Mission: Mayor Feinstein’s Reception at San Francisco City Hall Rotunda for Philippine President Corazon Aquino.
San Francisco Children’s Chorus
Presidio Honorary Color Guard
Various and Sundry State and Civic Leaders
About two weeks before the event, I met with Ms. Baez’ Personal Assistant to walk through City Hall and talk through the program in situ. A tall, imperious, all-business woman; she was as on top of things as any Secret Service I’d ever worked with, before. All business and details.
After the walkthrough, we stood on the dais at the foot of the Grand Staircase (photo above) which serves as the “stage” for such civic ceremonies along with the spectacular stairway behind it, and talked through the program, entrances and exits, stage positions, et cetera. I asked if she could tell me what Ms. Baez planned to sing, so that I could place and frame it appropriately in the program.
The PA (I am sorry, I don’t remember her name) told me she’d ask Joan and let me know.
Then, I brought it up.
“So, Mayor Feinstein knows that President Aquino’s favorite color is yellow, and would like for Joan to join the Children’s Chorus in singing ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon (‘Round the Old Oak Tree)!’
She looked down at me and said, quite frostily and with a look of disdain on her face, “I can ask her.”
“I know,” I said. “I’m being paid to ask such questions.”
She looked at me…with a glint of sympathy…”I will ask.”
A few days later, the phone rang in my apartment (a land line).
“I’m calling for Kile Ozier…”
“This is Kile…”
“Good Morning, Kile! This is Joan Baez. I understand you need to know what I’ll be singing for Cory Aquino, next week.”
“Yes, Ms. Baez; I want to be sure to position it appropriately in the program.”
“Great. I’ll be singing “Oh, Freedom.” It’s the song I sing for Cory every time I perform for her.”
“Thank you! Can you tell me what album it’s on? I have several of your albums, but I don’t know that I have that song.”
“You won’t be able to find it, as I’ve never recorded it. Do you mind if I sing it for you, now?”
“Uh…” I uttered, intelligently, “…not at all!”
And she began to sing. Full on, full voice, full emotion…not singing to give me a sense of the song; rather, singing The Song to me. I put my phone on speaker, leaned back against my kitchen counter and looked out the window at the garden below as her voice took flight and soared with her full-hearted notes.
I could only stand there and marvel at the moment; that my life is such that something like this could just happen; unselfconsciously, unpretentiously and with complete and generous sincerity. It was beautiful.
When she was finished, I thanked her and she said, “You are quite welcome, Kile; I’ll see you next week at City Hall…” and hung up.
(She did not mention “Tie a Yellow Ribbon…”)
The Rotunda is packed, the surrounding balcony is shoulder-to-shoulder, the Grand Staircase is full of children’s chorus, myriad dignitaries and the Honor Guard up at the top. Energy is high.
Joan (I did not call her that) meets me on the Mayor’s Balcony so that I can wire her with her microphone. A warm and VERY pleasant greeting and handshake…
She is a beautiful woman. Exuding power, confidence, dignity…and I’ve been an ardent fan since 8th grade.
I’m on my knees, hooking her battery pack to the belt of her dress as I hear, “By the way, Kile?”
I look up, she’s looking down at me…
“Tie a Yellow Ribbon…”?
I winced. “Yes?”
“Not my style.”
<silence and quick thinking>
I stood up. “Would you consider simply standing with the chorus as they sing it, Ms. Baez?”
“Yes. I will do that.”
The ceremony and performances proceeded to run without a hitch. Happy Audience, Happy Joan Baez, Happy Kile and the Mayor’s Office of Protocol.
After the ceremony, the Mayor came up from her Front Row seat to the Mayor’s Balcony, where my team and I were gathered in debrief and relief…
“Kile, I couldn’t hear Joan Baez singing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon…” with the chorus.”
I opened my mouth to speak as my good friend and number one on all my Mayoral Show Teams, John Twomey, said, “Oh, you could hear her perfectly from up here; she was killer! It mush have something to do with the sound system and all this marble.”
The rest of the team (and the Protocol Officer) chimed in, “Yeah, she was great…” “It was perfect…” “I can’t believe you couldn’t hear it on the floor!”
“Oh,” she said, “well, that’s too bad… Thank you.” And she proceeded to her office.
Themed entertainment veteran releases new book on creative leadership & production
Kile Ozier, an admired leader in the themed entertainment industry, has finally put to paper the techniques and philosophies behind his decades of show and spectacle production in his new book Creative Catalyst: Empowering Experience Design Teams From Ideation to Production. Prodded by colleagues to spell out how he works his magic, Kile shares his Five Tenets of Experience Creation, discussing how to assemble and lead creative teams and build experiences that connect story to audience.
FROM THEMED ENTERTAINMENT TO BUSINESS BEYOND THE BERM, anyoneleading creative teams will benefit from Kile’s extensive expertise. For more than thirty years, Ozier has created and delivered experiences of massive spectacle and unique intimacy in stadium and theatre, theme park and ballroom—all inspiring audiences to cheer, to weep, and sometimes to write checks! Gathering teams, forces, and resources from all over the world, “The Guy” builds storytelling experiences that give fresh resonance to legacy and ensure powerful, emotional connections between story and audience. Creative Catalyst walks us tangibly through the steps from concept to opening, learning ways to inspire creativity and production at every turn—and have fun along the way!
“Kile Ozier has written the best book I’ve read on collaboration and project management in this industry.”
—Peter Weishar, Director of Themed Experience Graduate Programs, University of Central Florida
“Kile has articulately laid out very actionable steps for any team involved in the creation and execution of experience design projects to follow on the path from concept to installation and operation.”
—Mk Haley, Arts & Entertainment Technology, University of Texas-Austin, Formerly Walt Disney Imagineering
“This is great news for live event producers, experience designers, themed entertainment professionals, curious collaborators, leaders of humans, and everyone in between. By sharing his vast knowledge and fascinating experiences in this book, Kile has created a valuable guide for those open to admitting there’s always more to learn.”
—Chris Grap, VP Experiential, Mall of America
Creative Catalyst ships late summer. Review copies available.
Tending bar and waiting tables at the Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, DC; rebooting after a year of advance work in the Pacific.
My first Celebrity Crush was Hayley Mills. (“Pollyanna”? I was a goner.) Subsequently, as the world opened up beyond Disney movies, I had developed a thing for Glenda Jackson. With “Women in Love,” a crush grew through and beyond “The Music Lovers,” “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” and “A Touch of Class” to the point where I pretty much believed she walked on water, I admired her so.
When I learned she was coming to DC in “Hedda Gabler” at the National, I knew that it was Time We Met.
I bought tickets to Closing Night, then wrote her before opening night, explaining who I was and that I would love to take her to one of the 14 or so lunches she’d be having during her two-week run in DC. My intentions were purely Platonic; and that I didn’t want to subject her to crowds, just a quiet lunch and a casual place where we could talk and get to know one another a bit. I gave her the number of my work and my swim coach as local reference…
A week later, mid-run, I had not heard back from her; so I followed up with another note, accompanied by a crystal brandy snifter in which a gardenia was afloat. (I’d been a floral delivery guy my senior year in High School, and the gardenia-in-a-brandy snifter was my pièce de résistance when I really wanted to land a good impression.
In my note, I acknowledged that she’d surely been busy while in DC, and that her performance was surely exhausting; but that my invitation remained open and valid and I’d love to take her to lunch someplace special to DC.
The following week, nothing. By Saturday, I’d chalked it up to having given it a solid Go and let go of my little luncheon-with-Ms. Jackson fantasy. That morning, before the Ebbitt opened, I was setting tables and polishing silverware for the lunch shift when the manager came over with a funny look on his face and said there was a phone call for me.
I went to the back stairway and picked up the phone and this gorgeous voice said, in the plummiest of tones, “Hello, is this Kile Ozier…?”
“Yes, it is…” I said; thinking “No WAY!” as my knees went weak.
“Well, this is Glenda Jackson. I’m sorry not to have gotten back to you before now; I’ve just been so busy that I’ve had no time for lunch…or even tea…”
In my head, I’m (“TEA! She would have had Tea with me? Tea with Glenda Jackson! Glenda Jackson is on the phone with me!”)
“Are you coming to the performance this evening?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Well, why don’t you pop-round after the performance?”
“Pardon me…?” I said, having never heard the term “pop-round” before and being unable to actually think at the moment.
“Please come backstage after the performance; I’d love to meet you.”
“I’d love to do that, Miss Jackson; thank you.”
“Brilliant! See you after the show, then.”
That night, after curtain, I went backstage. There were probably 15 or so people at her dressing room door. I held back a bit, not wanting to be a part of some gushy, adulatory mob and also not sure of the dictates of procedure and protocol. As the last person before me was escorted from the Star Chamber, the guard looked at me and said, “Anyone else for Miss Jackson?”
I nodded, he beckoned, I entered and there she was. Seated before her mirror on a small bench, wrapped in an elegant dressing gown, she turned and offered me her hand… “Kile…?”
“Miss Jackson.” (So far, so good: no faux pas.)
There, tucked into the frame of her mirror, were both notes I’d written her; and on the dresser was the fragrant gardenia, still fresh, still afloat.
We sat and talked – well, mostly she interviewed me. Though I pretty much held my own, I can barely remember the conversation; as I was just a tad gobsmacked at the quality of grace and the level of respect she was showing me. The fact that she’d kept and had on display my missives and gift offered such affirmation and recognition in a gesture I’ve never forgotten.
Ten minutes or so, and I took my leave. She stood up, gave me a hug, said “Cheers” and wished me good luck. I thanked her and said goodbye.
I took that experience as an example of how simple it is to give respect and treat people well. She was far more than a simple touch of class.
We are all responsible for the Quality of Life on this Planet.
[Parts of this post are cryptic, as I am careful to protect the identity of the person at the center of the story.]
On Sunday evening, essentially the Eve of Pride, I received the call.
Do I know anyone in <Exotic City in the Arabian Gulf> that can help?
The Taliban has been after this person; now having gone underground and seeking asylum in Canada. The person is educated, has an advanced degree, has practiced his discipline professionally, speaks several languages…and has committed the crime of being Gay.
He survived the machine-gunning of his home and escaped to This Exotic City; has a temporary job and is working there as he works with US non-profit to arrange for transportation to and Asylum in Canada. He’s been staying in a Hostel in a suburb and keeping a low profile, but someone heard him on a phone and figured out his sexuality…
Subsequently, six men ambushed him in his bed, beat him mercilessly, breaking his laptop over his head and attempting to break his fingers… He escaped and hid in a construction site, sleeping there and hiding during daylight.
Because he is Gay.
Do I know anyone who can help him find a safe and secure place to live and be a conduit for money from the US Agency to cover living and food for the next period as arrangements are made?
The man is terrified. The Taliban wants him dead, he doesn’t feel safe and is vastly trepidatious of trusting anyone. He’s even afraid to see a doctor, in case…
I made calls to two colleagues who live in that country. It only took two. Both men barely let me explain what was needed; the concern they exhibited, the rapidity with which they opened up their networks, activated their resources and found or offered what is needed was breathtaking. Within 12- 18 hours the man was safe, had a place of his own, and has been befriended by one of my dear friends who is seeing to it that the man learns the possibility of trust…especially with this man.
I cite this instance for a couple of reasons. The manner in which my friends leapt unquestioningly into action, the deep empathy they demonstrated for a fellow human being, the thanks they gave to ME for giving them the opportunity to help this terrified soul…have been deeply moving to me.
Just last week, with the approach of Pride, we wrote in this space about the sudden (well, suddenly and again apparent…), exponential and cancerous growth of Hate in the US and worldwide. In the face of centuries fought for and decades old victories in our own country and other parts of the world, Hate has been awaiting the complacency that often comes when such victories are won. “Never Forget” becomes a slogan from before; and the urgency dissipates…
And the Hate returns; stronger than before.
Women, BIPOC, LGBTQ++ communities are being targeted and attacked at all levels in the name of religious freedom…or, in many cases, just Hate.
During PRIDE, as we celebrate and parade and articulate our rights to exist; I offer that it is important to remember that the few and fewer rights we are enjoying can be stripped at the drop of a vote…or simply ignored at the pull of a trigger or stabbing of a blade.
Throughout the US and the world, peripheral populations are fearing for their lives – and for those lives to be ended in cruel and painful ways – every day, all day, and all night.
So, AS we celebrate, might we please seek to communicate, inform, and in any ways that we can, offer support, succor, rescue and protection for vulnerable populations of our brothers, sisters and others…all of them?
I’m asking that, as we celebrate, let us also call attention to and seek to address and alleviate the problem. At every forum gathered in the name of PRIDE, I believe that we are bound by honor to call out the Inhumane. The Cruel. The egregious transgressions of simply the simple Human Right to exist.
We are bound by honor.
There are Asylum organizations worldwide that are committed to the rescue of those hunted for trapping and killing. I am familiar with two, the boards and admins of which I know; but these are by no means all that exist. Please put your money where you believe it will do the most good. I’ll put the links at the bottom of the post.
Not only in Afghanistan, but everywhere HATE is rearing its head; including our own countries. Let our members know what is taking place right under our noses and that this is unacceptable.
Our organizations are heavily populated by people directly concerned and affected by the Rise of this Violence and Hate.
Beyond that, and of equal importance in addressing and even lessening (as I don’t believe that Hate will ever be eliminated) these actions, exists a massive international community that needs only to be made aware that this is happening and for light to be shed on the best avenues for people to help in any way they can.
Money, transportation, food, shelter, jobs…we can all help.
Some simple numbers:
Being Gay is Illegal in 67 countries, punishable by death in 11.
Afghanistan is one of those 11.
Estimates are that the Taliban is killing between 100 – 200 LGBTQ++ people a month
Just as Independence Day in the US is a Celebration of our country gaining freedom from oppression (well, at least the white people – but not to cloud this issue with other egregious issues); just as Memorial Day is a Celebration of those lost in battle while defending our freedoms; and just as Veteran’s Day is a Celebration of the service of every US Veteran…
Pride is a Celebration of the achievement of Rights and Freedoms won through years…decades…of activism and violent struggle. This struggle, this movement, finally hit a flashpoint in 1969 – after literal centuries of persecution, discrimination, hate, violence, hiding and no small amount of fear that pervaded all aspects of our lives and from which none of us were ever truly free…especially in the Western World.
Recently, in situ with a small group of my colleagues (qualification: BIPOC and Gay), the conversation of PRIDE arose as each of us shared the personal, growing unease we each have been experiencing in recent years with respect to the critical value of Pride Celebrations and a perceived, oblique dilution through complacency of the urgency and importance of “Never Forgetting” the Why of PRIDE.
The parades and celebrations may resemble parties to those unfamiliar with the violent, life-destroying realities of being Gay (LGBTQIA) before 1969; but that exuberance is borne on shoulders beaten and bloody, incarcerated and murdered, attacked and disenfranchised millions who have suffered throughout history to get us to PRIDE. Every feather of every boa, every sparkling bit of glitter, every dancing queen in that parade has had a price paid for it by those no longer here…by those who got us here.
The fed-up drag queens and habitué of Stonewall and NYC’s West Village – sick of police raids and being beholden to mob bosses for the existence of gay bars and all the daily indignities and fears of even being a little out – threw their hands in the air (and their stilettos at the cops) and virtually shouted “enough” to the world, starting right there. Many went to jail, that night; dragged as usual out of the bars and into the wagons that would take them to jail.
I remember reading about these “riots” in Manhattan in my little hometown paper. About to enter my Senior Year in High School, I didn’t even have the vocabulary to identify myself to myself. Yet, as I read the oblique, obtuse and euphemism-filled report of these “riots in the West Village,” something in me stirred with identification. I knew, without knowing, that these rioters were important to me.
I grew some. I grew more. I launched a career. I feared for my life and my future that I might be Gay. (Spoiler Alert: I am.) I began to accept in 1976 and by 1979 I gave up a career in conservative politics, moved to SF and came out. Knowing no one in The City, I volunteered as a Monitor for my first-ever Pride Parade. And on that overcast morning, as the Gay Freedom Day Marching Band struck up “If They Could See Me, Now”; the clouds broke, pouring the brightest, sparkling sunshine on the polished brass instruments and, looking miles up Market street at the sidewalks packed with tens of thousands of people awaiting the parade, my heart exploded.
I will never, ever forget that feeling of freedom and exhilaration that burst from within me at that moment.
Then, at the edge of the crowd, a young, heterosexual couple appeared and asked, “Hey, what’s this?” I knew I had to tell him. For the most brief of moments, my breath caught in my throat and I choked out the words, “It’s the Gay Freedom Day Parade.” They looked at each other, and said, “HONEY, Go and get the kids!”
Freedom. Acceptance. Joy. Exhilaration. Vast and deep fear and guilt and care dissolved into the multicolored maelstrom of celebration of a new world for me…a new life that was possible. And, as the Dykes on Bikes roared up the street to lead the parade, the next chapter of my life opened for me; the Authentic one.
I remember this moment with every PRIDE parade or celebration or reception or forum or competition I encounter. I, along with millions of others, began and continued to show up, to spread confidence, to stand up for our rights as equal to all human beings deserve. Community wide, there was a commitment to easing the path for generations to follow. They should not have to hide, they should not have to fear, they should be free to Be Who They Are.
Just a few years later, AIDS began its swift and dark, voracious killing of gay people. Terror returned to the Community, and this time, the enemy could not be seen coming. …and both the Terror and the Hate resurfaced, full force.
Even in our own communities; men could return from receiving the bad news/death sentence at their doctor’s only to find all their belongings already on the sidewalk in front of their homes or buildings. Jobs were lost by the thousands on the mere suspicion of infection. Young men would call home in search of succor, coming out to their families and following that information with the news that they were ill. They might die. Many of these never heard from their families again. (Many also did.)
Jokes about AIDS in the Oval Office and White House Press Room. Heartless discrimination and dismissal everywhere.
Yet…PRIDE continued. In the face of all this, we continued to plant and support and nurture pride and self respect in one another and to remember that “every PRIDE is someone’s First…” and to welcome the new to the growing community.
In the 90’s and the 00’s (pronounced “aughts”), the LGB > LGBT acronym continued to grow as we saw many embrace their authentic selves, claim their identities (and now, pronouns) and embrace the freedoms inherent in the movement to further define it and themselves. In so many ways, this was a manifestation of the freedoms for which we fought.
And, as “gay/queer” became more acceptable, it has been thrilling and fulfilling to see younger people able to see themselves in others and to accept and embrace – to be Proud of – the selves they may realize that they are. Marriage Equality began to happen. RomComs and theatre about couples and love between same sex individuals began to have happier endings. Choices to live out loud became easier to make and embrace.
But the “Never Forget” part has, I am coming to believe, become lost in the process; as Hate has never left the building. Corporations can blithely co-opt PRIDE every June; making money off our PRIDE. The month of June is full of events that look “fun” without the subtextual message of danger.
The Right has been playing the Long Game the entire time. And that Game is Hate.
It seems to have happened so quickly, in the virtual blink of an eye; suddenly rights are being taken away that had not yet been able to gather dust. It feels as though the celebration of freedom has begat a complacency for which the opportunists have been waiting.
Across the country, in small towns and large, PRIDE celebrations are being cancelled, edited, licenses revoked. Drag is illegal. Clarifying pronouns are illegal. Haters are banding together to eliminate rights and eliminate people that “offend” them.
[Let’s take a moment here and discuss “Freedom.” Yes, one’s freedom ends at the tip of another’s nose (or personal space). But “freedom from being offended” is not a freedom guaranteed by the oft-mis-cited Constitution. Offense is, in and of itself, a choice.
If something one does or is is offensive to an Other, that Other is welcome to ignore said offense and get on with their life. Marriage, sexuality, attire, haircut, whatever. If what I wear or am offends you, then close your eyes or look the other way. It is not your concern. Nor is your “being offended” any of mine.]
Just last week, the iconic and revered Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – an order of volunteer nuns organized in the early years of AIDS to rescue, support, succor, heal and nurture people with AIDS were disinvited from the annual PRIDE night at Dodger Stadium…because an out-of-state body of individuals who apparently know little to nothing about this national/international phenomenon cited their offense at the fact of the invitation.
Rather than standing up to the Hate, the LA Dodgers quickly caved to this complaint and disinvited the Sisters.
And this is happening All. Across. The. Country.
I’m saying that it is imperative that we never forget the cost of the Freedoms we seek to enjoy. That we remember how quickly rights and livelihoods can be taken away by craven “leadership” and institutions. We are not at all safe if we are complacent.
So, though we may be seen dancing and shimmering and shining and loving one another; though we may have funny coming out stories or anecdotes of adventures and misadventures we’ve enjoyed at PRIDE, we are beholden to remember centuries of suffering and decades of struggle to be able to dance on this day.
We are bound to keep in mind, and those who see and support us should know and remember, that there is nothing lighthearted about a PRIDE Celebration. Nothing.
Dance the Day and Night away; but never forget WHY you can dance in the Light.
There is nothing lighthearted about a PRIDE celebration.
Finally, the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller
First they came for the Communists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Communist Then they came for the Socialists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Socialist Then they came for the trade unionists And I did not speak out Because I was not a trade unionist Then they came for the Jews And I did not speak out Because I was not a Jew Then they came for me And there was no one left To speak out for me
Meanwhile: Random Posts from Last Week in Hatefulness
My mind kept working, after yesterday’s post, bringing up various and sundry Things I Could Have Included…
Herewith, then, is a Treasure Chest of Real Life Navigational Tools
“I already have plans…”
Years ago (and by that I mean YEARS ago), when I was National Youth Director for an Incumbent’s Presidential Campaign, I was dating my “Boss,” the Director of Voter Groups (we’ll call her “Carolyn B.”), who was also seeing another guy on the campaign (we’ll call him “Paul M.”). I learned something from “Carolyn” that has served me to this day in unexpected and eminently effective ways across virtually all aspects of personal and professional life.
When I would ask Carolyn out for a specific date; if the answer were not “yes,” it would be, “I already have plans…” full stop. No details, no further information. No openings for further question beyond “when might you be free, then, Madame…?”
I could think what I might about what her alternate plans might be, but I had nothing beyond Assumption on which to base an essentially fruitless and likely detrimental-to-the-relationship interrogation. The subject was clearly closed and my proposed option off the table.
Turns Out…this is a GREAT technique for all such exchanges in Life; to which I have translated and applied this little trick of less is more to virtually all potential scheduling conflicts – personal and professional.
Friend(s): “Hey, wanna see a movie on Friday night?”
You: “I can’t; am having dinner with my mother..”
Friend(s): “Can’t you change that to another night and come with us?”
Friend(s): “Hey, wanna see a movie on Friday night?”
You: “Unfortunately, I already have plans…”
Friend(s): “Oh……is there another night that’s good for you?”
…Translated to Professional Contexts:
For some reason, people often seem to think that they have a de facto vote in how one runs one’s own life; down to the setting of personal priorities and the keeping or previous commitments.
‘Frinstance; back in the days I was competing in bodybuilding and physique, my nutrition and workout schedule was an intense routine, and sticking to the schedule was an integral part of keeping focus – nothing casual about it.
So, when in a meeting with a client, scheduling upcoming meetings, and the client would pitch,
“So, can we meet next Thursday at 3pm?
Rather than say,
“Oh, I have workout at that time”
and open up the Portal of Assumption, Pique and Judgement; I’d look at my calendar and say
“I’m already booked for 3pm on Thursday; what else y’all got?”
No one needs to know what’s in the way; your private life is your own: much the same as the irrelevance of the amount of your rent and the number of kids one has to the conversation of salary and pay raises of which we spoke in the previous post.
Don’t even open those issues. Just as your fees should represent your value; your schedule and the commitments you have made to yourself are yours to harbor and meet…sharing them with those of other priorities is not required.
The net effect, by the way, is a perception of you as a busy, sought-after professional. The natural assumption is that if you’re that busy, you must be in demand. Optics. Raise your rates.
Getting Paid: When and Why to Decline Work.
Many of us have taken jobs that paid too little, taken a client about which we don’t feel completely comfortable or a cause in which we may not believe; but we needed the work. I would offer that, most often in such situations, pretty much all parties end up unhappy in the long run. Resentment and unmet expectation can truly undermine the dynamic.
More often than not, everyone ends up unsatisfied and unhappy; seeing the end product through the filter of the tone of the working team and collaboration. If one can avoid this, I believe one should do so, even going so far as to recommend another whom you think might better fit.
True; sometimes it’s the only gig coming down the pike, the only client evident, and one must do what one must do in order to feed kids or cat. If that difficult choice must be made so, consider yoga or meditation.
Seek always to be the last one to speak in a meeting.
(Unless you are the one actually running the meeting.)
Especially in a new group or team, but equally valuable with regular cohorts and colleagues; the longer you wait to speak and more you listen to what everyone else has to say or share, the more informed you will be and the more enlightened and in-tune will be what you ultimately say, because…
You will know the Power Dynamics of the room
You will know who is the smartest person in the room
You will know who thinks they are the smartest person in the room
You will have a sense of where the relationships and alliances lie
You will likely gain some timely information about technologies or similar projects that you didn’t already know, and
That intangible energy that pervades a room where everyone has something to say will have dissipated, and what you say will likely be more readily heard…plus, having listened and heeded, what you say will be from an enlightened perspective.
Always send follow-up emails after meetings of two or more where agreements were made.
“Hey, <colleague/client/vendor>, just to follow up on our conversation of this afternoon; my understanding is that the entire project is to be delivered a week ahead of schedule and you will also be giving us a 20% discount. Please confirm your agreement by return email.”
This habit is likely to save a lot of angst, doubt and confusion. It is called a “paper trail,” though it is no longer paper.
You get an email.
You are too busy to give it appropriate thought and response.
Respond with a quick, “got your note, I’m swamped, but I will respond to you by the weekend” or something.
Then keep your word.
A human being wrote you that email.
Treat them humanely.
NO ONE doesn’t have 15 seconds to type such a response. That’s all it takes.
“Traveling” or “am on site” are truly not acceptable excuses for not responding; they are, essentially, Lies Excuses. The interwebs are everywhere…
Networking and social Media
Never use the default message.
Nobody owes you a LinkedIn acceptance. Give them a reason to accept.
Clicking the “invite” button is not “networking.”
It’s a good idea and very easy to “brand” your Zoom background. Your own brand or some artwork from the shared project or client. (I’ve been known to use a photo of a prospective client’s product so as to point out “how well I fit” – it’s worked!
Hear all critique; This can inform your decisions and help you to make better ones by raising issues that your fanbase and those who already fervently agree with you may simply not see. (See “Collaborative Dissent” a few pages back.)
Comfort Breeds Complacency in virtually all things. Just sayin’. When you are uncomfortable, you may be on the verge of some of your best work. Trust yourself. Embrace the discomfort and then go with your gut.
Three is arguably the best number for a meeting; ideation, feedback, counsel, mentoring, problem solving. Two is the best number for conspiracy.
Always be willing to learn, and to learn on the fly. At moments of greatest pressure might come a spark of alternative that could be missed if one is too focused on the previously-agreed-and-approved vision. Always hear, always consider. One never knows…
Okay, that’s all I’ve got. For now, in any event. Good luck out there.
*(OBTW = Oh, By The Way)
“IMEX: In My Experience | secrets of making ‘em cheer, weep…and sometimes write checks” is now available in the beautiful and durable Field Edition as well as download from Apple Books. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for purchase and shipping information.
The “Getting the Best…Giving the Best…” beta test cohorts have been wonderfully fantastic through winter and spring; a cache of remarkably diverse groups including undergrads, grad students, producers and execs at all levels, theme parks, major league sports, retail and all levels of immersion. Great people, great conversations, universal growth and enlightenment.
Watch this Space for upcoming classes and workshops.
Meanwhile, a number of things came to light with respect to entering, moving through and working in the real world that had never been actually discussed with most of these individuals: not in school, in any case. Life Navigation Skills, approaches to Corporate and Cultural skills that it seems no one may be teaching.
“Things One Should Know About Looking for Work and Doing Business,
but May Not Have Known Whom to Ask.”
Herewith, in random order, are some reminders, some cautions, a few Hard Truths, some questions and my answers:
You’ve Only Just Begun. Key to the rest of your life is that fact that Graduation is the first step of the rest of your life. Your degree is the Key and your education is the tool box you will use to become the best in the business.
But you are not the Best in the Business, yet! Not even close.
Some clarifying facts:
4,000 peoplein the US will graduate from College and University as #1 in their Class this year.
23,632 peoplein the world will graduate from their Colleges and Universities as #1.
Even segmenting by course of study, that’s a LOT of competition…and these are just the #1’s
So my cautionary advice to you, out of love and support, is: I urge and caution you to not be in any hurry to “become” Creative Director, VP, President or head of anything. Don’t print business cards that label yourself “Creative Director” or any other Office. Trust me, the veterans chuckle behind the presumptuous backs of those who do this stuff.
As much as you’ve done to obtain your ranking in school, as much as you’ve done to prepare yourself to break into the industry, as much work as you’ve put in…you are still at the very beginning of your career and not at a point where you should spend any energy worrying about labels.
If anything, embrace Apprenticeship. These first jobs, the ones you land in the coming 5 or 8 years, are the ones where you will really learn what you do. Set aside any rush to the top and take the time to get to know the ones before you. Meet, befriend, assist and learn from those doing it…make your mistakes and do your practical in a safe space under supportive guidance so that when you hit the high wire you have your balance. Collaborate, Support, Acknowledge, join and become the best member of the Team…push and strive for Team Results and Recognition: the rest will come. It will.
Avoid seeking stardom; be on the Team. Make others the Stars. Your time WILL come…and probably sooner, the more you support your colleagues. Just sayin’.
TAKE YOUR TIME. You are leaving school with the best tools and methodologies, the latest and freshest basket of knowledge; now go out and make them yours, make them second nature, truly own them.
Next: Beware the company that calls itself a “Family.”
That should be a BIG warning sign to you; and to believe in, embrace and conduct oneself as though this fantasy is true will likely be a set-up for shock, surprise and disappointment when reality asserts itself.
NOT to say that there are not wonderful, warm, nurturing business and familial-feeling companies and agencies in abundance, out there. But you are an asset; essential when needed, dismissible when a business decision calls for it. The difference will be in how one is treated when the fallout takes place; the warning one gets, the ushering out and sometimes the welcome back when things get better. But make no mistake, we are rarely as vital as we like to think we are.
As comfort; I can assure you that there are thousands of amazing, wonderful, giving individuals out there in the trenches just waiting to befriend and support you through all the travails and tribulations that will be encountered on your personal rollercoaster. There really are No People Like Show People (Like No People I Know).
You will meet and work with scores if not hundreds of wonderful people. Look forward to that. And yes, you’ll met the occasional arsewhole or jerk. Strive to avoid taking it personally. It is rarely, rarely, rarely personal, irrespective of how it might feel at the time. Take notes, though; you may need to Write or Create a <redacted> sometime; and now you have a role model!
You’ll be fine. Just keep your eyes open and maybe try to see every little victory as a gift (and every not-so-great experience as an opportunity for context and learning).
Watch out for becoming Jaded.
There are some who wear the mantle of Jadedness, of “been there, done that” and embrace a “ho-hum” attitude toward components of our work. Distant destinations and otherwise exotic locales among them. I say watch out for that.
Since my very first flight to London in College, I enjoy a deep sense of thrill every time I board a flight to pretty much anywhere (especially when a client or employer is paying!). I can tell you that, everytime I see London from the air at night, I hear the score from “Peter Pan” and see in my mind’s eye the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland (in 1962 or thereabouts). I want never to lose this quality. We are vested with creating memories for people from all over the world, all the time. I say hold our inner children close as muse and motivation.
Let’s spend our long flights thinking like that. Who knows what ideas may come before we arrive. I cannot be bored on a flight. Exhausted, yes; but the Muse is vibrant.
Okay: some practical stuff:
Getting Paid: Invoicing. What should it look like, what information should be on it?
An invoice should be one page, one side, with everything on that page that will help people and companies pay you without having to seek backup or ancillary documents or information. Therefore:
A logo or brandmark, if you have one.
Contact information: name, mailing address, telephone number, email, website (if you have one).
An Invoice Number. Make up your own trackable system. I use a system of year/month/day/client so that in lists, they self-arrange, chronologically and alphabetically:
The invoice I send to Smith Company on October 7, 2021 for the Secret Project is numbered: 211907SmithSecret.
Name of the Project.
Space for a P.O. (that’s Purchase Order) number – some companies need to issue you a P.O. number that needs to be on your invoice in order for it to be paid. That number indicates that the fee agreed-upon was actually approved.
Your applicable rates (hour/day/week/month) and the total amount owed you.
Due Date / terms of your agreement.
Bank / Wire Transfer information; including Swift Code, Routing Number, Account Number, Name on the Account, Name of the Bank, Address and Phone number of the bank.
Be sure to ask the client what they want/need to see included in the invoice, one never knows…be thorough.
Seriously, leave nothing to chance or misunderstanding. Never worry that you are giving them too much information; rather, worry that you might leave out some small detail that can delay the processing of your invoice.
Getting Paid: How Much Am I Worth? Okay, you’re worth millions. I agree. However, do your research online (glassdoor.com or any one of a number of other sites), ask trusted friends and colleagues in the same line of work what they would pay someone with your level of education or experience. Even ask business owners or executives the salary ranges for positions you might seek. Asking from an informational point of view, outside of a climate of negotiation, will elicit more candid response and can give a more clear and objective picture.
Decide on your rate and be comfortable quoting it. Do be wary of over-valuing a degree. While education is generally a requirement and a constant; experience is what raises value.
Getting Paid: Negotiating. When asked, quote your rate; period. Don’t offer to negotiate. If asked if you’ll negotiate or “will you accept less than that?” Ask what they are offering. Do not offer any other figures until the Other Person/Company has offered a figure. Personally, I would go so far as to respond, when asked about salary, by asking if this is a negotiation. In other words, “So, are you interested in offering me the position and is this the opening of salary talks to see if we can agree?”
If they want you, then they’ll be candid. Otherwise, time is just being wasted, IMHO. If your value to a company is primarily in how low you can be gotten; is this a culture in which you’ll be happy? You be the judge of that.
You know how low you can go for a job you love, and how much you need to maintain your life. None of that is anyone’s business; as one should be paid for what one brings to the table, not what one “needs.” Never operate or negotiate from what you “need.”
What you need is, frankly, irrelevant in salary negotiations. Same goes for when you are seeking a raise in pay; it’s because the raise is deserved and you represent value at that level of pay; not because the kids need new shoes.
And that’s it for today. I may do more later. Meanwhile, call your mother…and ask to speak to Dad. Thank ‘em.
“IMEX: In My Experience | secrets of making ‘em cheer, weep…and sometimes write checks” is now available in the beautiful and durable Field Edition as well as download from Apple Books. Contact me at email@example.com for purchase and shipping information.
Hey, here’s a tip to get the best out of all available minds when making change.
There are, in the trajectory of many if not most organizations, agencies, associations and collaboratives, Moments of Decisive Evolution; as successive mission shepherds take the reins from previous and the original Visionaries have become fondly respected Historical Foundation.
Happens all the time to the best and edgiest. Easily preempted.
It is critical, at such times of Progressive Evolution – as new pathways and new directions are envisioned and conceived in response to the advances of time, of cultures geographic and demographic, of the wants & needs & interests of the bodies being served – that Leadership include at the tableand throughout the conversationor workshop a faction of informed dissent.
Invite Dissent from the beginning. Listen to them. Hear them… Not a one-off hearing, but through the entire process.
In the vetting of any new idea, concept, approach or methodology – well before the expense and time of a Field Test, Launch or Redirectional Pivot; the scrutiny of articulate, acute dissent is vital prior to and through manifestation.
This can save vast amounts of money and time, human resources, backtracking and retrofitting…and embarrassment. Just sayin’.
We can guarantee that the spectrum of possible downsides perceived and voiced by Enlightened Dissent will likely be vastly different than those seen by an already Enthusiastically Supportive Majority. Therein lies the critical value. At the beginning is when this conversation is most valuable; when crafting The New Thing. To cut passionate critique from the conversation and process is to handicap and possibly inadvertently subvert the original intent and vision.
“They’ll see that we are right in doing this…” is a risky, often deceptively unperceived limb on which to venture. Have those conversations before implementation; and keep them alive, step-by-step from ideation to completion.
You’ll have a far better product and be much more likely to make some positive history. Better to Listen and Hear before Going Public, n’est-çe pas?
The Writer’s Room is an apt metaphor for the crucible of advise and dissent that can create a complex, complicated and compelling story arc through sometimes intense debate and disagreement on the best path forward.