Thursday, April 26, 2012

Book Review: Little Bets by Peter Sims

My review of Little Bets by Peter Sims appears on the Anne W Associates Blog. As far as business books go, this was probably the most fun I have read so far, covering the creative business approaches of Chris Rock, Steve Jobs, and President Obama. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit no matter what your business endeavor might be.

Check out the full review:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Business of Fear

Find this and other shots on my Instagram acount: dtgriffith
Whether in the business world or in writing fiction, fear of the unknown is pervasive. Fear can be applied to the context of a story – as in “don’t enter that room, the killer is hiding in there!” – or it can be the fear or taking risk, as I recently wrote about in the blog post, “Going There.” Today, I have decided to switch away from the subject of writing; rather, my focus is on business driven by fear.

Fear is counter-productive in business; it prevents an organization from finding new solutions. It hinders advancement, and it creates a culture of skepticism and cynicism when it becomes widespread. In my career of corporate communication, I have often encountered this debilitating emotion and its power to halt productivity and impede creativity. For example, in the case of bringing social media into a business, a common response has been, “if we cannot control it, we cannot be a part of it.” Never mind the fact that the discussion of the business by its customers and haters will occur with or without the company’s involvement. The epitome of having no control is when the company’s voice is absent from the conversation.

I have witnessed fear of changing a business model to compete with a larger competitor sink a small business. “It’s not who we are,” I would hear, or, “Our regulars will keep shopping here.” That proved not to be the case. A small risk can go a long way, exemplified by those few small businesses that survived the onslaught of the big box store chains when they moved into my old town. As for the business I was acquainted with, it died a slow and painful death as it resisted trying new techniques in the name of fear. It missed an opportunity to remain competitive by defining a niche as the other surviving shops did.

It’s an unfortunate reality – so many great opportunities in collaboration and innovation are missed by businesses that abide by the fear of the unknown. Optimism, research, and strategic planning will combat this, however. It takes dedication and perseverance to not back down from what you believe is the right path forward. It takes leadership. Fear can be beat, and it requires hard work. In the grand scheme, the fearless will not only thrive, they will win.

When you have an idea to improve something – your business, you creative endeavor, or your life – don’t let fear be a deciding factor. Do it!

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Writer’s Exploration: Going There

Now that I have been back to writing fiction consistently for the past year (a nice break from the corporate writing), I realized there is an occasional conflict I face: “going there,” as in, “Oh no! He did not just go there!” It appears during the writing process when I come to the figurative fork in the road, but I typically resolve it without much difficulty. However, some instances throw me into a relentless vicious cycle of decision-making.

In fiction it’s easy for a writer to fall in love with a character, and I don’t mean romance. There are those protagonists and secondary characters that embody special traits to make the story work, whether they are likeable or repulsive. Writers love their creations; they have to. The creations take on lives of their own, living and breathing on our pages. There are those moments of reckoning, however, when a character must meet its demise. It can be a difficult thing to wrap my head around. You would think it would be easy, having no trouble portraying violence, dementia, and gore when a story calls for it. I get attached.

It’s not just ending a character’s life that can hard at times, the same conflict arises in morphing an apparently good character into something evil and despicable. I am battling with myself right now over a particular secondary character my workshop readers have expressed a liking for. Do I maintain her damaged but otherwise good-natured persona, giving her a positive role? Or does an unspeakable malevolence brew in her gut under that sweet exterior? Ultimately, I know the latter choice is the right direction for an already twisted story about a disturbed protagonist.

If I learned anything from reading Stephen King’s “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” recently, it is that the apparent good guys can be bad, and the bad can be good. Many shades of gray define humans, not polar extremes in outlook and behavior. People do what they must in order to survive – good or bad – that’s our nature.

King’s novella also taught me to portray a scene – to show prison violence, in particular – for what it is, in all of it’s gruesome detail and the very real impact it has on human beings. He went there without self-censorship or Hollywood-style heroics, and applied a raw sense of humanity in response to it; the type of humanity that exists in beaten down characters that must be willing to endure the worst atrocities in order to survive. He painted a cruel yet honest portrayal of prison life. That alone made for a compelling story. He took the risk and succeeded.

Today, I am putting an end to that “going there” conflict, driving an icepick through its callous heart. The relentless vicious cycles of decision-making have met their demise.

Ever face this risk-taking conflict? Please share your thoughts, spill your guts – just remember to clean up after yourself.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Writer’s Exploration: Saving the English Language from Digital Laziness

I doubt any English speaking people today would argue the idea that digital media – namely social media and texting – has given rise to laziness in using the English language. When I’m not out fighting the world on acronyms and jargon – well, not exactly fighting the world – I am a proponent of using our language properly. And no, I don’t mean stuffy prim and proper aristocratic dialogue, which you will not find in my writing, I mean knowing the basic rules of grammar and punctuation.

It’s not hard, really, we learn those rules in elementary school and perfect them throughout our educations and beyond. Yet, in the advent of immediate access to sending and receiving information, there seems to be a culture based around rushing to the point by any means necessary, even if it means sacrificing a period here or a comma there. Before long, whole words are missing while others are severely bastardized. The beautiful language of Dickens, Woolf, and Hemingway is suddenly a pale and decaying reflection of its former self degrading incrementally through every generation of retweets and copy and pasted status updates. Single letters and numerals come to represent words and twenty question marks follow an incomplete sentence because the author really wants you to know that the question is a question, a strong and inquisitive one at that.

I know this single blog post or anything else I say or do will not fix this overnight Рor ever. Realistically, it will grow worse before a generational backlash led by future kids thinks good grammar is cool again. Was it ever cool? However, I will walk the talk (another tired clich̩) by spreading the [emotion of your choice] of communicating well with others because the words and marks mean what they say and say what they mean. Imagine reading 140 characters and understanding exactly what the author intended with no ambiguity. I see no harm in that.

We have all heard some statement such as how much energy would be saved if everyone would shut off a light bulb an extra hour a day. How many tweets and status updates would be salvaged from the oblivion of apathy if everyone took an extra five seconds to correct their language? We just might begin to truly communicate again.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Writer’s Exploration: Fleeting Ideas

That worst possible scenario for any creative person struck me this weekend – drawing a blank on ideas about what to write about. I knew I needed to write something about writing, but what? I ignored the news for the past week or so, having no idea of what the latest is on the hot button issues or presidential race. I know there has been a lot of politicization on the unfortunate Martin death in Florida, as evidenced in some posts on Facebook and Twitter I read, which made me feel sick. Why shouldn’t I be surprised, though? Somehow, the conservatives support the shooter, while the liberals support the victim. I really don’t get it. Yet another example backing my life-long independent streak and disdain for partisan politics. Whatever. Moving on now.

Here I am writing about something with no particular purpose in mind. Just letting the words spill from my mind and into my fingers finding their final resting place on the computer screen. I write because I do, I have stories to tell, from what I have been told. With no ideas in mind the language still manages to take form in something comprehensible. That is, if you find the stream of consciousness gibberish comprehensible. I’m not sure I do right now as I fight to stay awake.

But this is how ideas are born, at least for me. Well, this is one of several ways they are born; one I don’t use enough when I am faced with this weekend’s dilemma of fleeting ideas. So, as I write this piece having no ideas, the idea has already taken form – a blog post about having no ideas. How obnoxious can I make this? How poignant and life changing? How mundane. I write because I need to, because it’s my job, my education, my passion. Because I would much rather invest my short time on this planet creating and hopefully enlightening others than passively watch hours of television each night. That would suck the life right out of me; I know so because it has happened.

While the news media pundits debate whatever the current topic is – I seriously don’t know – and reality TV shows continue to take the country by storm, I will sit idly by with an active brain and computer on my lap typing away. That’s what matters to me.