Open House Tip for Elementary School Parents (Part II): How to Reduce the Odds Your Child Will Be Bullied in High School (and Middle School)

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The Secret Behind Silent Success

There’s a joke that folks like to tell at various self-help conferences. It’s usually in the inspirational key-note speech. Two guys are out camping. One guy brings his fastest running shoes. The other guy brings heavy rugged hiking boots.

The boot guy asks the sneaker guy why he’s wearing sneakers. The sneaker guy says, “In case we meet a bear.”

The boot guy looks perplexed. “You’ll never be able to run faster than a bear,” he says.

“Don’t have to,” says the sneaker guy matter-of-factly, “I just have to run faster than you.”

If you haven’t read Part I of this two-part series (“A Surprise Gambit Leads to Victory and Yet Another Surprise – This Time for the Victor,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, September 12, 2019), you should before continuing. In this Part II, I’ll break down some of Continue Reading “Open House Tip for Elementary School Parents (Part II): How to Reduce the Odds Your Child Will Be Bullied in High School (and Middle School)”

We’ll Always Have Paris… How The Business of Sequels Destroyed America’s Youth

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They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. That may be true, but it is also the greatest impediment to progress.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a certain business sense to imitation – and I don’t mean outright theft of intellectual property. I’m referring to the “variation on a theme” that has become a successful marketing trope since well before Beethoven, Bach, and The Beatles.

Companies use the goodwill (and good publicity) generated by a top selling product, give it a tweak here and there, then come out with a “new” product that borrows heavily from the theme of the original. Rarely, however, does this sequel product ever reach the heights of its predecessor.

Here’s an example. Following the tremendous success of Continue Reading “We’ll Always Have Paris… How The Business of Sequels Destroyed America’s Youth”

Betsy Ross, Quarterback Incompletions, and the Real Secret Behind How to Communicate Successfully

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It’s July and that means training camp and double sessions aren’t far behind. This makes it a great time to offer a metaphor that may just help you be a better communicator.

How many times have you been watching a football game and see a quarterback throw a perfect spiral to… no one but an empty piece of turf? He had all day to throw, was under no pressure, and seemed incredibly self-assured as he released the ball. Despite all these things going in his favor, he completely missed the nearest receiver by more than a mile.

“Stupid quarterback,” you mumble if he’s on your team.

“Ha! Ha!” you laugh if he’s not.

No matter which colors you’re wearing that day, you might be wrong. It’s very possible Continue Reading “Betsy Ross, Quarterback Incompletions, and the Real Secret Behind How to Communicate Successfully”

Should You Go Wide or Go Deep?

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Remember a couple months back when I said I discovered a way to add more hours to my day? (If you don’t, here it is: “That Time I Discovered ‘Idle Time’ Doesn’t Really Exist,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, March 14, 2019). With all that rediscovered time I was able to explore a dusty section of unread books in my expansive library. (And by expansive, I mean… Wait. Forget it. It only gets Betsy mad.)

I began this new venture by perusing an entire series of books from the pens of the greatest copywriters. These books defined the advertising industry as it emerged from the 19th century into the 20th. They represent the primordial tracks from which Madison Avenue men evolved. They spawned a persuasive style that combined art and science into an effective (sometimes too effective) tool.

By “art” I refer to the words that effectively captivate and motivate the reader. But how do the words work as intended?

That’s where the “science” comes in. Today we call it “market research.” Claude C. Hopkins, acknowledged as perhaps the greatest copywriter, called it “scientific advertising.” His book by the same name (published in 1923) shows how an ad means nothing unless it stimulates its audience to act. He not only wrote the ads, he studied how Continue Reading “Should You Go Wide or Go Deep?”

“Can I Do This?”

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Just under two minutes away from the fields, the car’s audio system thundered that ever-familiar “Thud– Thud–CLAP!” bass beat. I knew what it was. The kids didn’t. I could use this. They needed it.

All I said to them was, “Boys, listen to this. It’s an omen.” It’s good to have been an AM disc jockey (back in the days when they used to play music).

“Thud– Thud–CLAP!”

“Thud– Thud–CLAP!”

“Thud– Thud–CLAP!”

It captivated the boys. They couldn’t turn away from its allure. The a cappella voices meant Continue Reading ““Can I Do This?””

Mechanical or Intuitive: Which Approach Works Best for You? – A Real-World Lesson (Part II)

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The Conclusion of: “Style or Substance? A Real-World Lesson – A Real-World Lesson (Part I)

“Yes, you may hit the right notes more often than Chris,” she began, “but your intuitive desire to physically search for the perfect note interferes with the broader tempo of the entire piece. Chris is mechanical. To him, keeping that tempo is more important than finding the perfect pitch. The concertmaster’s job is to lead the entire orchestra in maintaining this tempo.”

The answer shocked me. I never thought of myself as a mere machine. But there it was. The teacher had just said so. I was mechanical, not intuitive.

This didn’t sound right. How could a machine find the joy in playing the way I did? Wasn’t a machine dispassionate? Doesn’t a machine work precisely because it has Continue Reading “Mechanical or Intuitive: Which Approach Works Best for You? – A Real-World Lesson (Part II)”

Style or Substance? A Real-World Lesson (Part I)

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I never had someone so mad at me. And for no reason. We were both in tenth grade. Except for orchestra, we shared no other classes. We did share an Italian-American heritage. And she was mad in a way only an Italian-American can get mad. I’d seen it all before. In my extended family. In my neighborhood. In the dark alleys of the most obscure hallways within the school.

I just didn’t get it. I didn’t even know what a concertmaster was. Yet, there I was. Her, me, and the violin teacher.

But I get ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the beginning of the story…Continue Reading “Style or Substance? A Real-World Lesson (Part I)”

The Decade the Music Died

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We’re a few days away from February 3rd. It’s a day that forever lives in Rock and Roll infamy.

It was on a cold winter’s night precisely sixty years ago – February 3, 1959 – that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson boarded a Beechcraft Bonanza and found Rock and Roll heaven in a barren cornfield outside of Clear Lake, Iowa.

Much has been written about this, including two film biopics (The Buddy Holly Story in 1978 starring Gary Busey and La Bamba in 1987 starring Lou Diamond Phillips). Perhaps the seminal tribute, though, remains Don McLean’s 1971 hit “American Pie.” It was his song that first used the phrase “the day the music died” to describe the plane crash that took the lives of those young rock stars.

I’m not going to add to the litany of previously published thoughts on “the day the music died.” Rather, I’m going to share with you a conversation I had with a reporter. We sat at a high table in The Menches Brothers Restaurant in Green, Ohio (between Akron and Canton, for those using a GPS). I sipped my Diet Pepsi as the reporter asked me questions about what inspired me to write Hamburger Dreams (my latest book that looks at the evidence refuting and supporting the various hamburger origin stories).

At one point, he asked if I had written any other “food” books. I mentioned A Pizza The Action (albeit it’s more about business than food). Then I added that I had penned a short article on my grandfather’s pizzeria, mapping its beginning to the emergence of Rock and Roll.

That’s when the fun started. Little did I know this reporter, though nearly my age, still Continue Reading “The Decade the Music Died”

The Aging Curse

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I sit here watching as Rob Lowe tells us in so many words of the highs and lows of the decade of the 1980s. As I view old news clips of thin ties and big bouncing perms with their constant fluttering curls, I sadly lament the innocence lost, the people lost, the dreams lost. I see in those once thin and optimistic faces the images of people I have known. Not all of them, but far too many.

In those faces I saw the hope for the future, a future that would never be. I lament those souls of time past. Perhaps it’s the Continue Reading “The Aging Curse”

Uncertainty Breeds Opportunity

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Uncertainty creates anxiety. It doesn’t have to be that way. For gamblers, warriors, and investors, uncertainty signals opportunity.

Your opponents sitting across the card table from you don’t know the hand you’re holding. Skilled players learn to take advantage of this uncertainty by bluffing their way to higher jackpots. These players accomplish this by both encouraging those with lesser hands to call their bets and intimidating those with better hands to fold. Expert poker players study how to marshall, disguise, and portray their emotions in ways to fool their opponents. That’s how gamblers win.

Similarly, seasoned generals understand the fog of war offers the opportunity to mask Continue Reading “Uncertainty Breeds Opportunity”