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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

UNFUCK The World

Yesterday, I saw this picture on Facebook.



It made me think: Wow, people are starting to realize that no one is going to take us out of the mess we're in. Not the government, not the church, not any association. The only way out is individual action. We have to take the matter into our own hands and act.

By the way, if you'd like to order an Unfuck The World t-shirt (and help a charity at the same time): Change The World T-shirts

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The RFP Delusion

You can bet there are a couple of RFPs behind our problem of a stadium


I guess the question I'm asked the most often is: "When you were sitting in that capsule listening to the count-down, how did you feel?" Well, the answer to that one is easy. I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of two million parts -- all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract. - John Glenn, american astronaut

I already wrote about my hate of the RFP process in The worst way to choose a digital agency.

If you're buying a commodity product, a Requests For Proposal (RFP) might make sense because it is easy to compare vendors on a few, easily isolated variables like quality, price, speed, etc.

But when choosing a digital agency or for any kind of complex service, it is guaranteed to fail miserably.

To believe otherwise, you need to be either:

1. Retarded: You have no clue.

2. Be an accountant: You believe that anything worth measuring is easily measured.

3. Working in a purchasing department: Keeping your jobs requires you to not understand.

4. Employed by the the government or a multinational: You're not rewarded for results, you don't care and it's not your money.

Not only are RFPs inefficient in finding the right service provider, but you don't need to be a genius to figure out how easy it is to manipulate this kind of process. Humans are clever and imaginative and there are many many ways to work around the system. To believe otherwise would be foolish.

Marketing directors have the hassle to constantly deal with legal and IT and you think that they can't run circles around the purchasing guys? C'mon.

I can't recount how many times competitors have called me to play dummy on a RFP they wanted to participate in. Or how many marketing directors I have seen warp the process to favor the agency they wanted.

And I'm not the only one ranting against the RFP process.

How to Hire a Marketing Agency (if even Mr Nice Guy Mitch Joel is against it, there is a reason)
Why RFPs Don't Work (for the client OR the agency)
RFPs sucks - don't take my word for it
RFPs Sucks
Why Finding a Marketing Agency by RFP Sucks

Wake up and smell the coffee Ms Bueller. 

If you know someone who still believes in RFPs, please forward him this post. Who knows, they might wake up.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Psychological Obesity



In a previous post (The Great Divide), I stated the importance of feeding your mind. 

I am presently reading The Filter Bubble, an amazing book by Eli Pariser about how the Internet is filtering and shaping the information that is presented to you (thanks @fredericg for this one).

This paragraph stuck with me and I'm sharing it with you:


Our bodies are programmed to consume fat an sugars because they’re rare in nature… In the same way, we’re biologically programmed to be attentive to things that stimulate: content that is gross, violent, or sexual and that gossip which is humiliating, embarrassing, or offensive. If we’re not careful, we’re going to develop the psychological equivalent of obesity. We’ll find ourselves consuming content that is least beneficial for ourselves or society as a whole. – Danah Boyd

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

You Started a Company...



You’ve either started a company or you haven’t.  ”Started” doesn’t mean joining as an early employee, or investing or advising or helping out.  It means starting with no money, no help, no one who believes in you (except perhaps your closest friends and family), and building an organization from a borrowed cubicle with credit card debt and nowhere to sleep except the office. 

It almost invariably means being dismissed by arrogant investors who show up a half hour late, totally unprepared and then instead of saying “no” give you non-committal rejections like “we invest at later stage companies.” 

It means looking prospective employees in the eyes and convincing them to leave safe jobs, quit everything and throw their lot in with you.  

It means having pundits in the press and blogs who’ve never built anything criticize you and armchair quarterback your every mistake. 

It means lying awake at night worrying about running out of cash and having a constant knot in your stomach during the day fearing you’ll disappoint the few people who believed in you and validate your smug doubters.

I don’t care if you succeed or fail, if you are Bill Gates or an unknown entrepreneur who gave everything to make it work but didn’t manage to pull through. 

The important distinction is whether you risked everything, put your life on the line, made commitments to investors, employees, customers and friends, and tried – against all the forces in the world that try to keep new ideas down – to make something new. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Walk the Other Way



How many people you know are really happy and enjoy life to the fullest? Probably not that much. 

Do these same not so happy and quite boring people give you advice? All the time. 

And why would you listen? If you apply the same recipe, you'll end up with the same meal.

Each time someone gives you a piece of advice, always ask yourself how great is that person really doing in that specific field and in her life in general; especially if you didn't ask for her opinion in the first place. 

Common knowledge and social norms are worth challenging and never, ever do something because "everybody is doing it" - that's the lamest excuse and an insult to your own sound judgment. It has been used to justify anything from genocides to looting and riots - even bureaucracy. 

Do something because you believe it is right; not because everyone else is doing it. 

Always be wary of crowd movements. When a herd moves, it generally is toward the slaughterhouse. 

Blaze your own path. Walk the other way. 

***

 The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness. Chose one or the other with great care.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cocaine Culture



There’s no question in my mind that the dangers of cocaine have been wildly exaggerated by the antidrug lobby. Oh, I’m sure it’s not good for you, but you can certainly enjoy it recreationally, assuming you have disposable income and you hate yourself. 

Unlike pot or mushrooms or liquid Vicodin, it doesn’t shift reality; it just makes reality louder, brighter, and more interested in the availability of fashionable footwear. It makes you feel like you’re walking down the street – minding your own business- and the smartest, most attractive person you’ve ever met  suddently jumps out from behind a bush and gives you a compliment. This sensation lasts between 16 and 21 minutes, after which you become singularly obsessed with finding more cocaine. 

That desire  forces you to enter “cocaine culture” (at least for one night). Cocaine culture contains the worst of everything: the worst conversations, the worst friendships, and the worst kind of unspeakable joy. But the instant you’ve received a powdery compliment from this imaginary stranger, entering cocaine culture becomes the goal of your entire evening. 

People who want cocaine will lie about anything; people will surrender integrity they never had to begin with. To get free cocaine, women will have sex with men they normally wouldn’t dance with. Cocaine makes you more popular, but also less likable; cocaine makes you feel guilty in advance. 

When you snort cocaine, you consciously allow yourself to become foolish in the hope of seeming cool, and that’s the worst choice any smart person can make. This is why I am not a Cocaine Person, and this is why I will (probably) never become a Cocaine Person. 








Wednesday, June 8, 2011

These are the things you should invest in


Most people buy things they don't need with money they don't have to impress people they don't like.

Not that I wish you such a misfortune, but let's imagine for a second that you lost your job, status, money and all physical possessions: house, car, clothes, accessories, etc.

What would be left? Would you still be you?

The answer lies in what cannot be taken away in such a sweep:

1. Your physical health
2. Your good memories
3. The sincere relationships you have with decent people
4. Your knowledge and skills

These are the things that truly make you YOU.

These are the things that you carry along when the rest has been taken away.

These are the things you should invest in.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Forgotten

I am not sure that Watchmen is that great of a movie, but I sure like the camera works and imagery. Oh! And the intro  to the Dylan song The Times They are a changin is awesome.

Made me wonder about alternate past and futures as Richard Bach liked to call them, but most of all about everything we forget so fast and how the little we remember is warped by the passage of time.

As Chuck Klosterman said: the strength of your memory dictates the size of your reality

Twiggy, 1967
Here's a quick list of people and things buried by the sands of time. Do you have any to add?

Supermodel
We already barely remember Cindy Crawford and Elle McPherson, supermodels of the '90s; but who can remember Twiggy? Yet she was the first international supermodel and a fashion icon of the '60s and '70s.



Scientist
R. Buckminster Fuller as you certainly don't recall, was one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century. He published over 30 books, invented the geodesic dome (you can admire on in Montreal by the way - the Biosphere on île Ste-Hélène was designed by Fuller as the US building for Expo 67) and was awarded an incredible number of patents. His book Critical Path remains a must read by any serious thinker.


Car
Duesenberg, 1935
The lavish Duesenberg was among the most popular luxury cars of the '30s as well as a status symbol in the United States and Europe, driven by the nobility, rich and famous like Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Al Capone, Greta Garbo, Howard Hughes, Mae West as well as members of the European royalty such as the Duke of Windsor.


Book
She, published in 1887 by British novelist H. Rider Haggard is a classic of the lost world genre. It sold 83 million copies in 44 languages, that's more than Da Vinci Code and twice as much as Harry Potter. Have you read it? Take a look at the most popular books of all time.


Music Band
The Backstreet Boys were all over the place in the '90s, and where are they now? Ok, ok, I know, they are on tour with fellow '90s boys band New Kids on the Block and they're even coming to Montreal on June 7th. But hey, it's an anecdote. Back in the days, these teens sold 130 million albums! 130 million f**ing albums!! That's more than Billy Joël, Britney Spears, Bryan Adams, Depeche Mode, Guns'N'Roses, Kiss, Pavarotti, Mettalica, Phil Collins, Rod Stewart, Scorpions, Eminem, The Doors, Iron Maiden, Prince, Van Halen, Bob Dylan, Coldplay, Duran Duran, Lady Gaga, Motleÿ Crüe, Oasis, Nirvana, Pearl Jam or REM...

Airport
50 years ago, Gander Airport in Newfoundland was the busiest airport in the world and was lavishly renovated in 1959 to be Canada's flagship airport and impress the rest of the planet. Today, it sees only cargo and local flights. See my previous post The Forgotten Airport

Sea
Remains of the Aral Sea
The mighty Aral Sea in Central Asia was once the 4th largest lake in the world. In the 1960's the soviets decided to divert its waters to grow cotton and cereals in the desert. Today, it lost 90% of its surface while its salinity increased exponentially. The surrounding landscape is littered with dying land and rusting ships clouded in dust storms.

Billionaire 
Andrew Carnegie was a steel magnate who dominated the US business world of the late 19th and early 20th century. Technically, he was not a billionaire, but his fortune evaluated at $485 millions would be the equivalent of roughly $300 billions in today's money. A Scottish immigrant who started from scratch, Carnegie rose to success through his intelligence and hard work. At a very young age, he decided that he would spend half his life amassing wealth, and the other half giving it all away. And he did! Those having read Napoleon Hill's Think & Grow Rich will remember him talking profusely about the old Scott. He is also mentioned by Jim Rohn in his book Living and Exceptional Life, but the vast majority of the world has no idea who he was.

Actress
Ursula Andress
Ursula Andress was the first Bond Girl. She played alongside Sean Connery in the iconic Dr. No (1962). Although Jean-Paul Belmondo is one of my favorite actors, I must admit I am quite jealous of the sabbatical he took to sail around the world with the beautiful Swiss actress and her famous white bikini.

Author & Journalist
Joseph Kessel was probably the most influential writer and journalist of the French speaking World during the 20th century. The guy was everywhere: The Irish Civil war, WWI, with the artists of L'entre deux guerres in Montmartre, the Bolshevik tide and the fall of the tzars, the rise of Hitler, the Spanish Civil War, WWII, the French Résistance, and any significant event of the 20th century. Hell, he even managed to get the 1st visa ever issued by the newly formed state of Israel. Yes, he was first there too. He was elected at the prestigious French Académie Française and published over 80 books. At one point in time, he had met everyone that mattered and rubbed elbows with the stars, royalty, spies, army officers, artists, chefs and of course, renegades, mobsters and outlaws. Personally, I consider his classic Tous n'étaient pas des anges one of the best adventure books of all time. Yet, try to find any of his work in bookstores today. Good luck.

Airline
Pan Am (Pan American World Airways) once was a cultural icon of the 20th century and the unofficial flag carrier of the United States. It went bust in 1991.



And there are thousand other kings, queens, cities, cultures, civilization, languages, empires and conquerors once believed to be eternal and whose names are now forgotten.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away". 


- Percy Bysshe Shelley (and it was quoted in Dead Poets Society, another forgotten movie).

It has been said that we are alive as long as other people remember and tell our stories.

What about you? Who will remember you? 

Reverse Thinking on the Stolen Day


Let's say that instead of having a normal day today, you just didn't wake up this morning and slept until tomorrow morning. Or that some kind of Adjustment Bureau folks just erased the whole day.

Ultimately, what kind of a difference would that unique stolen day make in your whole life? After all, if you live to be 80 years old, that makes a total of 29 220 days.

I think this one should be analyzed in reverse.

If removing a single day from your life doesn't make a difference, then you're not living intensely enough.

Life is just that: a sum of individual days.

If every day is awesome, it is impossible to have a bad life.

So, make every single day count. Starting today.

Monday, May 16, 2011

How good is your coffee?


Every time you visit a business, be it to buy a product, sell your services or apply for a job, it is always a good idea to try to read between the lines and feel what the people you meet aren't telling you.

Take a look at the employees: Young? Old? Cheerful? Tired? Looking at the carpet?

What does the place looks like: Old dusty furniture? Ugly expensive stuff? Bland and corporate? Messy or structured in an obsessive-compulsive way?

I could go on and on, but there's one easy and fail-safe way to judge a business: its coffee.

Trying a company's coffee is akin to visiting a restaurant restroom to get an idea of its kitchen salubrity.

If the coffee is bad, it can only mean 3 things: 

1. They hire dumb people. I mean, how hard is it to make relatively good coffee?

and/or

2. They tolerate mediocrity and don't care about drinking bad coffee all day. It's just the way it is.

and/or

3. They are cheap bastards saving nickels and dimes on the coffee they serve their employees and clients.

In any case, it's off to a bad start.

***

For all of you coffee lovers, go and raise the bar.

If you're a small group and want to simplify your life, try small automated machines like the Nespresso or Jura.

If you're purists, get a real espresso machine, a water filter and some great coffee in beans.

Here in Montreal, the best place to get great coffee and espresso machines is Terra Café. Carlo Granito, the owner, is not only a real coffee aficionado, but his passion is contagious and he gives really good service.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ugly People All Over The Country

 
We teach them to take their patriotism at second-hand; to shout with the largest crowd without examining into the right or wrong of the matter--exactly as boys under monarchies are taught and have always been taught. We teach them to regard as traitors, and hold in aversion and contempt, such as do not shout with the crowd, and so here in our democracy we are cheering a thing which of all things is most foreign to it and out of place--the delivery of our political conscience into somebody else's keeping. This is patriotism on the Russian plan.
 - Mark Twain


It's election time again in Canada. 

What a great moment to ponder not only about the broken promises of so many politicians, but even more so about the fact that the vast majority of voters don't remember (and don't care) what those unkept promises were. The best argument against democracy, said Winston Churchill, is a 5 minutes conversation with the average voter.

This year again, I will vote for 2 reasons: The first one is that I'd rather cast my vote for what I consider the best part of a bad choice (selecting the tallest midget) rather than trust the rest of the population to do it for me. The second and most important one is that it will give me the right to bitch for the next 4 years or so. Because if you don't even care to vote in a democracy, you don't have the right to complain. 

There's one thing that amazes me though and that is, in my opinion, a powerful testimony to the fact that our politicians are old timers stuck in the past (even the young ones) and that the voters are a bunch of sheep (I was about to say morons, but I'll keep it to myself): those damn blue, red and orange placards all over the country. 

My God! How low can we go? Ugly people's faces placarded from Newfoundland to Vancouver. All of them with fake smiles, lousy haircuts and cheap three-piece suits. Beyond the visual pollution and the insult to our intelligence, what a f**ing waste of money and unnecessary pollution.


Let me finish by quoting H.L. Menken:  « Democracy is also a form of religion ; it is the worship of jackals by jackasses. »





Thursday, April 21, 2011

Clown Country


I am in the process of reading The Post-petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook by Albert Batès. There's a lot of interesting stuff in there, even if I don't agree with the author's vision of the World that I find a bit simplistic. But hey, I don't have half his credentials so who am I to judge?

I couldn't resit sharing this quote I found in the book: 


The United States is the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, yet its inhabitants are strikingly unhappy. Accordingly, we present to the rest of mankind, on a planet rife with suffering and tragedy, the spectacle of a clown civilization. Sustained on a clown diet rich in sugar and fat, we have developed a clown physignomy. We dress like clowns. We move about a landscape filled with cartoon buildings in clown-mobiles, absorbed in clownish activities. We fill our idle hours enjoying the canned antics of professional clowns. We perceive God to be an elderly comedian. Death, when we acknowledge it, is just another pratfall on the boob tube. “Bang! You’re dead!” – James Howard Kunstler, 2005

Oh, and for my fellow Canadians always looking for ways to laugh at the Americans (little kids always bitch about big boys - usually behind their backs), we're not  that better here than in the States.  




Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Love Brigade in NYC Subway




Hats off to these guys.

I'm seriously thinking about buying a megaphone and having the same kind of fun every morning on the Montreal Subway.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Pirate Who Vowed to Save the Whales


When I was a kid, I dreamed, among other things, to someday be a modern day Captain Nemo that would hunt down and sink whaling ships and other criminals of the seas.

Well, while I was only dreaming, a gruff and brilliant sailor went ahead and did it - in spades.

The Gojira
Captain Paul Watson dedicated his life to save the whales and dolphins. He's no ordinary activist, and staging protests and signing petitions is not his forte. He is a man of action, driven by results.

In fact, he left Greenpeace 35 years ago because they were too soft and founded his own organization Sea Shepherd.

His life reads like a novel. He rammed whaling ships, was imprisoned, shot at, infiltrated criminal organizations, rubbed shoulders with movie stars and is at the helm of a fleet of black, fearsome ships sporting pirate flags.

Armed with a flair for media attention, a talent for fundraising and, most of all, an impressive list of accomplishments, he is raising an army of good pirates to help protect the sea creatures.

Basically, he does what governments should be doing - enforcing international law.

I strongly suggest you visit the Sea Shepherd Website and YouTube Channel and, if possible, support to the cause.



The wicked are always surprised to find that the good can be clever. – Marquis De Vauvenargues




Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Secret of Success


Someone (I think it was Elbert Hubbard) once said: The secret of success is that there is no secret of success. 

I kinda agree. There are multiple factors involved in achieving a certain degree of success. The first one is being able to define success. That is where problems usually start.

But if you had to point out the most important success factor to be happy in life and succeed at anything you wanted, what would it be?

Here's my take: Surround yourself with great people. 

Corollary: Flush out all the negative people, the energy vampires, the one-person recessions, the amoral, the boring, the average and well, 99% of humanity. Stick with the 1% that matters.

It is impossible to fail in life if you're only surrounded by bright, talented, kind, curious, generous and happy people.

On the other hand, you only need one negative person to ruin your life.

In a previous post (It Doesn't Really Matter How Big Your Network Is), I talked about a network's depth vs its spread and stated that:

True wealth is the number of doors in the World where you can go knocking uninvited and crash on a sofa for the night.

But to attract great friends, you must yourself work hard to be the best friend you can be. This is the hardest part.

 ***

I just got back from a snowboarding trip in Fernie (BC) with awesome friends. Exceptional people endowed with a great attitude, hyperactive intellects, unbridled curiosity, a wonderful sense of humor and outstanding ethics. What could have been an average ski trip became an experience that I'll be happy to remember 10 years from now.

They provided the inspiration for this post. 


It's always the same thing. It doesn't matter where you're going. What matters is who's coming along for the ride.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rooftop Farming


I love crazy ideas. Especially crazy ideas that have the potential to make the World a little better.


What can be better than green rooftops? Green rooftops that you can eat.  


Hats off to Mohamed Hage and his team at Lufa Farms in Montreal.

They built a 31,000 square foot greenhouse on top a Montreal office building where they grow 25 varieties of vegetables and plants without using pesticides or herbicides of any type.

The farm uses a variety of hydroponic and drip farming techniques and by doing so, gives the plants exactly what they need for optimum growth and results in the same crop yields of a farm more than 10 times its size.

The farm also incorporates many energy and sustainability features – among them: collecting rainwater for use on the farm, recirculating all irrigation water, and providing an energy-saving shield to the office building below.


Here's why they decided to become urban farmers:  
We concluded that the fundamental problem getting fresh food was that food is often grown far away from where it is eaten. This meant that our food – whether grown in Quebec or in South Africa – would be handled, packaged, shipped, stored, refrigerated and reshipped perhaps dozens of times before it could appear on our dinner plates. And all along the way, it would become less fresh, less nutritious, less tasty, and be exposed to more potential hazards. The obvious truth was that it would be almost impossible to be truly fresh. 

Our vision is a city full of rooftop farms.  Some see our farm as small, but we have discovered that it has a big potential. It does more than grow vegetables. It allows land previously lost to urban development to be farmed again. Its year-around farming operations help and the roofs they protect will combat the warming of our cities. It minimizes the distance, time, and handling of food between you and us and it allows us to grow traditional and highly nutritious produce instead of only semi-tasteless varieties that ship and store well. Not least, it directly involves the consumer in a relationship with a local farm.

And there's another very good reason to grow more food locally: reducing transport.

1. This gives fresh, local and organic food an advantage over food imported from halfway over the World.
2. It reduces pollution emanating from transport.
3. It significantly reduces future transportation costs.

Let me explain. The price of gas will go nowhere but up in the future as we have passed World Peak Oil Production in 2005. Oh, sure, there is plenty of as left. Maybe for another 30 to 50 years, but it's farther, deeper and of lesser quality than what we've been extracting so far thus, it will be more expensive. 

I bet that in the near future, we'll see more and more urban farmers.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dreamers


All men dream: but not equally.
Those who dream by night in the dusty
recesses of their minds wake in the day
to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers
of the day are dangerous men, for they may
act their dreams with open eyes, to make it
possible.



- T.E. Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Greatest Tool In The World Has No Owner's Manual



"The brain is the most complicated material object in the known universe. If you attempted to count the number of connections, one per second, in the mantle of our brain (the cerebral cortex), you would finish counting 32 million years later. But that is not the whole story. The way the brain is connected – its neuroanatomical pattern – is enormously intricate. Within this anatomy a remarkable set of dynamic events take place in hundredths of a second and the number of levels controlling these events, from molecules to behavior, is quite large." – Nobel laureate Dr. Gerald Edelman, director of the Neurosciences Institute

When I was a kid, we were told that the average human used less than 2% of his brain's real capacity. Looking at the World today, it think it might be even less.

However, we can try to do better. And with that idea in mind, the compulsive reader that I am has read a couple of books on the subject.

Here are three that stand out and can help you learn a little more about your brain and how to use it more efficiently. They are he closest we have to an owner's manual.

1. Making a Good Brain Great - Daniel G. Amen


2. Brain Rules - John Medina


3. Seeking Wisdom, From Darwin to Munger - Peter Bevelin

Read them. You'll be AMAZED.

And please, spread the word.

If enough people make an effort, maybe we can reach 3%...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Keep People Afraid So They Don't Think Too Much


A well intentioned friend of mine (who happens to work in the Internet Industry) recently sent me this video: Smartphones pictures poses privacy risks in an e-mail that read:

Hi everyone, something all BB users should be made aware of ...
  You MUST see this, the consequences are scary.
  
            If you have a Smartphone you need to watch this...

            This is something that everyone needs to watch...........Think children or grand children


***

If you listen to the video from NBC Action News, it jumps at you at how stupid they think their public is. This is an all surface no depth story focusing on the lowest form of manipulation to make parents fear that someone will stalk their kids using the Internet.

Notice at how the policeman calls criminals "the bad guys". If you've seen a couple of recent war documentaries (No End in Sight, Restrepo), that's exactly how a lot of US soldiers call enemy troops: "the bad guys". This illustrates very well how chillingly simplistic is the reasoning process of some people we allow to carry guns and who are supposed to protect us. 

I'm glad a few lucid people commented on this video on YouTube.

Before panicking, consider a few simple things:

1. Isn't this retarded news story giving ideas to the stalkers out there? 

2. How easy is it to extract the geographic info from the pictures posted? I mean, if you spend your time stalking kids in parks, you don't have too much time to develop computer skills.

3. If someone has access to pictures of your kids online (via Facebook mainly), it normally is because YOU gave them access. Therefore, we can safely assume they are not stalkers. Otherwise you're pretty dumb and you already have bigger problems than anythings the news can teach you.

4. If someone wants to stalk your kids, do they really need an internet connection? Isn't it just as easy to hang around schools and parks? Remember, stalkers existed before the Internet.

5. How many kids fall victims to stalkers in the USA every year? Few (115 in 2007 - for a population of approximately 300 million), but since each is a real tragedy, the emotional impact is huge. However, statistically, it remains very improbable.

6. Why are they (news/TV networks/Big media conglomerates) trying to scare us? Remember in Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine when it mentions that: "...over a period when homicide rates were falling, media coverage of murder increased by 600%."


Do I think it is important, especially as parents, to be careful about the info we publish online. Absolutely.

Do I think that "bad guys" are lurking in the shadows and following my every move online. No.

There's a fine line between being prudent and being paranoid.

You want to protect your kids from life's sharp edges? Teach them to think.

A good start would be to turn off the TV and open a book.

 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Worst Way to Choose a Digital Agency


There are many ways to choose the wrong digital agency, but some are better than others. 

The Good Old RFP
First among the list is the infamous Request For Proposal (RFP) where a large number of agencies are invited to read dry documents about the "scope of work" and "deliverables" before responding in written form. This way of doing things comes from the purchasing department and is mostly found in very large corporations and governmental entities where the buyers are more interrested in covering their asses than delivering results. It comes from an era where the only things you bought were tangible, standardized products, not complex services. Generally, great digital agencies don't even participate as they know that the RFP process will put them at a disadvantage and generally prevent them from doing great work.

A good old fashioned RFP is usually won by mediocre or average agencies specializing in paperwork, politics and in dealing with large entities. Typically, a good deal of their staff is dedicated to answering RFPs, not producing great digital work. They know how to win by saying exactly what the buyers want to hear and by bidding very low. Later in the process, they will find ways to stretch the timeline and raise the price by invoking loopholes in the contract. The words "not included" are generally used. RFP usually make for below average results with skyrocketing costs and postponed deadlines. Ever heard of a government project that went as planned? Everything goes wrong, but no one is to blame. That's an RFP process.

And after the bitter lesson, you know what buyers do? They start working on a better, stricter and improved RFP process...


The Creative Pitch
Straight from the advertising world of the '70's, the creative pitch's purpose is to flatter the buyer's ego as well as to allow the agencies to demonstrate how creative they are. It is a shallow process focusing on catchy words, fancy concepts and beautiful images, but without any depth because all the work is done before the client and the agency really start collaborating. It might have been useful in the old days of limited media channels and push advertising, but in today's complex, interconnected and ever changing digital world, the only way to produce great work is for the agency to really partner with the client and delve deep into his business process. And that requires a lot of time - that's why it is done only after the agency has been selected. Furthermore, creativity is not enough. Intelligence, strategy and technical know-how are also required. 

The creative pitch is usually won by old school advertising agencies whose best talents are working on pitches, not doing actual work for clients. As the president of one of Toronto's most creative agencies once told me: "When a client calls a pitch, he's sure of paying more for lesser quality work. Because the agency that will win the pitch will soon have its best talent (A-Team) work on the next pitch while the rest of the staff (B-Team) works on projects for existing clients. And because no matter how great you are, you lose more pitches than you win, the winning client has to pick the tab for all the pitches you lost."

Maybe it's just me, but I think it is pretty easy to get an idea of how talented an agency is by looking at their portfolio and calling a few existing customers. If you take aside the client's ego trip, the creative pitch really is a waste of time.

While we're at it, here are 13 other dumb ideas to make sure you choose the wrong agency:

1. Keep your budget secret
That way, you'll be sure of receiving really differing and hard to compare offers. The Web is scalable and there are more than one way to answer the brief, depending on the amount of money the agency has to work with. And if you won't necessarily choose the lowest bidder, then why not give your budget?

2. Do not let anyone know which agencies you invited
I never understood the logic of this one. What are you afraid of? Price collusion? Anyways, it's a small (and interconnected) world and the invited agencies will end up knowing who's competing anyways. In the meantime, a couple of great agencies will have refused to participate because they won't want to end up competing against smaller firms or desperate agencies practicing price dumping.


3. Invite a dozen agencies, preferably a mix of small, medium and large ones
It is a sure way to let everyone know that you didn't do your homework by pre-selecting agencies and that you have absolutely no idea of where you're going. As a bonus, you will receive an array of offers so different they'll be impossible to compare intelligently.

4. Do not validate technical proficiency
This will make for interesting surprises along the way. From bugs, to crashing servers and escalating development costs.  

5. Do not call previous clients
Go ahead, trust your instincts and what the agency says during the pitch. Making a few phone calls and e-mails takes so much time and effort relative to the importance of the project that you may dispense with it.

6. Do not use LinkedIn to do some background check on the agency (including turnover rate)
It is easier to trust what the agency is telling you. Besides, the fact that all their best employees are leaving the boat doesn't mean it's a bad agency.

7. Make the brief as confusing as possible with gaping holes for interpretation
That way, you can get all the agencies confused. The smart ones will irritate you by asking a thousand questions and the dumb ones will interpret the brief in the way that is most advantageous to them. In the end, it doesn't matter because you'll chose the lowest bidder and he won't even have read the brief.
 
8. Have an impossibly tight deadline
This will tell all the smart agencies that you have unrealistic expectations and don't have the faintest idea of the level of effort required to complete the project. Starving agencies swimming in red ink and with a lot of idle hands will jump on the occasion to promise you the moon.


9. Involve as many providers as possible (strategy, design, content, integration, hosting)
Ideally, they should have incompatible values and overlapping business offers in order to compete against each other. You will have the impression that by playing them one against the other you'll be able to squeeze more work for less dollars. In the end, the good ones will just leave and let the sharks eat each other. In that zero collaboration, flying knives atmosphere, your project will bleed.


10. Choose your agency without meeting the team that will work on your project
It is much simpler to read the proposals and compare specs, features and price. Everything is there, isn't it? Can the human side of things be that important?

11. Go for the lowest price
After all, it's just a Website. How complex can it be? Even your brother-in-law can program one. 

12. Chose the agency that said what you wanted to hear
A yes-agency is great for your ego and easier to present to your boss and colleagues. And since you're always right, smart people usually share your opinions anyways.


13. Once you choose the agency, try to negotiate the price
If you can lower the price in a significant way, it means one of two things: (1) The agency tried to screw you the first time around. (2) It is in dire financial health and desperate for any dollars it can get. In both cases, good luck.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

13 Reasons to Fire Your Clients


1. No Respect or Trust
You should never invest yourself, be it business or personal, if there is no respect and trust between you and the other party. Not only will it be impossible to build something great, but you'll degrade yourself in the process. Don't be a mercenary or a whore. Work with smart and trustworthy people and do it with all your heart.

2. No Passion
If the work you have to do doesn't interest you, quit and find some that will spark your creative juices and bring some glitter to your eyes. Life is too short to spend it doing uninteresting things. The more passionate you are, the more great things you'll produce, attracting more interesting people and opportunities. 

3. Soul Twister
The problem with the Rat Race is: even if you win, you're still a rat. Never ever compromise your integrity. Refuse to do anything that goes against your values, regardless of the amount offered. In these times of shallow relationships, opportunistic individuals, information overload and ever increasing social media powered word of mouth, trust is the new currency and high integrity individuals will dominate the business world.

4. Unrealistic Expectations
We've all had a client who wanted the best product or service in the World but had absolutely no idea of the required costs. These are the ones that will tell you they want something like such and such dominant player in the industry (Facebook, Google, Nike, eBay, Red Bull, etc.) but will fall from their chairs when you'll present a budget equivalent to less than 1% of what the big players are spending. In the end, it all comes down to that simple equation: Better, Faster, Cheaper: pick any two.

5. Not Enough Time
This one is a classic. The client comes to you already late and wants his project delivered in an absurdly impossible short period of time. He will say things like: "How bad do you whant this job? How fast are you guys really are? I don't care if you have to work nights and week ends. Etc, etc." What he should be asking is: How desperate are you to accept this job? And you can bet that you'll rush for nothing because the client will eventually postpone the project several times.

6. Not Enough Money
You can generally spot this client as: (1) He will refuse to give you his budget for the project and (2) he will say things like: "Money is no object." and "If the value is there, we'll pay the price." Run away, he doesn't have a dime!

Some other times, as your business grow, earlier, smaller clients won't be able to afford your services anymore. You should both acknowledge it and admit that it is perfectly OK to part ways given the circumstances. If you're smart, you'll help these client find a new smaller partner to replace you.

7. Outside Your Area of Expertise
Sometimes the client is great, the project is interesting, but is falls outside your area of expertise. Better refer the client to someone who will be better able to help him. You might lose money in the short term, but you won't kill your reputation with a failed project and your client will respect you and might work with you in the future if he has an opportunity.

8. Too Big
This one killed more small businesses than can be counted. The one in a lifetime opportunity, the big project that will help you join the major leagues can also be the one that will kill you. Big clients are notoriously demanding. The processes, meetings and politics will take insane amount of time and eat your profits. Because they have so many people knocking at their doors, the big clients will make you work longer, harder and for less - because they can. Finally, the bigger the client, the slower they pay. Late payments on huge projects have a very damaging impact on cash flow.

9. Clueless
 The client that wanders way out in the left field but thinks he's on top of his game. Will come up with absurd ideas and won't listen to advice from people more competent than himself; because in his World, no one can be better than he is. Will end up working with a yes-agency intent on taking as much of his money as possible before someone at his company realizes that the guy is incompetent and swings the ax in his direction.

http://clientsfromhell.net/

10. Doomed Project
Some projects are born to fail. You just can feel it by the way strange people are always involved (overconfident, naive, lunatic, untrustworthy, psychotic, bipolar or outright criminal) along with bad planning, missing info, tight cash flow, unclear expectations, overly optimistic projections and unrealistic expectations. Avoid the trap.


http://clientsfromhell.net/



11. Idea of the Century
Every day, someone comes up with this game changing idea, the next big thing after peanut butter and Harry Potter, but doesn't have a penny to make it happen and you have the incredible chance of being offered a partnership in this new business that will revolutionize the World. In the meantime, you get to work for free and take all the risks while your genius clients doesn't risk a dime. In the very unlikely event that his idea does work (after 20 years in business, I have yet to witness such an event), your genius client will make more money than you, without any risk or effort. What a great plan - for him.

A variant of this one is: Work for free or at below cost price and, since I'm such a big shot, I will bring you a lot of business in the future. Will never happen. Ask yourself how come such a successful businessman cannot afford your services at the regular price.

My great friend and overly successful businessman Jean-Claude Bouillet once rightfully told me: "The longest distance in the World is the one that separates the mouth from the wallet."

12. Bad Timing
At some other time, this project and client would have been perfect, but the timing is not right. Maybe you presently have more job than you can handle or you need to replace a key player in your team or have pressing personal issues that need to be addressed. Better pass your turn than take a project that you'll turn into a fiasco.

13. Only Money
If the only reason your are working with a client is money, walk away. If there's no interest, passion, excitement, respect and fun, what are you doing? This is your life! Are you really willing to do anything and interact with anybody just to make a buck?

***

The hardest thing is learning to say no. The appeal of money is hard to resist, especially if you're an entrepreneur and have bills to pay.

In the long run, however, if you only invest yourself in great projects and constantly deliver quality, you'll attract enough smart clients that you'll never have to worry again about having enough job.

A WORD OF CAUTION
Of course, to be able to do this, you need 3 things:

1. Strong sales skills - to replace your bad clients with newer, better ones
2. A great product or service - to attract and keep great clients
3. A financially healthy business - so you can afford the luxury of refusing money in the short run


Ditching clients is not easy, and a few will be frustrated. Some people in your industry might label you as cocky, pretentious, snob or crazy; but in the end, you'll earn yourself a strong reputation for honesty and quality with like minded people and you'll attract great clients: smart, knowledgeable, organized, fair and demanding business partners that will help you grow your business as well as grow as a person.

***
P.S.: There are always clients worse than yours. For a good laugh, visit Clients From Hell.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Individuals > Businesses


Individuals matter more than the businesses that employs them. A lot more.

Businesses don't make decisions. Individuals do.

Businesses don't have friends, a social conscience or a soul (BP anyone?). Human beings do. 

If you think that you can trust a business, any business, you're wrong. But you can trust some individuals within a business.

What can a single individual do to a business?  Ask Steve Jobs.

History abounds with companies that were resurrected (or killed) by a handful of individuals.

What does that mean if you're a business owner? Be very careful about the people you add to your team. Hire only the very best, create an environment where they can excel and make sure to keep them. A high turnover is the sign of a sick business.

If you're working for a company, big or small, do not lower your arms.  Challenge the status quo and strive to make a difference. If your employer won't let you do your best, find a smarter one.

If you're a salesperson, you have to realize that your clients are not companies, but rather individuals within these companies. Therefore, when you present them your product or service, do not only think of what will be good for you (poor), their company (average), but rather, what will benefit them individually (better). If you're doing a great job at helping other people, they will work with you again and again, regardless of where they are employed.

As sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer famously said: "All things being equal, people would rather work with their friends. All things being not so equal, people still want to work with their friends."

I still have a lot to learn, but after 15 years in business, if there is one advice I can give you, it is to never play games. Never work just for the money. Never invest time and energy with people you don't like or respect. And above all,  surround yourself with bright, smart, honest, competent and positive people. If you can only do this, the rest will take care of itself. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Healing Permanent Injuries with ART


In his most recent book, the 4-Hour Body, Tim Ferriss explores different ways to heal permanent injuries. One of the the suggested methods is Active Release Technique (ART).

I had already tried Active Release Technique (ART) a few months before reading the book so I can attest its usefulness.

***

Following a whiplash accident, I was left with chronic pain, stiffness and limited range of motion in my neck.


I was introduced to Active Release Technique (ART) by Jean-François Thibault of JFT International here in Montreal and I was referred to him by my friends and clients at Atlantis Strength Equipment.

Jean-François Thibault is well known on the Canadian health and fitness scene. His clients include UFC Champion Georges St-Pierre as well as the Canadian Olympic team.

After a few months working with Jean-François Thibault, I have made more progress toward recovery than in the previous year and a half.

Although Jean-François used an array of techniques including: posturology, strength training, ELDOA and stretching, a key treatment was Active Release Technique (ART).


What is Active Release Technique (ART)? 

Here's an explanation from: www.activerelease.com

ART is a patented, state of the art soft tissue system/movement based massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Headaches, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, knee problems, and tennis elbow are just a few of the many conditions that can be resolved quickly and permanently with ART. These conditions all have one important thing in common: they are often a result of overused muscles.

How do overuse conditions occur?
Over-used muscles (and other soft tissues) change in three important ways:
    •    acute conditions (pulls, tears, collisions, etc),
    •    accumulation of small tears (micro-trauma)
    •    not getting enough oxygen (hypoxia).

Each of these factors can cause your body to produce tough, dense scar tissue in the affected area. This scar tissue binds up and ties down tissues that need to move freely. As scar tissue builds up, muscles become shorter and weaker, tension on tendons causes tendonitis, and nerves can become trapped. This can cause reduced range of motion, loss of strength, and pain. If a nerve is trapped you may also feel tingling, numbness, and weakness.

What is an ART treatment like?

Every ART session is actually a combination of examination and treatment. The ART provider uses his or her hands to evaluate the texture, tightness and movement of muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments and nerves. Abnormal tissues are treated by combining precisely directed tension with very specific patient movements.

These treatment protocols - over 500 specific moves - are unique to ART. They allow providers to identify and correct the specific problems that are affecting each individual patient. ART is not a cookie-cutter approach.

What is the history of Active Release Techniques?

ART has been developed, refined, and patented by P. Michael Leahy, DC, CCSP.

Dr. Leahy noticed that his patients' symptoms seemed to be related to changes in their soft tissue that could be felt by hand. By observing how muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments and nerves responded to different types of work, Dr. Leahy was able to consistently resolve over 90% of his patients' problems. He now teaches and certifies health care providers all over the world to use ART.

***

I suggest you try ART before any other form of treatment as it has a good chance of providing a faster and more efficient treatment than other techniques. 

Will it solve all your problems? No, but as renowned coach and trainer Charles Poliquin says, ART is 100% effective on 70% of the people. 

If you live in the Greater Montreal area and want to try ART, I strongly suggest the services of Jean-François Thibault as he's one of the best practitioners of ART in Canada.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Insights from the Ultimate Obsessive Compulsive


I tend to like obsessive-compulsive people because once they delve into something they tirelessly analyze every detail and put a ton of effort, way beyond the point of diminishing return. In terms of efficiency, for them, it is so not worth the effort (it is, after all, a mental disorder). But for people benefiting from their findings, it's a blessing. You can be sure, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they have tracked the whole universe in search of the last grain of sand pertaining to their favorite subject.

My wife is obsessive compulsive for a lot of things like finding the perfect vacation spot (once a year) or the perfect house (once every 5-7 years). Fantastic for me.

Another obsessive-compulsive is my good friend and Web expert JP Cyr. Not only has he a laser like focus, but once he sets his mind on something, Sherlock Holmes looks like an amateur. If he's investigating breathable fabrics one day and there's a Russian fellow testing a new Gore-Tex membrane in some God forsaken corner of the Kamchatka peninsula, you can bet your piggy bank that JP will be popping up from behind am iceberg to interview the guy.

These are classic examples of obsessive-compulsive behaviors.


TIM FERRISS

But obsessive compulsive people have a demigod. His name is Tim Ferriss.

His first book The 4-Hour Workweek (Escape the 9-5, Live anywhere, and join the new rich) was an instant bestseller. I so liked that book that in a little less than 3 years, I ended up buying more than 50 copies to give them to friends.

Do I now work 4 hours a week? No. Not even close. But in 2 years, my vacation time has been multiplied by 10 while my revenues more than doubled. Not bad. Also, when you love what you do, maybe 4 hours per week is not enough.


THE 4-HOUR BODY

In his second book The 4-Hour Body, Tim Ferriss uses the same recipe for success that worked so well with his previous book:

1. Bold claims to help people achieve their dreams / solve their problems : An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman (Hard to say no...)

2. To the point, precise advice on how to obtain desired result - all in an easy to act upon format

3. Recommendations backed by years of research interviewing world class professional operating outside the realm of common knowledge.

4. A fun, easy to read prose

The aim of the book is not to give final, dogmatic answers to every situation. Rather it opens new possibilities and pathways for readers to explore as well as tools to challenge the status quo.

I am presently reading The 4-Hour Body, and although I won't give you a full review yet, I can tell you that I started testing the fat loss methods suggested and they work. Actually, I tested only one and went from 201 pounds to 186 pounds in 5 weeks without that much effort.

In my next post, I'll tell you more about another technique Tim Ferriss suggest to heal permanent injury and that I recently tried: Active Release Technique (ART). Astoundingly effective!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mom and Pop Strike Back

www.brooklynfare.com
Last Friday, as I was walking to work, I came across my good friend Octavian from Rock & Social.

Octavian, along with Sacha Declomesnil, is one of the foremost social media experts we have here in Montreal. He's also a smart guy and decent human being. And every time I collide with an intelligent person, I leave with new ideas. Sometimes theirs, sometimes mine and more often than not, a mix of both.

One of the ideas we succinctly explored that morning stuck with me and I'm sharing it with you as is. Now, I don't have any data to support it and I didn't do any research. It is just my antennas buzzing.


Mom and Pop Strike Back - The Revenge of Local Commerce

The last 25 years or so were the realm of anonymity, information overload and faceless corporations. A fertile ground for the rise of worldwide retail brands like Starbucks, McDonalds, Wal-Mart, etc. It was not always the best choice available, but in doubt, it was a safe bet. Good perceived value.

When you were in an unfamiliar part of town or in another city, trusting the small shop was a big risk. Most people went for the safe choice with the brand they knew.

What has changed? I'd like to say: everything! But I'll be more specific: mobility, Internet, peer review and social media.

What if I'm lost far away from home and looking for a restaurant. That small café next to a Big McDonald has a name. I can ask my contacts via e-mail, Twitter or Facebook and get an answer in seconds. I can check the café's review in a dozen of websites or apps like Trip Advisor, Yelp, Dine.com and Urbanspoon.

All of a sudden, I don't have to take a risk anymore. The McMeal is no longer the only safe alternative.

What if the small shop can't afford the costly location on the main avenues? Hey, I have a GPS in my car and on my smartphone that will direct me to it.

Times are changing.

I smell a better future for the Mom and Pop shops.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Letters Against The War


Once upon a time, there was this great Italian journalist and World class traveler Tiziano Terzani who happened to be in Afghanistan when American troops landed in October 2001.

His book Letters Against the War didn't get published in America and the UK. I discovered it when Swiss friends sent me copy. Here's the fascinating story of that book as told by the author as a preface.

Florence (Italy) early December 2002

Dear Friends, 

the year that is about to end has been dramatic for all of us. Never before has each one of us been so unequivocally confronted with the question of war and peace. Back from a long trip into Pakistan and Afghanistan, I started the year publishing, first in Italian and then in various other European languages, a booklet dedicated to my three year-old American grandson, Novalis. The book “Letters against the war” was meant to raise questions about the way to face the situation created by the events of September 11th and to suggest that violence might no longer be the best solution for this and future conflicts of mankind.


The book was an immediate success in Italy (for 18 weeks it was among the top 10 best sellers). It was well received, reviewed and sold in France, Germany and Spain. Somehow, continental Europe with her, by now almost genetic, memory of war and destruction, seemed extremely responsive to the neo-pacifist appeal of the “Letters”. Wherever I went to talk about my experiences as an old war correspondent turned “Kamikaze for peace” (this was the title of a one hour documentary by Swiss TV) big crowds gathered to listen and to discuss.


Unfortunately this was not at all the reaction of the Anglo-Saxon world, particularly of the U.K. and the U.S.A. whose governments and press have taken a very bellicose, pro-war stand. All attempts to have the “Letters” published in English failed. All the English and American publishers who has printed my previous books responded with a “No, thank you” note. I did not give up. I had the book translated myself and offered it again to all kinds of publishers in London and New York.


To no avail. Even my offer to give the book for free failed.


Finally, a publisher in New Delhi (India Research Press) dared to take up the offer and his Indian edition remains the ONLY English version of the “Letters against the war” available in print. Now to allow as many people as possible to have access to the book, I decided, together with Massimo De Martino who in his spare time, generously run the T.T. fan (“fun”) Club founded three years ago, to post the whole book on the Internet. You can download it for free and I would be most grateful if you circulate text among your friends and...”adversaries”.


It is time to think, to discuss, to argue and finally to raise our consciousness and to save ourselves. Nobody else can do it for us.


Thank you very much, 


tiziano terzani  

Download Letters Against the War in PDF