boy’s Club and their rusty ideals out of the equation. I’ve seen all of it in action first hand, and I don’t want it in either of my children’s lives.
This conference stops being about women almost as soon as you start talking about business practices and how they shape our lives. It’s about people, and how we choose to interact, create, and live together. In this context, I can lead a dialog that might actually help to change perceptions and thus reality. And reality needs changing. Wherever your politics lie, The Ol’ Boys Club is behind many of our common woes, in business and at home.
Reason Two is more self-serving. I’ve been out of advertising for a couple of years now. I’d been in VP Creative Director roles for a several years, and my specialty was User Experience Design (UX). There appeared to be no limits ahead, I could ride that bus anywhere, building and guiding great teams of Creatives along the way, as long as I was willing to do it in the service of selling something; laundry detergent, hotel rooms, insurance, pills, financial services, cars, insurance (did I mention insurance?).
But as I gained experience as a creative leader, I lost my enthusiasm for the client services side. It happens. Now I’m a happy freelancer working on…all kinds of things. But I’m not here to write about that.
Thing is, I never once lost my enthusiasm for Creative people and teams. Being surrounded by talented people is the best part about working in any organization, and I’m especially grateful for those moments when I was able to help someone navigate through the ever-thickening fog of agency life. 3% gives me a chance to share my valuable agency experiences with an audience that’s really listening, even though, technically, I’m off the advertising grid.
Reason Three is Rebecca Rivera. Considering the conditions under which we met (let’s just say I was her new boss, and the company in question was a psychological war zone) it’s amazing how our partnership has endured. We had to try really hard to make good things happen in an adversarial situation, and I guess the upshot is that few things seem difficult now.
With her typical social panache, Rebecca got herself hooked into 3% for last year’s event, leading a panel all about social media. In parallel, we were laying the groundwork for Social Goodness, our “Social Media for Creatives” consultancy. We had an idea that combined the idea of networking events and speed dating, and thus Speed Mentoring was born. We’re kicking it off for the first time at this year’s 3% Conference, and it’s pretty rad.
So that’s it in a nutshell. And (thankfully) I’m not the only guy involved. Guy Kawasaki, Rob Schwartz, Matt Rozen, and a bunch of other dudes are showing up to support this conference that’s really a movement.
I’m sure I’ll have some stories to tell.
The Power of Silence
I tried not to re-record this song.
I thought, it’s old. I was practically a kid when I wrote it. The guy who wrote it with me is a published author now, and he’s not wasting time untangling old shoelaces. We had a small fan base, nobody remembers this song. It’s melodramatic. It’s smelly. I’m tired.
Plenty of good reasons to avoid this (probably) pointless exercise.
Still, I did wake up with the damn thing lodged in my brain like a fossilized arrowhead. I sat up in bed, wondering why the fuck it was rattling around between my ears at 7 am, unable to shake the feeling I’d just found something that I’d forgotten I’d lost. Like a lighter in the pocket of an old pair of jeans. Like a paperback with a great first chapter, set aside then lost behind a radiator. Like my twenties.
Well, maybe that was it. Maybe I was just feeling a little lonely for 20-year-old me and wanted to sort of check in on the obstinate, longhaired dope. Who knows. Regardless of my many reasons not to open the tune’s casket and go sifting through the dusty remains, a few days later I found myself plinking away on my guitar, searching for transient chords that had set course for higher ground decades ago.
I emailed the cowriter, asking him to take a peek at the lyrics we’d shaped together back when there was a lot more anger, booze, and chemicals running through our blood.
"Why, Jeff, why?" he asked, fairly.
Having no good reasons, I simply demanded his indulgence. You can do that with old friends sometimes and they’ll usually forgive you. He begrudgingly agreed, and with one brilliant new line and a willingness to hack away half the song’s dead weight, he freed me to twist the old metal into new shapes.
The point wasn’t to make the song better, or to draw comparisons to the old version. I just wanted to wear it for awhile, can you dig? I have these jackets laying around, you know, denim and leather, that sort of thing. I can’t seem to discard them, and I rarely put them on. But when I do drag them out of storage they feel different, because by the time I’ve gotten around to trying them on again I’m different.
Songs are like that too, I think. The ones we write, and the ones we don’t. Their essential shape is the same, but the context is always changing. Same with books and movies, and that’s part of why we love them and hold onto them for dear life as time erases now, replacing it with what might be.
I wonder what it’s like for Joni Mitchell or Neil Young to hear another artist try a song on for size. For better or worse, I imagine it gives them a window into their creation that they’d otherwise never discover. Since my songs don’t reach many ears, I’m unlikely to experience someone else’s interpretation. Doing it myself is as close as I’ll get, and recording this new version was really fun.
From 1990 to 1995 I was in a band called Medicine Pipe. We wrote and performed all kinds of weird songs with zero commercial potential, and this was one of them. It’s a song about an ex-girlfriend of mine, and the pointless arguing that incompatible people are bound to get up to. The title comes from a Carlos Castaneda book that’s also pretty weird, but excellent reading for youthful creative pioneers.
Novelist Doug Wynne helped me with the words, then and now.