Steamroller Printing with Magnetic North

This past weekend was the 2017 Portland Letterpress Printers Fair! Artists from all over Portland gathered at the Redd building in southeast Portland to share their craft, support the arts, and have a good time!

One of the main draws to the event is the steamroller printing. Studios entered to create these massive linocut stencils, which are then printed on 4×4 pieces of paper using a real steamroller! These prints are then raffled off with proceed benefitting the Portland Printmakers Alliance. (I bought 12 tickets.)

18076697_1350441028356679_9053800611537103806_o
Massive linocut by the artists at Magnetic North! (Photo courtesy of Walker Cahall)

All week I’d been stopping by Magnetic North, sometimes with planned meetings to see Walker, sometimes completely unannounced. Great people. So when I saw Walker’s picture of the final massive linocut, I knew this was going to be something special. This was sparking my creativity, how should I say, “bigly?”

This is Portland. We make art, rain or shine. For a little while at the beginning of Magnetic North’s printing session, the rain came down, so the canopies went up. It might have even hailed. But it was short lived, and in a matter of no time, we were back up and printing.

IMG_8785
A little rain wasn’t going to stop the steamrolling!

The first color the team decided to use for their print was green. (Great choice in my opinion.) Everybody chipped in with a roller, making sure the ink is nice and even.

IMG_8732
Green was the first color used.

Chances are, the paint may have been a little thick on the first one, but look at how pretty it was!

IMG_8736
Make sure you don’t miss a spot!

Once the linocut was properly inked, you move it over and place it on the plywood guide. The blue tape is for the linocut, the yellow tape is for the paper. You put a cloth over the top so the paper doesn’t get dirty or damaged.

IMG_8739
Laid down on the plywood guide to ensure the steamroller delivers an even press!

Look at all the detail, too! I love the succulents theme. It works great with the green, too!

IMG_8753
Looks centered to me!

Once everything was lined up, it was time to bring in the steamroller. Sadly, I was not allowed to drive the steamroller, or even get remotely close to the driver’s seat. It was an absolute blast to watch, and I have to admit, it’s a pretty sweet way to make large prints.

IMG_8790
The steamroller!

Once the paper is peeled up, you’ve got a beautiful finished product! Thanks boys!

IMG_8760
Successful round of printing!

The prints get put off to the side to dry, to be raffled off later!

IMG_8752
Setting the print to dry!

After we did a couple rounds of printing with the green, it was time to switch to black.

IMG_8782
After a few rounds of green ink, the team switched to black.

If there’s any extra paint on the guide or on the tape around the linocut, it could get on the paper and smudge. We had to take a quick break to scrub off some excess ink with acetone.

IMG_8777
Touch ups!

All clear!

IMG_8795
In order to keep the paper from slipping, we applied tape to the paper. Smart move!

How about a time-lapse?

12Ab4hnLuej98A

IMG_8769
Look at that pressure!

The best part about the whole steamrolling process is peeling up the print at the end. You never know what could go wrong (or right) under the press, so the final reveal is always a blast to watch.

IMG_8803
Peeling up the print is so cool!

Here’s that beautiful finished product!

IMG_8822
Beautiful final print!

As of the publishing of this post, I did not win the raffle and have yet to acquire my own print from the awesome linocut! Nevertheless, I was incredibly inspired by the creativity I saw from all the vendors at the fair and from all the prints being made and sold.

So much fun! Can’t wait to go back next year!

CHE

P.S. I want a steamroller! #bucketlist

Sales: A Numbers Game of Rejection and Perseverance

Sales may be a game of numbers, but for some (like me), it can be an even greater test of emotional fortitude in the face of nearly certain rejection.

tumblr_oo7plv54tF1rt7qgbo1_500It’s 2017 and I’m selling paper. Seriously. It’s not exactly like The Office, but pretty damn close. I am selling a “service” that nearly all businesses still need in one minor capacity or another, despite the prevalence of digital media in today’s marketing and advertising landscape: business cards, brochures, invoices, envelopes and letterhead, but also banners, apparel, signs, even yacht sales and every door direct mailing. If you can print on it, we can do it for you. Full service, all that Jazz. Now when somebody smugly says, “Okay salesman, sell me this pen,” I respond with, “that particular pen has 1.6 miles of ink inside of it. That’s a lot of deposit slips.”

I’m no stranger to outside sales. As I child, I sold lemonade and wrapping paper to my neighbors. In middle school, I sold custom burned CDs with original artwork. In college, I lived in my best friend’s guest bedroom and sold framed artwork door-to-door. At 19, I started a record label and sold compilation CDs through a network of “street teamers” and an obsolete web storefront. In Australia, I sold Vodafone upgrades door-to-door in residential neighborhoods. I sold circus school memberships in San Francisco and cedar beehives in Portland. Now I’m selling spiral bound manuals, wedding invitations, and high school graduation tickets. But this sales job seems different somehow. Lately I’ve been thinking… is this the job I’ve been avoiding my whole life?

tumblr_oo7pq7u6dH1rt7qgbo1_500
Offset Press

I bound into work each morning with an absolutely unwarranted level of energy and enthusiasm, not only because you can still pick up the “new car” smell on me but also because, until just recently, I was the youngest employee by more than two decades. On top of that, I also happen to be the only homo sapiens in the office that drinks coffee at work. I had to beg the Production Manager to get us a five-cup coffee pot… and I have to provide my own coffee! (I know! Vietnam, right?) So I beeline over to my desk and sign in to the ever important “time clock.”

My daily responsibilities are predominately divided into two categories: inside sales calls (and database updating) and deliveries with a round of outside sales in the form of door knocking. I know! It keeps getting better and better, right? Totally. After the quick “work in progress” (“whip”) meeting, I settle down with my spreadsheet of “warm” contacts (specific to my territories) and I get to calling numbers. These contacts are every customer in our branch’s database, broken out by area code. I’m also given their last date of purchase, which often times is more than a decade ago.

If I’m relentless and meticulous with my notes, I can knock out around 20 calls over the course of an hour. Yep, that’s right, because most of the calls go like this…

Me: “Hi, how’s it going?
Receptionist: “Umm… good.”
Me: “May I speak with [some name], please?”
Receptionist: “Can I ask who’s calling?”
Me: “Chris from [blah, blah, blah, here’s my pitch about “winning back your business!” There’s absolutely no opportunity for them to talk.]”
Pause…
Receptionist: “I’m afraid she’s unavailable, may I transfer you to her voicemail?”
Me: “Sure, that’d be wonderful. Thank you so –
Click… BEEP.
Me: “Chris from [blah, blah, blah, here’s my pitch about “winning back your business!”

“It’s a numbers game,” they tell me. What they really mean is, “you’re going to be rejected a ton, but don’t worry, because it’s all part of the job. You can’t take it personally.” I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but as I have been dealing with varying degrees of rejection and failure a bit more lately, I figured it would be no big deal. Oh yeah… did I mention my salary is 100% commission based. So I’ve got that going for me, which is great. Enjoy!

For the sake of transparency and to alleviate boredom, I crunched the numbers on all my sales calls yesterday, and they broke down into the following categories.

Voicemails: 46
Receptionist Messages: 12
Disconnected/Closed Business: 6
Not Interested: 6
Email Follow Up: 8
Recently Deceased: 1 (Yes, you read this correctly. She was crying on the phone to me that the person I was attempting to reach had just died.)
New Clients: 3
Total: 82

tumblr_omxs677zA81rt7qgbo1_500As I mentioned earlier, an additional part of my sales job is “door knocking,” where I go to the business around one of my clients (presumably after delivering a batch of scratch and sniff door hangers) and give them some free stuff (with my business card stapled to it) while seeing if I can get an item to quote for them. No Soliciting signs don’t mean shit, apparently, because I’m offering a “free quote,” I’m not actively selling anything… per se. The owner says he’s delivering “gifts” in the form of a calendar and some other branded stuff. I’ve circled my birthday in every calendar I give out.

Lucky for me, that part doesn’t last all day (although I’m sure Corporate wishes it did). In fact, most days I’m on my way home by 3:30 PM. When I get home, I descend to my garden-level suite to catch up on the Mystery Tin brand, whether it’s my screenwriting, affiliate marketing, the email newsletter, or the Happy Hour! game development. Mystery Tin is my night sales job, the only one that really matters.
During the Kickstarter campaign for Happy Hour!, I sent out personal emails to 170 of my friends to check out the campaign and take advantage of the special deals. Sales. Unfortunately, those emails only resulted in five backers, but perhaps more impactful than that, not a single person responded to the email itself. It took me hours to draft and write an email to each one of those people individually, informing them about the fun, new project I am super passionate about, but it was met with crickets. Nada. But wait… this is par for the course, right?

last-callAllegedly “consistency is king” and it requires around seven communications in order to close a deal (blah, blah, blah), but sales is a necessary evil of business. Passion projects and business forms alike, consistency delivers results and that requires blind perseverance and consistency. I can’t spend my time stewing about the rejections, I need to keep showing up. I could (and occasionally do) go back through the MailChimp “unsubscribes” from my monthly newsletter, letting each person occupy my thinking with anger and frustration (fuck those guys!) but why spend time looking backward at the 11 who unsubscribed versus the 600+ readers who are still signed up? (No but really, why would you unsubscribe from a once-a-month email newsletter? If you don’t want to hear from somebody only once a month, you’re basically telling me to fuck off.)

Taking rejection is really hard when you’re passionate about what you’re doing, which is why I’ve always taken things so personally, because I’ve always done my best to avoid doing jobs I wasn’t particularly passionate about. Music, circus, bees. This job doesn’t feel like the others, it’s different. It’s uninspired. I’m not passionate about the product. I’m not (that) passionate about the process. But I am invested in my coworkers. So I guess the real struggle is determining if that is enough to keep me here, doing what I’m doing in this outside sales position, door knocking and cold calling?

We’ll have to wait and see.

CHE

Chase Bank, United Airlines: “Go Elsewhere.”

Seemingly arbitrary rules, regulations, and fees often make for a “less than desirable” customer experience, but the major needs in our lives (money, travel, etc.) are brokered by a handful of powerful conglomerates, and they could care less how your experience is. I don’t like writing posts like this, but my recent travel experiences left me truly bereft, so I felt the need to share.

Early last month, I learned that a dear friend of mine had died (very prematurely), so I needed to fly from Portland, Oregon to Santa Barbara, California, with just over a week’s notice. I was fully aware the prices were going to be high, but eventually I was able to find tickets that worked for all parties involved (including my ride from the airport). The only problem was, I didn’t have the money at the time to afford the ticket. My situation is not unique, as nearly 69% of Americans have less than $1000 to their name.

I was, however, fortunate enough to borrow $450 from my parents. My dad deposited the check into my Chase bank account on Saturday morning. Saturday is not considered a work day for the bank (I wasn’t born yesterday), so I was aware the check would not clear until Monday, despite the fact he has been depositing checks into that exact same Chase branch for nearly 15 years now. I saw no way around the delay, so I had no choice but to wait until Monday morning to purchase my airplane tickets, forced to deal with higher rates and now a scattered assortment of different flights from different carriers, pieced together by Google Flights. Now I’m starting on Delta, switching to United, and on the way back, hopping over to Alaska Airlines, but I guess that’s what you deserve for trying to travel, right?

On Monday morning the flights were gone, and the only available tickets that were left were way more expensive now, so I had to borrow another $100 from my family. By Monday evening, the Saturday check still had not cleared fully. I had more than enough money to purchase the ticket, but my “Available Balance” was less than the price of my ticket. Accordingly, Chase declined the purchase request from Google.

So I called the Customer Service line at Chase Bank and explained my situation. I explained the situation. The customer service representative agreed that I had the money, but due to federal regulations the check would need time to clear. I asked why it wasn’t cleared on Monday morning, since it’s been sitting there since Saturday. We went back and forth about the funds. I asked him to think outside the box to make this purchase happen, because each second that I can’t purchase these tickets, they’ll get more expensive. Again, that’s playing the game.

“I’ve worked in Customer Service before, and I can assure you this is one of those situations where you ask your manager for help in making this happen for me…” I nearly begged the guy on the phone, to which he responded,
“Don’t you think if there was a way to do this, we would have done it by now?” He responded. Wow.

While there is a “hold” on checks, there isn’t a hold on cash… as long as you’re a “certified depositer,” otherwise they won’t accept it because it could potentially be money laundering. How do you become a Chase certified depositer? By having a Chase bank account. My dad is not a member of Chase, undoubtedly because of situations like this one.

I called the local branch of Chase bank and spoke to the Manager, inquiring on how to get my father as a certified depositer. Again, I reinforced the fact that my father has been depositing checks into that bank account for over a decade, but nevertheless, it was fruitless. He could not deposit cash into my account. That’s when I dove into my situation with the bank manager, hoping I’d pull on his heartstrings enough to make something happen… and he did.

“Are you using overdraft protection?” He asked me. I looked into it, and he was right, I was. This gave Chase bank to authority to decline purchases for amounts greater than I have in my account. By turning off the overdraft protection, I could charge for whatever price I wanted (up to a certain limit I think), but I run the risk of accruing an “overdraft charge.” I turned off the overdraft protection, and just like that, the payment went through.

“Great!” The manager said, “Hopefully you don’t get an overdraft fee.”
“If I get an overdraft fee, I promise you I will be calling back tomorrow and somebody’s gonna hear about it.”

I’m a stewer. If I’m wronged in some way, I’m gonna stew on it for a little while. Looking down at the misinformed negative balance showing on my Chase bank account, I called back the Customer Service line and asked to speak with the same customer service representative I spoke to earlier. You remember, the “don’t you think we would have done it by now?” guy. Yeah, that dickhead.

Turns out the guy on the other end of the phone could not transfer me back, but told me he was a Manager and was interested in hearing my concern. Very well, then. I started at the beginning, told him about the hold, the first customer service call, the local bank manager’s advice, and now I was trying to get to the bottom of why I was treated the way I was when I called asking for help. I told him that if I was have my money with a local credit union, for example, they would have more than happy to make those concessions for me the first time I asked.

“Then maybe you should go elsewhere,” the manager responded.

Wait… what?

“Put yourself in our shoes. Your dad writes that $450 check and then his bank goes back on it, now you’re out $450.” This was a legitimate argument that was made to me, claiming that Chase Bank (market cap $234.2 billion) needed to protect itself against depositing a $450 check. Not to mention all the money is insured!

“I’m out $450 and Chase Bank goes under, right?” I chipped back.
“Of course not,” he responded.
“Exactly.”

Instead of making that money available at the time of the deposit, and letting Chase Bank and my father’s credit union figure it out between themselves, I am forced to wait three days before that money clears. This is, of course, a Federal Regulation geared to protect banks and not serve consumer needs. This policy absolutely must change. Chase Bank may be actively lobbying those in the government about changes to federal policy, but I’d bet my bottom dollar this isn’t the issue. Whatever they are doing, do you think it is in the best interest of my subsection of 69% of Americans?

I made it to Southern California. The service was beautiful, and as is the silver lining in these types of situations, it was nice to connect with old friends again. I had planned to be in the area the following weekend for my mom’s 70th birthday, so I was somewhat forced into working remotely that week (again, because I was unable to afford two sets of airplane tickets). A forced long vacation, starting off sour and ending off sweet… or so I was hoping.

In scheduling my return flights home, the cheapest tickets I could get involved a 14.5 hour layover in Los Angeles International Airport. Now, for those of you following along at home, driving from Ojai to Portland would take somewhere around 17 hours (including pitstops for peeing and gas). I left Ojai at 12PM on Sunday, arrived at the Santa Barbara airport at 1, my flight to LAX took off at 2:33 and landed at 3:17 PM. My flight to Portland would leave the following morning, Monday, at 6 AM, landing in Portland at 8:45 AM. Had I driven from Ojai to Portland, I would have arrived 4 hours earlier than my flights, but exhausted as hell. But that’s traveling, right?

As soon as I landed at LAX, I marched straight to the Alaska gate for the next flight to Portland, OR, and asked to be put on Standby for this flight and all Portland-bound flights on Alaska. The woman at the desk sent me across the round terminal to another desk, where the clerk informed me that Alaska has a $25 change fee, but only on the same calendar day. Since my flight wasn’t until 6 AM tomorrow, I didn’t qualify for standby. I would have had to pay the full $125 change fee + the change in ticket.

I had all but given up on getting home to Portland on Sunday night, so I retreated to the bar and made conversation with the other travelers. I was, of course, on the longest layover, but everyone around me believe the Alaska deal was for 12 hours, not necessarily the same calendar day. So I decided to call Alaska and inquire.

Turns out, Alaska’s same-day $25 change fee is based on the calendar day, not 12 hours. The problem was obvious: I’m here for 14.5 hours, and I’m on the first flight out the following morning. There were literally no flights before mine, and three flights out before the end of the day. This is a deliberate squeeze. The other problem was, even if I wanted to change my flight, I had purchased the tickets through United, so I had to change it through them.

So I called United and explained my situation, how I purchased the tickets on Google, I’m on a 14.5 hour layover, and that I was willing to pay for the change in airfare to get on an earlier flight. They told me there was nothing they could do since the ticket I’m looking to change is from Alaska, so he got the Alaska customer service on the line and transferred me (then hung up). Alaska, to United, back to Alaska. Guess what the Alaska representative said? “There’s nothing we can do since you bought your ticket through United.” The moral of this story is… don’t buy your tickets using Google Flights.

At that point, I marched across the terminal to the United wing, and found a clerk. I explained my situation and how I was hoping to get on any flight to Portland that night. She informed me I could get on the last flight of the day, 11:45 PM, for $289 (including the $200 change fee), which is more than half of what my original round trip tickets cost. I explained was willing to pay for the difference in airfare but I could not possibly pay the change fee (again, 69% of America!) to get on a plane 6 hours earlier that was going to have empty seats anyway. I’m not trying to take advantage of the system here, I’m standing in LAX at a counter! This should have been a simple change, but United refused to budge or even try to make it work for me. “Sorry, maybe you should fly with someone else next time.”

Y tu, Brute?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m gifted with a caring, generous family. At that point, my brother sensed my SOS (or my angry tweets) and he offered to come get me from LAX at 10 PM at night to let me crash on his couch (in Sherman Oaks), only to turn around the following morning and get me to the airport by 5 AM. My brother’s a rockstar, and I owe him a ton… especially for this late-night rescue. I made it home then turned around and headed straight to work on Monday morning.

Chase Bank and United Airlines don’t need my business, they’ll be just fine without me. They’d be fine without your business, too. They cannot afford to lose the high-value clients, the businesses and the billionaires, that fill their coffers every month. Don’t get me wrong, these companies love their lower income customers too, because they’ll get some extra money out of you with a plethora of fees that all add up, and quite frankly, there’s nothing you can do about it.

I have options, and I’m in the process of transitioning away from these companies. I can find a local credit union that will accept the direct deposits from my work and won’t charge me monthly fees. In the future I can fly a smaller, customer-centric airline with less amenities and no checked bag fees. I can shop at local grocery stores and local businesses, because in the end, I want to feel as though the company understands my needs and will do what they can to help me.

CHE

 

Happy Hour! Card Game Now on Kickstarter!

Happy Hour!the first bartending card game, is now available on Kickstarter. It’s the latest game I’ve been working on with my good friend, graphic artist Walker Cahall. We’re really proud of it and we’d love it if you checked it out on Kickstarter, but first…

Dinner’s Ready, the first game I created on Kickstarter back in October of 2015 was really a proof of concept for a style of gaming I call “competitive learning.” You’re playing a card game, focused on the competition and gameplay, but the more you play, the more you subconsciously learn about a particular topic. With Dinner’s Ready!, we wanted to teach people about healthy eating and whole ingredients. With Happy Hour!, our aim is to get people familiar with the world of mixed drinks and to start learning cocktail recipes.

tumblr_okv3mm2v4e1rt7qgbo1_500Bars pride themselves on having fully stocked bars and the ability to make “any drink you want.” The problem is, with the limitless possibilities behind the bar, we’re overwhelmed so we inevitably defer to our “go-to drink,” a simple, unimaginative, cocktail. It inevitably involves three ingredients, one of which is ice. If we knew more about mixed drinks and cocktails, maybe our palette would expand also!

Happy Hour! was born!

From the beginning, we set out to make Happy Hour! both fun but also somehow an educational experience. We bounced around between different formats of gameplay, styles and designs, and base rules in order to best deliver the information we want to get across. In doing so, we made some tough decisions. We decided to omit the facts on the ingredient cards. We chose to ignore the “preparation method” of each cocktail for the sake of clarity and ease of play. We increased and decreased the size of the bar and the number of orders waiting at the counter. But after every play test, it would always loop back to that feeling: we were onto something special.

happy-hour-handHappy Hour! is the FIRST competitive bartending game that’s not only fun to play, but also teaches you an array of actual mixed drinks! Soon enough, you’ll be a master bartender!

Imagine this… it’s a Friday night and you’ve got three friends in town. In anticipation of your friends arrival, you’ve stocked up on some booze. Around 5 o’clock, commonly known as “happy hour,” you bust out the Happy Hour! card game and set up the bar and counter.

Now it’s time to choose an alcohol: whiskey, vodka, tequila or gin. For the rest of the evening, when any drink is played that contains your alcohol, you’ve gotta whatever drink you happen to be consuming. (Extra points if you pair your alcohol to your side drink.) When a player collects 21 points, everybody else has to finish their drink. Sounds pretty good, right? (You can obviously play the game without this optional drinking rule, but… why?)

tumblr_oktt8of7vr1rt7qgbo1_500
Whiskey Sour!

The games typically last 7-15 minutes for 2 people and around 30 minutes for 4 people. That means you can get two rounds in, and (maybe a little north of) two drinks. Not only does that get your evening started for a night on the town, you also have a head start on ideas for drinks later on in the evening!

The Kickstarter page is now up and the campaign will run until February 28, 2017. You can still get the game at the “Early Bird Special” price of $25 (including shipping), otherwise the game is $30 (including shipping). Join the Happy Hour! community by backing the game, following us on social media, and sharing our project with your friends!

At the time of posting, we’re currently at $1263 or 21% of our overall goal!

Thanks again for your support, and I look forward to sharing a drink with you all in Happy Hour!

CHE

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
The Wisdom of Shark Tank 
is a mega-post of the insight I gained by watching every episode of the investment show Shark Tank
Starting A Monthly Newsletter is a look at the inner workings of my new Mystery Tin Monthly e-mail newsletter. (You can sign up here!)
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.

Stop Being Mean, Start Asking Questions

When did human decency get thrown out the window?

It seems as if everywhere you look, there’s a level of anger and umbrage we haven’t seen in a long time, especially in my lifetime. I asked my elders if there was another time in their history that held such high voltage divisiveness. They listed off a few of the usual suspects (Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, etc.), but ultimately, their answer was “no.” Our country is more divided then ever.

We’re hurting. All of us. We need something to point the finger at, if only to assign blame to start the healing process. You must identify before you can alleviate. The problem is, it seems that our emotions have gotten the best of us, and the expectation of “human decency” toward one another has simply gone out the window. It’s hard enough to be a human being, why must we be active in making it harder for another?

In the wake of the election, people are trying to figure out what really happened. Each side has their own opinion, often hinging on the buzzwords of “racists,” “ignorant,” and “out-of-touch.” When it comes to politics, we’ve removed the human element from each person, replacing them with these insensitive labels, as if people and their political affiliations are, and always will be, one and the same. Chris is a Liberal. Debbie is a Republican. If you voted for that candidate, you are vicariously required to represent and defend every opinion and platform that candidate ran on. “But he’s a racist.” “But she’s a liar.” This doesn’t make people uplifted and hopeful, it makes people defensive. It’s a vicious cycle of backing into corners, ready to swing.

C13t1HcUkAATSca.jpg

The only way we can get past this, is by asking questions. Engage using the Socratic method. While there may be gratification in calling people “idiots,” there’s more gratification in engaging with them, asking and challenging them to boil down their perspectives and opinions down to their purest, unadulterated form. It’s difficult for them to do, and it’s really hard to maintain an even keel while debating all of these closely-held beliefs, and most people won’t. They won’t, because they’re afraid.


People are afraid to engage their intellect. It’s not their fault. It’s the education system. It’s their lifestyle. Educating yourself is hard, it requires, at it’s base, the recognition that opinions can change without grand judgment of the individual. Changing your mind isn’t the same as changing everything about you. People are afraid of change, so they rely on their gut, because “no matter what you say, you can’t tell me that my gut is wrong.” And they’re right. But the problem is, you can cultivate your “gut feeling” through engaging your intellect. Rather than watching the nightly news and learning about the world around you, it’s easier, and less intellectually demanding, to let reality television wash over you. Passive and inactive.

 

C1-usBoUkAAwury.jpg

Nobody has ever won an argument with the closing line, “you’re an idiot.” I see your point now, thank you for debating with me. No. We need to ask questions, not only of others but most importantly, ourselves. First, why are we having these conversations in the first place? What are we trying to accomplish by engaging? Are we trying to change someone else’s mind for them, or for us? If we are trying to set people straight, and help them see the error in their ways, is their “conversion” to your side the ultimate goal? Before you engage, you must crystalize your goal and stick to it. There’s nothing more ineffective and pointless than a ceaselessly wandering argument. They inevitably deteriorate into petulance and more anger.

If you do find yourself in a civil debate with someone who holds diametrically opposite viewpoints, you should consider yourself lucky. But furthermore, your approach should be simple: ask questions and listen. Period. Don’t preach. Don’t belittle. Don’t respond with exasperated gasps or insulting memes. Instead, ask questions to get to the root of their beliefs. Why do you feel that way? What is the personal benefit do you believe you will receive from voting for him or her? What is the thing about my candidate you didn’t like most? Asking these kinds of questions will get them to confront their gut and engage their intellect. Do your best to remain calm, you never know what’s gonna come out.

Chances are, a majority of these incendiary attacks will come online. It’s nothing new to ascribe an unfounded confidence to digital anonymity. Hiding behind your Twitter avatar, the confrontations are seemingly “less real.” People say whatever they want because their opponent has no direct impact on the flesh and blood of their daily life. Unfortunately for them, those days are beginning to fade. The bold, the angry, the unhinged are taking their outrage out from behind their computers and into their communities. Violence is the ugly result.

If there’s any plea from this post, it’s that we stop the name calling and start getting involved on an individual level. We’re all human beings. We’re all Americans. We’re in this together. Unless you brush shoulders with the top 1% (I do, but I couldn’t be further from them economically), we’re pretty much all going to deal with repercussions of our collective choices. Pointing fingers and name-calling now is irrelevant. Doesn’t it make us “better people” to actively buoy the lives of those you vehemently agree with? When did “turn the other cheek” go out of style?

Since the election, it’s been amazing to see our communities energized. We’re taking to the streets, we’re starting groups with daily calls to action to protect our rights, we’re petitioning and calling our representatives. “We The People” are speaking up louder than ever, not only for ourselves, but for those that can’t, and those that need it most. If we organize, embrace empathy and individual rights, the country will become something we can all be proud to call the United States of America.

In the meantime, can we knock it off with the insulting memes?

BONUS: It’s not just on Facebook and Twitter we get bold and combative. I received this in the contact form of my website:

Name: Eat my ball skin
Email: Fuckyou@fuckyou.com
Website: http://stretchyBallSkin.com
Comment: No talent assclown with a fucking crappy website. Leave your shitty “art” and “photography” in California.  Good luck “consulting” when your art has been showcased at high schools and your yuppie university. Fuck outta here – I’ll pay you 7$ an hour to suck outta my ass wid a straw.  #anusmeat
Contact Number: 1-800-eat-shit
Where did you hear about Mystery Tin?: cockboy.net

To practice what I preach, I asked “Why?” when I received this last year. I know a thing or two about computers, so I tracked down the IP address attached to the form submission. It was located in the North East. Scanning my contacts in that part of the country, I was able to eliminate my fraternity brothers and a few other possibilities, until I narrowed it down to the culprit: some guy a long ago ex-girlfriend cheated on me with. A hater, plain and simple.

So why did he say all that? Aside from the obvious, it’s because he thought he was being an anonymous tough guy and I’d never figure out it was him. Better luck next time, DUDE.

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
The Wisdom of Shark Tank 
is a mega-post of the insight I gained by watching every episode of the investment show Shark Tank
Starting A Monthly Newsletter is a look at the inner workings of my new Mystery Tin Monthly e-mail newsletter. (You can sign up here!)
Personal Fire Ecology is a quick look at the rationale behind my yearly purge by fire.
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.

Two Helpful Hacks to Grow Your Mailing List

I recently started my own monthly newsletter, Mystery Tin Monthlyand I wanted to make sure I got most of my contacts onto the mailing list. For the sake of transparency, I have a somewhat “large” social presence (FB: 1403, T: 550, LI: 698) and I have a ton of contacts in my Gmail.

Here are two helpful hacks to get e-mail addresses, specifically from LinkedIn and Gmail:

LinkedIn:

  1. Starting at your LinkedIn Profile page, on the right sidebar, under the advertisement, click on the “More” button. This is buried among the other links for “About,” “Help Center,” etc.
  2. Click “Manage your account and privacy.”
  3. Scroll down to “Getting an archive of your data.”
  4. Choose the “Fast File Only” option, which will deliver your profile information, connections, and messages. This will generate an e-mail containing a .zip, arriving approximately 10 minutes later.
  5. Inside the .zip file is a number of .csv spreadsheets, but the one we’re looking for is connections. Open it.
  6. The .csv file is a breakdown of your connections: First Name, Last Name, E-mail Address, Company, etc.
  7. Import this list into your newsletter database and you’re all set!

Gmail:

  1. Starting inside your primary e-mail account, click the white grid in the top right corner to access your “Google Apps.”
  2. Scroll down until you reach Contacts. (Duh?)
  3. You will see a screen that has your “Frequently Contacted” list and below that, your “All Contacts” list. On the left side, at the bottom of the menu, click the “More” button.
  4. This gives you a list of options, including “Export.” The new, preview version of Google Contacts doesn’t support exporting at the moment (Get on it, Google!), but when you click “Export” it gives you the following options:
  5. Click “Go To Old Contacts,” which will bring up a new window with everybody you’ve ever e-mailed.
  6. Select the “Other Contacts” link on the left sidebar, then use the “Select All” box at the top of the list. With all your “Other Contacts” selected, click the “More” dropdown menu and select “Export…”
  7. This brings up a menu of download options, specifically which lists you’d like to export. At this point, I select “All Contacts” and export as a Google .csv.
  8. Important Note: The list generated here is going to include every e-mail address you’ve ever contacted. This means mailing lists, info e-mail addresses, etc. It is smart to go through this list and refine it, removing the useless e-mail addresses you are sure are going to either bounce back or unsubscribe. It’s going to take a little bit, but you’ll get into a rhythm and narrow it down to the contacts you really want to e-mail.
  9. Import this refine list into your newsletter database and you’re all set!

Using these two simple “hacks,” my newsletter will reach nearly 1,000 people next month!

Do you have any helpful hacks for collecting e-mail addresses? Share them below in the comments!

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
Hiring My First
Freelancer 
is a post about my first foray into outsourcing lead generations from a virtual assistant in India, using Upwork.com.
The Wisdom of Shark Tank is a mega-post of the insight I gained by watching every episode of the investment show Shark Tank
Starting A Monthly Newsletter is a look at the inner workings of my new Mystery Tin Monthly e-mail newsletter. (You can sign up here!)
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.

My Latest Screenplay: TAKEOFF

This past November I participated in NaNoWriMo, and I wrote the feature length action film, TAKEOFF.

I never what will give birth to an idea for a screenplay. Historically speaking, it was something I was watching on television, reading, joking about, or talked with a friend about during an inebriated debate. I wrote UNIT C19 when I binged watched every episode of Storage Wars.

TAKEOFF was the result of my semi-guilty obsession with the television show Airplane Repo. Using re-enactments and interviews, our team of “airplane liberators” and high end repossession artists share their most risky, dangerous, and entertaining jobs. Retrieving monster trucks from backwoods rednecks and multimillion-dollar jets from bankrupt playboys, you have no idea what to expect next. It’s “reality TV” at it’s finest.

TAKEOFF follows Justin Case, a former military pilot in Afghanistan turned high-end repossession artist. Think MISSION IMPOSSIBLE meets GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS. Haunted by the loss of his friend during the war, Justin and his team embark on their most dangerous mission yet: stealing an airplane from a group of terrorists in the middle East. They soon discover they are the targets of a much bigger mission, one that’s spanning decades, continents and will test their bonds of friendships. There’s love. There’s sex. There’s bullets and bombs. There’s drugs and even a little bit of politics. It’s not too deep, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was meant to be an action movie, plain and simple. Michael Mann would LOVE directing this film!

This was a fun project because most of my screenwriting has been dramatic thrillers, while this was an unapologetic action film. It isn’t mean to grab hold of you, keeping you awake at night with questions about your own morality. TAKEOFF is intended to entertain as you quickly flip through the pages, watching the film in your mind, excitement building with each scene until you reach the climax, a dangerous, fiery-shootout in a foreign country! It’s 143 pages that just flies by!

I’m almost done editing it, and when I do, I’ll include a link of it here. In the meantime, you can see the rest my library of screenplays here.

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
Starting A Monthly Newsletter is a look at the inner workings of my new Mystery Tin Monthly e-mail newsletter. (You can sign up here!)
Personal Fire Ecology is a quick look at the rationale behind my yearly purge by fire.
Book Review: A Confederacy of Dunces
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign 
is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.

 

Book Review: The Witch Death by… me?

I recently found a little story book I made as a kid, and I just read it again… it’s fucking great! So I’m gonna tell you the story, then let you read it yourself.

img_7839As I mentioned a few days ago, during my personal fire ecology, I rediscovered this cartoon book I (apparently) wrote as a child. It is called The Witch Death, and I have absolutely no idea when it was written. The front cover features a sticker of a scarecrow, but profiles a green-faced witch, her arm and finger extended at an unseen victim, with her cape dangling down a kitten at her feet…

That kitten, my friends, is the main character our story. Her name… is Cotton.

According to my story, Cotton was going for a walk, when she found a house just up the hill from her own house. More educated people would recognize this would be a neighbor’s house, but you need to remember that Cotton is a kitten and I was only a child.

Quite naturally, Cotton did something that we all do at our neighbor’s houses, she opened the door and walked right inside. Suddenly, the lights went out! There was a voice!

“Go away!” the voice said. (Totally legitimate request in my opinion.)

Then the lights turned back on, and that’s when Cotton saw a witch, standing in the middle of the house! The witch pointed (see cover art) and said, “You must die!”

So Cotton ran for her life! But you’ll never guess what happened next…

There was a werewolf. Yep. A motherfucking werewolf.

Cotton didn’t know what to do. There was a werewolf ahead of her, a witch behind her. What other option do you have? So Cotton grabbed some dynomite [sic] and put it in the werewolf’s pants! It went “Boom!” and off Cotton ran.

BAM! Are you kidding me?! I did not see that coming! Not only did the dynamite come out of nowhere, but who knew that werewolves wore pants? This is outside-of-the-box thinking here, people! I would say “you can’t make this shit up,” but I guess I did.

Sorry for the digression. So, to recap here: Cotton’s running away from a witch that wants to kill her and a werewolf she just exploded by putting “dynomite” in it’s pants. Okay… turning the page…

The werewolf came back together (naturally) and that’s when Cotton found a Jeep nearby. That’s right, a Jeep. I didn’t know how to drive when I wrote this, which is probably why Cotton, the kitten, apparently didn’t know how to drive either. Both Cotton and I were equally capable of driving one day, we just needed to study and practice.

“This is my driver’s test.” Cotton said. To whom? Who cares.

So Cotton got into the Jeep and “pushed go,” but it went backwards! (That’s probably because Cotton, as a kitten, didn’t know that “Drive” means “Go.”) The Jeep, flying in reverse, got the werewolf (again)!

Cotton – 2, Werewolf – 0.

Turning the page…

THE END!?!

Are you kidding me? I was a little M. Night Shyamalan in the second grade (or whenever I wrote this masterpiece)! Who ends a kitten/witch/werewolf story with the flare of the Sopranos finale? The drama is killing me!

Okay, first of all… The Witch Death? The witch didn’t actually die. Nobody died in fact, not even the werewolf with the dynamite in his pants! Cotton, the kitten, is telling us her story, but what happened after she hit the werewolf? If the werewolf could survive dynamite in it’s pants, I’m sure getting run over by a Jeep isn’t even a scratch. I guess I’m still impressed a kitten can drive a jeep, I had enough trouble as a 16 year-old human! All in all, I would say this story is slightly entertaining, but utter garbage.

It’s really interesting to see that I have been creating weird, dramatic stories for a really long time. It’s also really fun that I found this, to remind me about the times when storytelling was just storytelling. It’s not all about likes, retweets, and unique visitors. There’s something fun and pure about storytelling for the sake of storytelling. That’s the thing I’ve always loved most.

Here’s the complete story, as it was written…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This was so much fun. Do you have anything like this? Take this opportunity to go dig up treasure from your childhood. It’ll make you feel great.

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
Starting A Monthly Newsletter is a look at the inner workings of my new Mystery Tin Monthly e-mail newsletter. (You can sign up here!)
Personal Fire Ecology is a quick look at the rationale behind my yearly purge by fire.
Book Review: A Confederacy of Dunces
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign 
is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How’s That New Year’s Resolution Going?

We’re only six days into 2017, and already the gym has emptied out. Why are New Year’s Resolutions so hard? Because there’s little (to no) accountability.

New Years always brings about the opportunity to “turn it all around,” and a majority of people make resolutions in an attempt to actualize their ideal self. I want to be more healthy. I want to write more. I want to double my net worth. I want to stop smoking. The tough part is, unless there’s something “different” supporting your new goals, there’s absolutely no difference between December 31st and January 1. Screaming into the abyss won’t make you a better orator, you need support.

I’ve come to treat my New Year’s Resolutions with the same approach I have toward sales and marketing: it’s all a numbers game. If I give myself five resolutions, and only one sticks, I still consider that a success, despite the 80% failure rate.

tumblr_ojddc0doqy1rt7qgbo1_500For example, these were my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017:
Work Out (even for 15 minutes) Every Day
Write 1500 Words Per Day (Blogging and Creative Writing)
Read Every Day
Cut Down My Vices (Drinking, Smoking, etc.)
$0.01 (this one will take all year)

Not even a week in and I’m already down to 2.5 resolutions, but look at the ones I’ve already failed on starting. Working out and cutting down my vices. I’m more than confident that if I had some kind of support and accountability system in place, I wouldn’t have crossed those off the list. If I had to a buddy to go for a run with (or work on my “gains”), I’d already be in better shape! Instead, I remain huddled up in my cold, empty house, with absolutely no desire to leave this fireplace.

Granted, a majority of my goals are daily activities, which is in itself a massive challenge. Doing anything daily is difficult, but building a solid routine requires a constant commitment to achieving the goal of consistency. The good news is that it is not an uphill battle you have to do alone. Stand up and share your resolutions!

Let’s Accomplish our NYR together!

If you’re looking for an “accountability buddy” to help hold your feet to the fire in accomplishing your New Year’s Resolutions, let me know!

Fill out the form below and we’ll accomplish our goals together!

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
The Wisdom of Shark Tank 
is a mega-post of the insight I gained by watching every episode of the investment show Shark Tank
Starting A Monthly Newsletter is a look at the inner workings of my new Mystery Tin Monthly e-mail newsletter. (You can sign up here!)
Personal Fire Ecology is a quick look at the rationale behind my yearly purge by fire.
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.

Best Notebooks for Daily Notes

As someone who fancies himself a bit of a writer, inspiration can strike at anytime, anywhere, in any form. I was tired of having struggling with my phone to jot down my thoughts (it’s a little awkward), so this year I’m doing my best to take physical notes… on everything.

IMG_7825.JPGThanks to a little insight from Santa Claus, I was lucky enough to receive one of these sweet Moleskine 2017 Daily Planner Box Sets. They’re perfect for keeping in your back pocket to jot down your daily notes and appointments, but you don’t have to carry around an entire year’s worth of paper in your pocket to do so (like this video I did in 2013). Just one month at a time! For years I’ve been searching for the perfect notebook, and this box set is already quickly becoming my favorite so far.

I know that I can keep my notes in my iPhone, but putting ink to paper gives more of a permanency to my thoughts and notes. For instance, if I did write down something in my phone, where does it ultimately end up? Do I need to create a document for each thought I have? Or a new note for each category of thoughts? There’s almost more work involved in efficiently organizing your digital notes than just writing them down, in your notebook, on today’s date. Simple. It’s clean. It’s efficient. It doesn’t disappear into the metadata of your computer’s hard drive full of files, instead it’s right there in your pocket, ink on paper. When I’m ready to harvest my golden thoughts and experiences, I’ll go back through the notebooks!

IMG_7826.JPGThese notebooks carry with them all the quintessential Moleskine hallmarks. The first pages of each notebook are filled with 2017 monthly calendars, international holidays, time zones, travel agendas, flight times (yeah, really), time zones and measurements… and then it gets to the daily pages. I don’t need a lot of space to remember meetings, funny quips of dialogue, ideas, retrospections and gratitude. I just need a few lines and a pen.

Hypergraphia is a behavioral condition characterized by the intense desire to write (yes, that’s straight from Wikipedia). I’ve thought about this a lot, and while I don’t necessarily think I have hypergraphia to a point of debilitation, I do think there’s a strong physical desire in me to write and create everyday. (I have dozens of notes in my phone and even more notebooks, filled with notes, in boxes in my room.) The downside is, with the constant traffic of ideas flowing through my head all the time, I tend to miss or forget a lot of the tiny gems I would have loved to incorporate into my writing. This year, I’m committed to my hypergraphia, keeping notes and recording my gratitude as I go, and having these notebooks in my pocket is a great start.

IMG_7827.JPGAlong the way, I’ve picked up some amazing tips and tricks for efficient note taking, which could (and should) be it’s own blog post. Needless to say, these beautiful notebooks are filled with acronyms, highlights, diagrams, sketches, stickers, phone numbers, and thousands of quick scribbles which may only make sense to me when I’m squinting through drunken eyes, but that’s all that really matters, right?

At the end of the year, when I’ve worked my way through all twelve notebooks, having recorded and recollected on every single day of the year, these notebooks will contain an amazing snippet of my life in technicolor on my desktop, and I’ll be able to glean all the fun, entertaining, and otherwise trivial thoughts into something worth reading.

Since it’s only January 5, it’s not too late for you to pick up a set of these Moleskine Notebooks and get to writing!

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
The Wisdom of Shark Tank 
is a mega-post of the insight I gained by watching every episode of the investment show Shark Tank
Starting A Monthly Newsletter is a look at the inner workings of my new Mystery Tin Monthly e-mail newsletter. (You can sign up here!)
Personal Fire Ecology is a quick look at the rationale behind my yearly purge by fire.
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.