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

Kickstarter Postmortem: Redefine Success

Over the course of February, I ran my fifth, creative crowdfunding campaign, this time for Happy Hour!, a sequencing card game based on the concept of bartending and making mixed drinks. The drinking game was created in partnership with Walker Cahall, a graphic artist out of Portland, Oregon, but more importantly, a longtime friend. Our goal for the campaign, only lasting 28 days, was to raise $6000 dollars. The campaign ended up raising a total of $6117, or 102% of our goal. While this looks to be a successful campaign, there was much to learn.

This is a public postmortem in hopes that others may learn from our mistakes.

Where We Excelled:

early-bird.gif5050-optimism

Artwork. Walker Cahall (Waltronic) is an absolute professional, and the best thing we did for our campaign was to showcase Walker’s artwork in it’s many forms. We had a handful of Recipe cards and a few more Ingredient cards ready by the launch, but one of the best parts of our campaign came when Walker volunteered to make these tiny animations to support the campaign.

last call.gifcheers

These animations were immensely popular with our followers and on social media. When we shared these images and animations with the proper tagged (i.e. #whiskey), we started to gather the attention of distilleries and alcohol brands. Although these “likes” and “follows” would prove to be of little benefit to the Kickstarter campaign, but we do believe the future of the Happy Hour! card game lies in creating partnerships with a handful of these brands. (More on this later!)

Facebook Marketing. We decided that based on the crisp, graphic design of the game, and Walker’s amazing animations, we would run some “experiments” in targeted Facebook and Instagram advertising. We boosted posts and created campaigns. We spent approximately $75 on Facebook advertising with an average CPC of around $0.57/click.

screen-shot-2017-03-05-at-6-37-30-pm-1

Not without surprise, we did run into some issues when it came to marketing the game on Facebook. First, there are regulations on the amount of text that can be in a featured image or video. A lot of the animations indicated what percentage of our goal we had achieved (25%, 50%, and cheers!) and some other cute animations, but ultimately, we were only able to run a few of them as campaigns, and a few were hobbled from the beginning.

Advertising Alcohol to Minors? Another interesting issue we ran into was the concept of the card game in relation to it’s content of alcohol. Alcohol is the theme of the game and consuming alcohol is not a requirement to play (although optional and *highly recommended*). Our goal is not to promote binge drinking, but rather, educate players on a dozen mixed drink recipes they may not have known before. One of our prime demographics for this game would be college kids, but many of those college kids are under the age of 21. There are laws that prohibit advertising alcohol to minors, but that’s now what we’re doing, we’re promoting a card game!

Is it okay for college freshmen (soon to be drinking age) to play a game that teaches them the proper portions for cocktails? 

Play Testing. We play tested this game in excess of 25 times with friends, family, strangers, and while live streaming from various drinking establishments. We had a review sheet that we asked everyone to fill out after playing, asking them to elaborate on their favorite parts of the game and the areas that need improvement.

ce4de34b0cd653d9c2efde5c19ac0c33_original

Thanks to these play tests, I can tell you that Happy Hour! is (without a doubt) 25x more fun now than it was when we first created the game. The more we play tested, the better the game became. While this is outwardly a good thing, it may have also been a major hinderance to our success. (More on this later, as well.)

Where We Underperformed:

We knew we were being aggressive in launching the campaign when we did. We knew that our game would be educational and beautiful, but we wanted to put the concept out into the world to see how many would be interested in getting a card game about bartending. We were hoping the Kickstarter would be both a proof-of-concept and a digital storefront all wrapped into one… because that’s the ideal outcome for a game like this.

Kickstarter Page at Launch. We looked at a handful of Kickstarter Pages of successful games similar to ours, specifically card games. (In retrospective, this part of the research may have been too thin.) There is a massive market for games on Kickstarter (over 500 live projects and millions of dollars raised). We did our best to structure the Kickstarter in a similar manner to how their pages were organized, hoping to emulate their success.

There were a few areas in particular where we fell short,

Gameplay. A majority of the successful games on Kickstarter not only have elaborate gameplay instructions and supporting images, but they also have a video of someone demonstrating the different methods of gameplay. We originally started with an infographic, but we took it down once we had changed the gameplay beyond similarity.

With Happy Hour!, we were still working out the best method of gameplay. We knew the “bartending theme” was sound and the concept of assembling ingredients was a fantastic base for a competitive card game, we just wanted to make sure that the gameplay was the perfect balance of entertainment and educational (how many recipe cards are on the counter? how many ingredients are in the bar? should we take more than one? can you play a drink a shot on the same turn? how many alcohols are required to use the “make it a double” card?), so rather than locking in on one method of gameplay, we intentionally left it vague. Ultimately, the lack of specificity in how the game is played most likely played a major role in our lackluster performance.

Rewards. An effective use of your reward tiers can help alleviate a lot of the stresses and the simple math of getting your campaign funded. I’ve experimented with these in differing degrees in my previous campaigns and Happy Hour! was no exception.

We started with just three tiers: Early Bird ($25), Happy Hour! ($30), and the Poster Pack ($65). Each one of these categories included shipping, but on face value, they seem really high, especially for a game that consists of just cards. If I could go back, I would include shipping additional, and drop all the prices by $5. $20 feels like a deal, and $25 feels like the right price for Kickstarting a game.

Bar Poster.png

We were just hoping to sell the game and maybe make a little money on top with the posters, but ultimately, we didn’t sell out of either the Early Bird or the Posters level, so we added another tier above and below. For $5, you can get some drink coasters with Happy Hour! artwork on it (may be CNC’d or printed on thick card stock), and for $125, you could become an Official Sponsor of Happy Hour! These two categories generated nearly 20% of our total revenue.

Also, in an interesting turn of events, we had three backers pull back their funding, a first in any of my campaigns. One was a backer that publicly supported the campaign, posted a highly critical note for improvement, and when I messaged him thanking him for the support but asked him to send that kind of message to me privately, he withdrew his pledge (than backed us for $1 to post that he was “withdrew his pledge” on our wall, then cancelled the $1 pledge, then claimed he still supported us). The other two, completely unknown to either myself or Walker, withdrew their pledges after the game was successfully funded. Walker thinks they are just trolls.

Email Marketing. As I’d written about in January, I used a freelancer from India for lead generation in more than a dozen categories of businesses we felt would be interested in our game, now or later. I downloaded the Google Streak extension and proceeded to draft and execute scheduled mail merge emails to each of the different categories. While it was exciting to have over 1300 seemingly relevant contacts, I ran into a number of issues, including…

Dead Email Addresses. Of the 1200 email contacts I was given, nearly 200 of them were dead or discontinued. I would also say that another 200 were sent to a mailbox that was not once checked. I mentioned this to Shah, so he sent me an additional 150 email addresses, which also contained some dead emails.

Miscommunication. Going through the email contacts, it became apparent to me that the language I used in my request was not as specific as it could have been for my freelancer in India to translate and execute on. In retrospect, I should have asked a little bit of his methodology in collecting the information: if he has a “bot” that scours web addresses for email addresses based on a series of keywords, I would know that I need to give 12 very specific keywords, but if he had a program that he wrote himself, perhaps he could choose better than me?

This inadvertently manifested itself in soliciting my drinking game to the president of a dry fraternity, reaching out to breweries and wineries (which aren’t in the game), and contacting a bunch of tabletop game conventions on the East Coast which I’d never heard of and have no desire to attend. It did generate some leads, but overall, it was probably not a super effective use of my time and $60.

Personal Contacts. We wrote emails to our friends, families, and mailing lists about the game and showed them some of the artwork. Ultimately, I don’t think we had enough in place on January 31st when everybody saw the page to excite them enough to donate. A good percentage of the early backers were Walker’s personal contacts, while my base was much slower to come around to donate. Perhaps I’ve overstayed my welcome.

Redefine Success:

Shifting Perspective. While the game did have a ton of traction, Walker and I had a very serious conversations about the campaign and playing out the scenario of failure. We had a lot of people, over 100, who believed in us enough to put their money on the line to help us make Happy Hour! come to life, how would they feel if we let the campaign fail?

As I mentioned earlier, our ultimate goal was to have Kickstarter serve not only as the proof-of-concept (“This is a good idea!”) and a marketplace (“I’ll buy that!”). Accordingly, the $6000 we were seeking to raise was in part so that we could afford to purchase the game in bulk and create a huge inventory of the game to sell ourselves. Those that missed the campaign could purchase it directly from us, and they’d receive it like everyone else. We’d also try to put these games into stores and retailers.

Unfortunately, the game proved to be a good concept, but as it was currently advertised on Kickstarter page, there was not a heavy demand for it. Thus, we sought additional financial support to ensure we met the goal. Even more unfortunately, this meant we had to completely rebudget based on our new financial obligations. While it does slightly hinder our ability to deliver the game we wanted in quantity, it was a necessary step required to succeed and we’re thankful for every penny we received from all of our backers.

A Quick Note About Chemicals. If you are considering a crowdsourcing campaign, be prepared for your body to go through a serious chemical rollercoasters throughout the course of the campaign. All Kickstarter creators should have the Kickstarter application on their phone throughout the course of the campaign. It’s your finger on the pulse.

The downside (if you allow it to be) is enabling “Push Notifications” when your campaign receives a new pledge. So not only do you have the endorphin kick of the push notification, but your phone is interrupting you to tell you that you just made money. This will start to creep into other corners of your life, including 3 AM wake ups and while you’re in the bathroom (obviously).  If your campaign is struggling, the kick is even more powerful. You’ll tap your phone in desperate hope of receiving a pledge you didn’t know about. How about now? Anything? Please beware.

(You can turn off the push notifications but I recommend it at the beginning of the campaign to get a gauge on how the campaign will likely run.)

Now What?

The Real Beta Test Begins. We play tested the game over 25 times, but it was often while Walker or I was present to answer any questions, concede to new suggestions, and make small rule changes (once a “douche card” was suggested to increase volatility between players), and more! Now, we’re creating Happy Hour! to be put out in the world to our family of backers for their turn to beta test the game.

With our backers’ feedback, we’ll be able to refine Happy Hour! one more time before we attempt to launch it into the commercial realm. Rather than flat out failing, we made the investment into our game, and our community, to expand the beta testing process beyond the borders of Portland, Oregon into your living room, bar, or around your campfire.

One Last “THANK YOU”:

Thank You! We couldn’t have done it with the support of our friends, family, and the Mystery Tin community. From everyone at Mystery Tin Games and Waltronic, thank you for backing our game and we can’t wait for you to help us make it something really special

Cheers!

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiring My First Freelancer

In preparation for my upcoming crowdsourcing campaign in February, I decided to get started early on the market research and lead generation I’ll need to run a PR and marketing campaign.

Happy Hour! is a competitive drinking card game, challenging players to collect ingredients to deliver drinks like a real bartender! Not only is Happy Hour! fun to play, but players are also subliminally learning facts about their favorite alcohols and drink recipes.

In order for Happy Hour! to have a wildly successful campaign, we would need to market the game (and it’s future possibilities) to the alcohol, nightlife, and cocktail cultures. I knew the areas that I wanted to focus on, but I honestly didn’t have the first idea on where to start. For Dinner’s Ready!I sought out celebrity chefs to endorse the game. This project was going to be a much bigger project that quite frankly, I wasn’t interested in doing.

I decided to outsource the project to a virtual assistant. I figured somebody else out there has had a similar need to acquire contact information, so chances are there is a freelancer that runs a “bot” that scours the internet to return a spreadsheet containing rows and rows of contact information. However the information is collected, I’m sure it was going to be happen faster than I could do it.

Here’s my original job posting on Upwork:

I’m looking for someone to help me build a database of alcohol-related contacts for marketing an upcoming crowdsourcing campaign.

I’m looking for you to fill out a spreadsheet containing the following data:
First Name, Last Name, E-mail Address, Company, Phone Number, Note

Ideally you would locate approximately 100 contacts for each of the following categories (roughly 750-1000 contacts):
– Bartending Schools (online and offline)
– Bar and Restaurant Chains (North America)
– Tabletop Game Stores (North America)
– Alcohol Brands (International)
– Distilleries (International)
– Fraternities (North America)
– Adult Gaming Communities (online and offline)
– Relevant Newspaper Contacts (online and offline)
– Drinking and Liquor Blogs
– Tabletop Game Blogs
– Famous Bartenders (if there is such a thing?)

If doing this kind of research sounds interesting and fun to you, please Submit an Application! Also please include the recipe of your favorite mixed drink. If you omit this, I will not consider your application.

The response I received to the ad was not what I had imagined, but it was definitely what I needed. I received a message from Shah, from Bangladesh, India. He cut right through to the core of my job, and he didn’t waste time with my challenges. Maybe he didn’t read the whole post? Maybe he doesn’t know the word cocktail? Maybe Shah doesn’t drink?

Nevertheless, this is the response I received:

Hi, I can do the task.You can trust me in your project.I see all of your requirements and ready to star now. Please reply me and give me the opportunity. Thanks. Shah.

Looking over his freelancing resume, I had to trust him. His portfolio was extensive in just one area: scouring the internet for e-mail addresses. Despite the secrecy around Shah’s favorite cocktail, everything seemed good enough for me so I reached back out and we started working out the kinks, mostly negotiating the price per 100 rows of contact information. Ultimately we decided on 1200 rows of contacts.

Hi, Sir Here is first 100 rows. Kindly See my attach and check this. I start first Country – USA. keyword Bar and Restaurant Chains. Please replay me. Thanks,shah

His grasp on the English language is starting to wear thin, but that’s not what I hired him. I hired him to track down info, and here he was delivering the first 100 rows, less than 24 hours after we started the project. As I went through the information, I noticed he had collected contact information for dozens of restaurant chains in Montana. While that information may one day be important, in pitching a cocktail-related drinking game, restaurants are probably at the bottom of the list. Shah and I recalibrate on goals, and locations, then I sent him back to check in at 250 rows.

Sure enough, 12 hours later, Shah sent me the first 250 rows. Everything looked great so I sent him off to collect the remaining 950 contacts as I tucked into bed, Shah just returning from his lunch break in Bangladesh.

As I thought about it more, there’s no way that Shah can be doing all of this research by hand. He’s got to have a bot or something scouring and collecting data. If that’s true, then he should be able to turn this thing around in a few days. Since it’s my first time hiring a freelancer, I decided to reach out to Shah to see how long it would take to get the full 1200 addresses.

Yes Sir Thanks for replay. I will complete it within 2/3 days. Or ASAP. Thanks- Shah

My man, Shah!

On Friday, I got this e-mail:

Hi, Sir, Here is Completed Task.. Kindly see and check my attach. Here is 9 tabs, Total 850 Rows. Previous 350 rows. Total 1200 Rows Completed. Rate $5 + $1 Upwork Fee. per 100 Rows. So, Total, 12* ($5*$1)= $72 USD. You Already paid $30.00 . Thanks-Shah

I checked into the spreadsheet and I was happy to see that he had collected a majority of the data I was looking for, but there was one caveat: the bars listed in the spreadsheet were all from Charlotte, North Carolina, rather than Portland, Oregon. So I reached back out to Shah, asking if there was any chance he was able to collect the 100 bar contacts in Portland.

After a little negotiation…

Ok I will Add new Row for that.

I woke up this morning and pulled up my e-mail, and sure enough, there was Shah!

Here is new Sheet. Kindly see and check this. 

He provided one last spreadsheet with 99 bar contacts for Portland, Oregon (and one from New South Wales, Australia, which makes me sure he’s using a bot.) But that was absolutely great, and I couldn’t have been happier with the results of my first attempt at outsourcing.

All in all, this entire data collection project cost me a little over $70, including fees, and saved me hours upon hours of my own time. Collecting this amount of information would have most likely taken me a full 40-hour week, but working with Shah, the project breaks down to roughly $0.05 per contact. Not a bad deal!

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.

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.