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My Phoenix Rises from the Smoldering Ashes of a Love Letter

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As I get involved with more projects aka “butterflies” I’ve found that I’ve gotten further from my roots. First and foremost I am a writer (okay an inventor, product developer, and creative marketer, too, but a writer first). I’ve written everything from resumes to business letters to newsletters to marketing and technical white papers to instruction manuals to direct mail letters and web content (even a movie script).

Just recently I wrote a love letter that fell on a deaf heart. At first I was crushed and felt as if I had lost some direction in my life. But reflecting on that loss I had an epiphany that everything would be just fine – it’s not the right time for me to travel in that direction…and with someone who doesn’t share the same vision with me anymore. And within that introspection I found clarity of purpose for both my personal and business lives.

So why am I letting you inside my personal love life and what could it possibly have to do with my Dummy’s blog? Everything my friends. We don’t have inspirational, a-ha, or life changing moments in a vacuum. We learn from our various lives, our heart, and our gut and move forward wiser and happier and wealthier (yes, one is hopeful). It’s give and take. So sometimes life and those in our life let us know when our direction is right – or just the opposite – when it’s not and when it’s time to say goodbye as it was in my case. This holds true in business as well because at some point we may need to evaluate what’s best for us and our business – after all it is a relationship, too.

I just finished reading a blog post written by John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing. In his post, he describes my recent processing – you need clarity of purpose to really be successful in business and to enjoy your life. Clarity of purpose helps define you, your role with your business, and your business. That got me thinking: if you can’t delineate what it is that you’re doing for yourself and for others clearly – and understand the need or want for what you’re offering – then why are you doing it in the first place?

As I mentioned earlier a business is more than just an idea it’s a relationship…with a beginning, middle, and an end (sometimes). And just as with any relationship, to be successful you need to accept that it’s a living process that needs constant nurturing and food for thought to help you maintain that clarity of purpose. I’ve found through my years that introspection is a powerful tool to bring to the table when you’re evaluating your business for yourself and its intended purpose. How many times lately have you held on to an idea or belief or hunch that what you’re doing is absolutely right – yet little or no fruits from your labor seem to be blossoming? How many red flags have you been missing or avoiding or refusing to acknowledge because this is the way you’ve always operated your business?

Am I saying that the clarity you have right now couldn’t be right about your idea or business? Nope. I’ve read that Colonel Sanders tried selling his chicken seasoning recipe 1,009 times over a two year period driving across the U.S before he had his first sale. So it’s quite possible your idea or business is right on. But keep in mind that Colonel Sanders must have had a total clarity of purpose to do what he did and he was driven – maybe being broke helped.

But what if you’re not sure that you have that kind of clarity for your own business or business idea? What can you do to give yourself a swift kick in the parts and a help you get a clearer vision of what you’re doing and why? Here’s some food for thought to get you started:

Consider asking yourself why you’re approaching your idea as a business for yourself or for someone else – does it make sense in the form that you’re imagining? Does it make sense at all? How do you know? Or even more importantly for a going concern: does it make sense to continue your business in its current operating environment – retail, wholesale, online only, etc? For example, Qualcomm stopped making cell phones and started licensing their technology to companies whose core business was making phones. Can I repackage my idea, product, or service as something else? Is this really a brick and mortar business? Would digitizing it work perhaps as a web application instead of something more labor intensive? Would someone else be better suited to running my business? Can I lease or sell or insert my business, idea, product, or service into someone else’s idea, product, service or business? Should I consider getting outside help – physical or consultative? Have I already been down this road before? Should I close up shop or expand? What do I do best and what do I really have to offer and is it worth it to any of us?

If you’re sitting alone – trying to go it alone – or you feel alone answering these types of questions probably the best thing you can do is visit and participate in discussions on blogs and join Meetup groups. Thousands of blogs and Meetups are out there that you can explore. Talk to friends and family for other points of view. I think you’ll find as I have that someone else has been down your road before. Pick their brains because knowledge and wisdom is out there for those willing to ask for it. When I first started my publishing company I did it all by myself. Research. Writing. Binding. Pitching. It was a lot of work. But one day I just knew that if I didn’t get help nothing was going to happen. So I reached out to my friend in the publishing business and asked for help. You know the rest of the For Dummies® story.

I’m not saying that it’s an easy process. I sure as hell am not 100%…but who is anyway. Look, you don’t have to have to wait for a heartbreak like mine to have your Phoenix rise as mine did. Get clarity, keep it simple, and then move forward with conviction and with a renewed sense of purpose. It’s a safe bet that you can recover from those eventual stumbles and blind corners a bit faster and with more confidence.

It’s working for me – I’m writing again – and loving it.

Your turn.

© 2012 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved

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The Fwee. The Foh-yih. The F-Word.

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There’s been some discussion about the correct pronunciation of “Feuille”. Some are calling it “fwee” (Tweety’s free). Some are calling it “foh-yih”.

But all I can say is that I’ve heard it pronounced in French and, to me, it sounds like “fwee-yih”.

Yeah, yeah. Branding gurus may want to kick us in the shins because we picked a French name for an American product. But the definition of feuille is “leaf” which is appropriate for the leaf-like Feuille Finish™ that’s created with our tool. And the “hawk” is what plasterers use to hold their plaster…hence, the Feuille Hawk™! And really it’s no more difficult to pronounce than some Venetian plaster techniques like marmorino, scagliola, or sgraffito. Compared to those names ours is not only simpler but also more descriptive.

What’s important is that the Feuille Hawk™ is incredibly simple to use – and it can produce some amazing texturing possibilities to complement existing “sister” faux finishes like Venetian plaster, Trompe-l’œil, Strié, color washes, or rag painting. (We’re excited to report that one of our local casinos is featuring our Feuille Finish™ right now as part of a larger project. Sweet!)

So how do you pronounce feuille? We think “fwee-yih” would be good. It’s easy to pronounce, yes? But you never know when inspiration will strike. Just last week I asked a local hardware store owner about demonstration opportunities for our Feuille Hawk™ at his shop. When I said fwee-yih he scrunched up his face a bit and paused for a minute. I thought he was making an effort to parrot my pronunciation. Simple, right? Fwee-yih.

Then his face lit up. And he smiled.

“We’ll just call it the f-word. Everyone understands that!”

Geez…

© 2010 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved

A Big Dummy Try is All You Need to Succeed

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I was reading this sports story, St. George’s Calls an Audible, about a Rhode Island high school that pulled out of a game because of the size of the other team’s players.

The opposing team’s players were not just huge; they were NFL gigantic when compared to the “smaller” team’s players. And because of that disparity, the St. George coaches pulled out of the game because they were worried about the safety of their players.

So what does this have to do with my blog? Well, my issue with what the coaches did – understanding that I’d worry about my sons playing against those behemoths – is that the kids didn’t’ get even get a chance to test their mettle. They didn’t even get to try.

Playing that game for a kid would’ve been a good life lesson – it’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog. You’ve got to meet challenges head on and with skill, preparation, and the belief that you will finish no matter what. Okay, you may get knocked down more so than others. I did. But so what. You’re in the game to play and to win. So you get back up, get in the game, and you keep trying!

The takeaway from this story is especially appropriate for us creative types who try to participate in the business arena.

You’re going to find opposing players – both companies and individuals – exponentially bigger and maybe more talented than you are. You’re also going to run into people who nay say your creative bent. I know I did. But I continued. And so should you. Don’t sideline your talent, your invention, your idea or your tinkering because of what others think or say – or what you imagine they can do to you. Move forward. And keep your brain out of their gutter.

Eighty percent of the battle is getting out there and trying. The rest is how you use your gifts to realize your dreams. In fact, you can’t play if you don’t start. And you definitely can’t win if you don’t play. (Can you imagine what kind of junk we’d have in our lives if there were no competitors to beat or innovative products to use created by people like us? We’d still be reading those nasty DOS encylopedias. :-))

I didn’t give a crap about giant publishers like Wiley or Que because I knew in my gut that I was on to something. I already formed my own publishing company. And I went out and wore a path in book aisles for nearly a year before I made my move (that’s a really s-l-o-w game). Then I took action to make my dream of publishing and writing come true.

Now grab your ideas and gizmos and tinkerings and creative Pandas by the short fuzzy hairs. Then get that bloody helmet on and step up to the line. Time to show the world – and yourself – what you’re made of.

Game’s on!

© 2010 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved

4 Questions to Help You Make Sense of Dummy Zero™ Sense

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You may recall I hiked Mt. Woodson last week, torn meniscus and all. Well, I did it again yesterday evening with my good friend RF and her puppy, a handsome German Shepard. This time I wore decent walking shoes. And I cocooned my feet in thick socks – no blisters was my mantra! I also gave my left knee a good Pharaoh’s wrap with an ACE bandage.

The climb seemed easier this time for me. Of course, RF and her puppy bounced along the trail while I huffed and puffed. Once again I found myself at the summit. But this time feet okay, knee okay. All that mummification of my parts worked like a charm.

Then RF suggested we finish “the loop”. The loop meant walking the trail that winds along the backside of Mt. Woodson. This is the kindler, gentler path down the mountain that runs over three miles and darts lizard-like back and forth through the shoulder-high brush. Nice. I pulled up my socks and tightened my knee wrap. And off we went. RF and pup jetted off happily, setting a fierce pace (for me at least) that more often than not left me trailing behind them noticeably.

Why wouldn’t my long legs keep up? Then I noticed RF’s secret: for each of my strides, she was taking three to four! I tried taking longer strides to keep up. But the trail was so bumpy with jutting rocks at times that stutter-steps were all I could manage. I managed to catch up with her when she stumbled on some slippery parts of the trail.

At one point we were passing through a grove of trees that sheltered us with an amazing canopy of leaves and vines. RF must have seen me eyeballing them as we were passing because she blurted out, “Don’t touch the poison oak!” (so that’s what those vines were). So I streamlined my 6′ 4″ bod by tucking my arms in tight to my sides with my forearms out in front of me like a downhill skier in a tuck. I had a run-in with poison oak and poison ivy as a kid and I didn’t want to repeat that miserable experience.

But I wish she’d said something about the spiders because I would’ve ducked, too – I was clotheslined by half-a-dozen of their sticky webs stringing between the trees. Yuck. (In all fairness RF probably didn’t notice because she walked right under them. Lucky her.)

About two-and-a-half hours later the car was in sight and our stomachs were grumbling. (I couldn’t help mention to RF that I counted all nine of her “stumbles”. Actually, they were more like trips. But of course, the dirt was rising to meet her step before she’d had a chance to lift her foot out of the way. And dirt being dirt, it was difficult to see the protrusions rising up underneath it.) We had a good laugh and headed out to find food.

Ten minutes later we were dining alfresco, both of us in our still sweaty clothes. The puppy was lying under RF’s chair sharing his doe eyes with the couple sitting across from us. I guess that’s part of what makes puppies such great ice breakers. So as you’d expect we all started talking. First about RF’s puppy. Then about other dogs and how to train them. Then about what we each do. RF is a hair stylist. The woman is a horse trainer. Her date is a software engineer. In the midst of our conversation, RF adds that I’m the guy who wrote DOS for Dummies. “No,” I said. “I created the For Dummies® book concept.

I was now acutely aware that my Dummy Zero™ patch was emblazoned on my chest. So I launched into the For Dummies® story. I tend to talk with my hands and talk fast when I get excited. So my hands were blazing circle eight’s with all ten fingers spread out like I was palming a basketball. And my story was revving full-throttle from my mouth. No way a lip reader could ever keep up with that rush!

After we all said our goodbyes, I reflected on the For Dummies® conversation I just had. Then I thought about an earlier post I had made here about having a crunchy day, asking myself if I made sense. It reminded me of my dad who told me that for any venture you need to ask yourself four simple questions:

Is it believable?
Is it doable?
Is it achievable?
Does it make sense?

The answer to all these questions needs to be “Yes!”. The last question is the kicker. Case in point: I was asked to provide marketing consultation to a property management company. They wanted to expand their offerings to include tax preparation services for their wealthy property owner clients. Seemed interesting at first glance. But then I took one look at their existing skill sets, their core business resources, and their timeline (it was March) and it was a no-brainer, no-go to me. But not to them. They weren’t happy that I passed on the project. But last I heard their idea didn’t go anywhere.

“Does it make sense?” is the overarching question you need to ask about yourself and your venture within the context of where you are now and where you want to go. In fact, all these questions worked for my first Mt. Woodson hike, right? Others had done it successfully. I didn’t need any special equipment or training (okay, maybe some decent shoes for the first climb), and it took only a few hours out of the end of the day!

And for me, right now, this blog gives me a resounding “Yes!” to all of those questions because of who I am, what I’m writing about, and where I’m posting (Internet blog). And it’s this flash of my dad’s advice that’s started me on the path to transforming my Dummy Zero™ Blogpad from just telling the true story about who created the For Dummies® book concept to a destination for entrepreneurs, thinkers, inventors, and tinkerers to help them find resources to share their creations with the world.

I’m hopeful that you’ll understand the big point of my Dummy Zero™ Blogpad – you cannot create in a vacuum. Just take a look at the Newsweek article that I talked about in my last post for proof. How can you possibly have convergence of a stream of thought to the best possible outcome if your only stream is a single point of view? You must have disparate flows to connect no matter where they lie.

Does this mean that you have to brainstorm everything with others? Not at all. In fact, the related Brainstorming article from the last post tells you why. (To connect those disparate flows from a global marketing point of view, you should check out branding guru David Aaker’s book “Spanning Silos“. See how awareness of multiple divergent streams work?)

Along the way I’ll sprinkle bits and pieces of my life and my thoughts throughout. I’ll do this because I love to write. I’ll mention my family often because we all seem to have a similar entrepreneurial gene. Plus, they like to challenge my creative sensibilities. I’ll try to keep the stories and articles that I write relatively short (and entertaining) so you can get on with your day. But certainly, some topics require more attention and explanation than others and will be given more breathing space.

This blog is also an open forum for suggestions and comments. Everyone is welcome who would like to share and discuss new ideas or comment on anything that’s been written here.

These conversations are also the kinds of interactive streams that will feed your brain and possibly give you your own “a-ha!” flash of original genius.

© 2010 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved

America’s Dummy Census 2010

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My mom suggested that I check out an article in Newsweek titled “The Creativity Crisis”. So I did, of course. (And thanks, mom!)

Surprise!

New findings in neuroscience are debunking the old “left-brain” right-brain” it’s-either-one-or-the-other myth. Creative types use both sides effectively and often. Plus, a fifty year study of creativity has given us a measurable framework that validates creative people’s thought processes.

Seems we’re not just dreamers. And we’re not alone. Not yet anyway.

Some highlights for us Dummy’s:

The accepted definition of creativity is production of something original and useful

There is no “one right answer” for a solution

To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).

Now the not so good news.

It appears that America’s creativity pool may be hitting the tar pits. And our educational system’s reliance on curriculum standardization plays a pivotal role in this potential demise.

In fact, when a researcher who studied the original data from this creativity study was asked by Chinese faculty in Beijing to identify trends in American education, he described the trend as a “focus on standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing.” The Chinese just started laughing and said, “You’re racing toward our old model. But we’re racing toward your model as fast as we can.”

Ouch.

Despite the revelation that America’s Creative Quotient is slipping into the mire, at least one school is trying to fight this tide. Teachers at the National Inventors Hall of Fame School, a new public middle school in Akron, Ohio, assigned a special problem-solving project to the entire fifth grade to work on. The results? Students met Ohio’s entire fifth grade curriculum requirements. I highly recommend that you read this Newsweek article as soon as you get the opportunity.

In the meantime, I think I’d rather look at this continuing half-century-old study as some kind of special Dummy Census for 2010. I do feel better knowing that folks like us have been counted, measured, and validated. And I’d like to participate next year as soon as I figure out who to talk to. (Any other takers?)

Still, the news about the possible dwindling pod of creative talent here in America makes me feel a bit like a Dummysaurus, creaky in the joints and cringing at the thought of another Ice Age.

Oh, well. Just call me D Rex.

For now anyway.

P.S. You’ll also want to read this related Newsweek article on Brainstorming.

© 2010 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved

Dummy Me Can’t Drive 55

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I was talking on my cell and didn’t notice the Chippie hanging off my six until he pulled along side me to flash me five fingers twice.

Guess my foot was leaning too comfortably on the gas and I was hitting nearly 65 in a 55 zone. (Where I live there’s a stretch of road that’s heavily patrolled because some folks just drive way too fast. Imagine that.)

I was thankful I didn’t get a ticket. And thank you, Bluetooth. The CHP officer could have just as easily lavished me with a two-for-one special instead of a “Heads-up, Dummy!”

After dropping a few pounds off the gas pedal and finishing my call (close call?), I realized that I was so wrapped up in what I was doing and thinking that I completely spaced on everything around me. In fact, I wasn’t sure of what I had seen on the way from the house to the freeway. How many cars had I passed? Did I really stop at the red light? How long was that Chippie following me?

Aaaargh. I’ve been here before. And it reminded me that I needed to slow down – again.

Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in your thoughts and dreams. Ideas can come at any time and when they do it’s at the speed of thought. Capturing them can be work and can take time. I know at times I’ve caught myself thinking I must push ahead and get everything down on paper. Time is passing quickly. So I MUST be first. I MUST finish this thought. I MUST make this last recording.

But I’ve learned through several deep drops into the angst well that going hell bent for leather 24/7/365 eventually puts up a roadblock to my creativity and productivity. And it can be a real drag to a balanced life always being “on”.

So I decided to accept an invitation from several friends to hike Mt. Woodson. They wanted to show me the “Potato Chip”, a thin, flat outcropping of rock that’s famous in the area. A short drive later I was parking my car at the base of the trail. Oh, boy. This was going to be a long…steep…hike.

I think I counted 30 switchbacks on the climb up, places where the trail cuts back on itself slightly before continuing to the top of the mountain. I had to lean forward like some long jump skier just to walk because the slope was so steep. Thoughts of bumping my nose to the trail were starting to bubble into my head.

By the time I crested the summit I was 10 pounds lighter, most of that “lost” weight soaking my t-shirt. My legs were achy and my feet tender and hot. I don’t recommend wearing sneakers to hike in. But that gorgeous sunset vista massaged away the soreness of the blisters on my feet and the pinching throb of the ever-present torn meniscus in my left knee. The Potato Chip was just amazing, too. It jutted out of the face of the trailside boulders like Jay Leno’s chin. How cool was that! Great place for Yoga poses, too.

Finally, what seemed like a boatload of hours later, I was back down the mountain and on my way home. I started to think about how difficult that hike had been. And I thought about how I finished strong and about the other hikers I’d met along the way. That felt really uplifting. I also came away with ideas for some new products and an invitation to lunch to discuss a business opportunity. Not bad for two hours of hobbling sweat equity, eh?

So note to self and all you creative thinkers, entrepreneurs, and tinkerers: once in while take some time to check out your six. And slow down. Creativity — and Life — has a way of working itself out for you.

And you just might get where you want to go — without speeding.

Now that’s the ticket.

© 2010 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved

What the Rubba Dub Dubya-T-F!

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Although I rarely if ever swear, I often use acronyms to provide certain color to what I have to say. Sure, more descriptive words abound. But some words and phrases are so universal and their meaning so well understood, it just made sense for me to push forward and put ink to blog.

So in this case I decided to use a favorite wordnunciation of our former Mangler-in-Speak, GWB (I’m not sure if I’m allowed to actually use his name. But I’m sure that you’ll recognize the word “Dubya” as in “W”, yes?).

Now you know who I’m talking about. And now you know what the title of this post means.

Hooyah!

© 2010 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved.