Legends Of The Fall

Fall is certainly upon us here….no more hoping for those last nice fall days.  Trees that a week or so ago were in full color are now losing their leaves entirely.

The birds are making more frequent and voracious visits to the bird feeder, along with the squirrels who are definitely looking a little chunkier now than they did in the recent past.   Geese and ducks have gathered their flocks and started moving south, hitting all the freshly harvested fields on the way.  (Although I am always surprised each winter by the number of geese that decide to tough out the winter here – I guess they can find enough food to say the hell with getting shot at all along the Mississippi Flyway during hunting season.)

There’s an increase in roadside mortality for raccoons and skunks…I guess those extra few pounds they’ve packed on recently for hibernating cause them to miss a step or two when it comes to dodging traffic.  Just not as quick as they were before they started bulking up.

We humans feel the turning of Nature’s wheel as well.  The patio furniture and plants are in, and the screens are out, replaced by storm windows.  Furnaces are checked, and faucets drained for winter.

It’s pheasant hunting season, so hordes of beer-bellied, middle-aged men take to the prairies of Minnesota and the Dakotas to hunt the elusive ringneck pheasant (which although I don’t hunt, I have to admit is some mighty fine eatin’!)

It’s their chance to get away from the wives and the routine, and get out of the office park and cubicle.  Tell lies about their life in the city to attractive small-town waitresses and bartenders that remind them of the girls they knew when they were younger, thinner, and the world was their oyster.

Ma Nature is checking the doors and turning out the lights, ready to descend upon us with her winter coat.  It really gives  you a sense of the passing of time – another winter, another Christmas, another year.

A good time to stare into the fire with a glass in one hand and your chin in the other, thinking about who you’ll be in the spring when everything and everyone comes to life again.


I Have Too High An Opinion Of Humanity

I read a lot of sales and copywriting blogs, and on most of them there’s some kind of product being sold.  And some of it might even be pretty good, judging by the writing on the blog.

But the bulk of them contain the cheesiest, forehead-slapping stuff I’ve ever read.  My favorite is the “buy-this-now-before-it-goes-away” create fake scarcity ploy.   You know the ones – “my ebook will not be available for much longer, so order now.”  One guy even had the cojones to say “I only invited 115 people to my last seminar, and I decided I wouldn’t do it again.  So order the DVD for all my secrets”

Why would you take a product off the market if it actually sold, or limit attendance at your crappy seminar?   Are you making too much money?  Did having to process all those payments, make all those trips to the bank, buy all those yachts cut into your family time?

In today’s cynical culture, I have a hard time believing there are any rubes left that actually fall for this carnival barker stuff.

At the other end, there are the Masters of Marketing Psychology that hint at some deep understanding of today’s consumer and “how things have changed” and are willing to rehash things everyone knows (with new vocabulary).  The appeals to the cubicle intellectual who wants his hucksterism with a side of thought.

It reminds me of the title of the Ray Bradbury book “Too Soon From The Cave, Too Far From The Stars”.   We like to think we’ve exchanged the fur Neanderthal suit for a necktie and Dockers, but inside we’re still the same.  Our emotions jump at something we think we might want before our higher faculties can analyze the message.

Because, like everything else in the world, if this stuff didn’t work, it would have died out.

Nothing Is New

If you spend a little time around the business world, you can’t help but run into the various religions of Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma, and Total Quality Management, etc.   These are all the same under the skin, they’ve just been dressed in different buzzwords depending on fashion.

And none of them are about quality, really, as much as they are about cost cutting.  Make it cheaper, make it quicker, but unless the product absolutely quits working it’s good enough.

All of these ideas are heavy on “metrics”, flowcharts, and are a new career path for those middle managers who were too bored by accounting, not smart enough for engineering, and not personable enough for sales.

But like all religions, it starts out with a good idea at the base.  It’s a way to try and institutionalize giving a damn.  But institutions are incapable of giving a damn, only people can.

A while back, an executive put forth the following as a way of reviewing the work put out by his company:

1. What was the idea to be presented?
2. How was the idea presented?
3. What result was achieved?
4. After seeing this result – what could have been done to the picture from this point on, to improve it?

The executive was Walt Disney, and this memo is from 1935.  Yet I’ve never seen anyone’s Powerpoint presentation bullet points as succinct and effective. (The whole 8 page memorandum is available here – it’s interesting to see the detail Disney went into to communicate his point on training animators.)

In those 4 points you have the sum total of reams of management books, hours of seminars, and conferences of consultants. (I’m not sure what units consultants are measured in, so I’m calling it “conferences”.  They always seem to take over the conference rooms, right?)

All from a guy who dropped out of high school and probably didn’t know what a Pareto Chart was.

But he still did OK.  Because he gave a damn.

A Digital Kick In The Ass

Have been out enjoying some unseasonably warm weather, but now the trees are past their peak of color and the crunching underfoot tells me that we’re really deep in the throes of fall now.  So it’s time to get back to posting!

Fall means another ungodly Minnesota winter is just around the corner, so given the chance to spend any time or do anything outside at all you’ll take it.  Of course, when the decent weather has passed you confront all the things you’ve been putting off.

I’m trying to move forward on a couple of fronts, and more regular posting here is one of them.  It seems the best ideas for posts always occur somewhere that you don’t have access to a computer.  Facing a blinking cursor, your mind goes blank as to what it is you were going to write about.  I guess what they say about carrying a notebook and pen has some merit.

To get rid of the blank page, I’ll usually surf around a little bit until I find something of interest, but lately it seems the entire blogosphere has hit a dull patch.   Being prone to dullness myself, this is something I try to avoid.

But apparently I’m not alone…..I just saw a statistic that said that 95% of blogs are abandoned after 120 days.  This blog just passed the 6-month mark, so I figure that puts me in the top 5%!  (And you too, since most of you have been online longer than I have).

Another interesting stat was that 16% of the search queries Google sees every day they’ve never seen before.  I was surprised at that, since it seems that just about everything that could be asked of Google has been asked.  But one-sixth of it is new…every day.

My “takeaway”, as the biz-speak folks like to put it, is that for all the talk about creativity and expressing yourself that bloggers like to mention, after about 4 months most of them run out of things to say.

And that if we take Google to be the universal “hive-mind” of the Internet, knowing all and filing it away for future reference, every day we’re throwing on 1/6 more with no end in site.

Which makes me realize what a lame excuse “there’s nothing more to write about” is……….