Archive for the ‘design’ Category

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Dear John,

In art,Books,Community,culture,design,faith,Friends,Fun,home,movies,Parenting,quote on May 19, 2017 by mstevensrev

John,

Mr. Waters there is a god and it sure might be you and I am positive it is not the first time you have been told this (though probably in different circumstances:)

I was born in 1976 at St. Agnus Hospital in Baltimore and by 5 years old I was wandering the city blocks of West Baltimore in Edmondson, a wild thing for a white boy in the 80’s. As life moved on I became a devoted follower of you even attending movies at the Senator. As a young adult, I found the director’s cut of A Dirty Shame and your glossary of sex terms extremely helpful and still recommend it to my children and strangers when they find struggles with such naming conventions. “Full of Grace” is a regular quote in my family attributed to Pecker…and thank you for indulging my fanboy-ness but this note is about divinity, not celebrity.

This morning I realized that tonight at 40 years old I have reached the pinnacle of my life. My oldest daughter is 15 years old and deeply in love with theater and last spring at the drama auction for Ingraham High School in North Seattle I bought a “walk-on role” in the musical this spring. I was delighted to learn in fall that the musical would be Hairspray.

As a sophomore, the production has been a dream come true for my daughter, in addition to landing a role she was also given the responsibly of dance captain. Due to circumstances, she choreographed and co-choreographed several the songs including Good Morning Baltimore. As horrible people say, “the apple does not far fall from the tree” as her mother is a choreographer and movement artist.

Back to me, this week I learned and this morning it dawned on me how significant it is that my walk on role for Hairspray is during Good Morning Baltimore. Not only that but I get to be “The flasher who lives next door”. Following in the footsteps of your cameo role in the recent film.

For a kid that grew up the son of window cleaner in Baltimore my life could not be better, for that I am so grateful. I may live to see the marriage of my children, grandchildren born or even become a billionaire but nothing will compare to the moment when I walk out on stage tonight. No better script exists than my own life and this moment certainly makes me consider that all of it has been choreographed for me already. Happy belated birthday, missed you when you were in Seattle a month ago, and I do hope someday our paths will cross in person as they already have in spirit.

 

Thanks,

 

 

Michael Stevens

1004 NW 130th Street Seattle WA 98177

M: 206.390.8142 michaelstevensrev@gmail.com #mstevensrev

 

*This message was originally written on the fan page @JohnWatersFanPage where I realized that you are not on Facebook. Tempted to hand write the letter to you, but I wanted you to read every expression of my heart clearly. Many blessing enlighten one!

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Simple sales strategy exercise

In advertising,business,Community,culture,design,principles,running,work on September 21, 2016 by mstevensrev

20160920_073222.jpgYesterday while running through the park yesterday I ran past this art and was reminded of a simple mental exercise regarding sales. Follow with me for a moment:

Which of these to chairs represents the salesperson and the client?

There is no correct answer but the way you answer may reveal a great deal about how you think of salespeople. If you are a salesperson it may reveal how you think about yourself. In an ideal world the chairs would be the same size and it would be two experts working together for their common good. There are also times to humble oneself, when providing hospitality or after a mistake that may lead to an discrepancy.  There have been moments where I have remembered this image and thought to myself, which one do I feel like right now…and is that okay?

Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect.

William Clement Stone

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Favorite sales stories, and a new podcast

In advertising,banking,Books,business,commercials,computers,culture,design,generosity,humor,leadership,Localization,mission on September 14, 2016 by mstevensrev

sales-army.jpgToday we put our the latest episode of our podcast, Episode 010: What about Sales, from Globally Speaking. www.globallyspeakingradio.com or you can listen and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play (USA or Canada), Stitcher, or via RSS. This inspired me to share a story that tells you how hard it is to do sales, which is something I am passionate about.

A few years ago before the localization industries primary trade show, LocWorld, I sent a note to a friend that I saw was going to be in attendance, offering to show him around town since the show was in Seattle. It had been a few years since I had connected with this friend and former client, so I thought it would be great to catch up. Surprisingly, to me, there was no response.

On the second night of the show we are at a bar and I see this friend I reached out to at the same bar with his colleagues enjoying a drink. The bar was closing, and I went up to see how he was doing. After some small talk he said, “You’re from here, where can we get another drink?” I had my car and offered to take them to another bar I knew would be open and fun. So we went out to my car, the four of us squeezing into a small two door car, once everyone was in I locked the door and asked, “No one is getting out of the car until I found out why you didn’t respond to my email.” There was laughter, but I did not move or start the car as everyone looked around.

Finally my friend went to explain that he had received no less then 400 emails or LinkedIn InMail before the conference. Some were offering him “10% less then his current prices, guaranteed.” He then apologized, under the threat of never getting out of my car, and went on to explain how it was impossible to separate the signal from the noise in such circumstances…so he just shut off.

Not only was it fun to reconnect with an old friend, but he insight was shocking to me. How do you distinguish yourself when people have shut off because there is too much noise? How do you respect a person’s desire to not be bother but also let them know that you are thinking about them? This is the work and the art of sales, each person and company are unique but the principles you have in place to tackle this obstacle are key in your success.

Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman – not the attitude of the prospect.

-W. Clement Stone

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The silver bullet

In art,Books,business,Community,culture,design,faith,leadership,mission,Money,principles,quote,Spiritual,Theology on September 12, 2016 by mstevensrev

23463195732_0b5aa8e114_bThe existence of this tool is far overrated. Often in strategy meetings adding that one tool is the over simplified solution for an extremely complex problem, and it is no surprise that it often does not work.

Few things work as well as compound interest. This goes for money and showing up every day to the work before you. Constantly doing your job, regularly and steadily improving small bits that can improve the whole.

For those not paying attention success does look like a silver bullet was discovered, an overnight sensation discovered, and all the lonely days practicing in the garage or at empty shows are forgotten because of the success. For those who accomplish it, they remember all the work and failure that provided the foundation for the win. Once it is achieved it means you have to go out there and do it all over again.

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

-Vince Lombardi

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Don’t let the crisis go to waste

In art,Books,business,culture,design,faith,family,Friends,Fun,Theology,Uncategorized on August 12, 2016 by mstevensrev

2012-11and12-tt-03-ia-to-the-fire-a-firefighter-searches-for-possible-survivors-300x200In The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, there is case study after case study on how organizations unwritten rules led to crisis at the time when the organization needed to function optimally. The King’s Cross fire in the Underground is one example where all those in authority were occupied with their kingdoms and no one was focused on rider safety costing 31 passengers their lives.

Every organization functions with a “common grace” approach that keeps rivalries in check and the orders shipped. During crisis is when the unwritten functional rules of the organization can be re-examined, when great scrutiny is on the operation unproductive power structures can be address. It is even said that in some crisis great leaders prolong the crisis in order to get the greatest positive effect of the change. Great wisdom is required to pull that off.

Is it possible to address this change without the crisis?

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

Rahm Emanuel

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Encouraging words are effective

In art,Books,business,culture,design,faith,family,Friends,Fun,mission,Prayer,quote,Reading,Spiritual,swimming on August 2, 2016 by mstevensrev

iStock_000014997757Small1Two moments recently where someone offered me encouragement had immediate impact. The first was during my recent Olympic Triathlon during the swim. While contemplating giving up during the swim section of the race, I swam past one of the lifeguards and assumed I looked as bad as I felt. The lifeguard looked at me and encouraged yelling, “Doing great, you can make it.” I thought to myself, really? If this guy has said it then perhaps I can finish. It was that moment in the race where my swim improved and I got on with it.

The second situation was before an interview for the podcast this past Sunday. We recorded two in the week and after listening to the first I was focused on how I could improve. There were questions that ran on, and a number of “ums” and “ahhs” during my speaking. I was determined to focus on my speech and questions with our second guest. Before the second interview, our guest complimented me on the podcasts she had listened to and encouraged me in my voice and style. It was just the shot in the arm to focus me for that interview.

In writing this I consider how easy is it for me to find something to encourage someone else in today, perhaps it is exactly what they are in need of to perform their best.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

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Just because it worked once

In art,Books,business,design,faith,leadership,principles,Uncategorized on August 1, 2016 by mstevensrev

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Just because it worked once doesn’t mean that the same actions will have the intended effects now.

The expression is that you cannot step into the same river twice, and that is true. Both you change and so does the river.

In reading “What happened to WikiLeaks?“, I was struck with how something so important could with similar actions to the past act so poorly in the moment. “The WikiLeaks project has fallen far from the lofty heights of its founding a decade ago, when Julian Assange promised to “facilitate safety in the ethical leaking movement.””

We all have success, just don’t think you can do the same thing this time.

It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation. -Herman Melville

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The (free-range) Chicken Theology of Work

In art,Bible,church,Community,culture,design,devotional,Evangelist,faith,familiy,food,Friends,Fun,Japan,Localization,mission,movies,Prayer,principles,Spiritual,Theology,Uncategorized,work on November 11, 2012 by mstevensrev


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My theology of work is forever changing and evolving, and one place that I journey with others on this path is at Kiros, once or twice a month depending on my travel schedule I attended the breakfasts meetings they put on where they often have a speaker share some perspective on living out their calling as a Christian in the marketplace.  As a side note I also had the privilege of speaking to the group last March, if you want to check that our it is here.  This last Friday Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary provided one of the best talks I have heard on the topic, his stories had us rolling on the floor, his theology was simple enough a child could understand while making thoughtful people think, and his love of the scriptures came through as everything was driven by the text.  The premise of Richard’s talk was very simple, you have been called by God to your work and you have the opportunity to examine that calling in this life to better understand your ‘responsibility’ to live out that calling in your fullness.

There were so many rich stories to share but my favorite was one Richard shared about a friend who is a chicken farmer who examined his role in the plan God has in raising chickens on his farm.  There is a tension when you come to farming or the role animals have on this earth and the tension is this: Animals are not people and animals have not merely been created to serve our purposes.  Another way to say this is a chicken won’t write Shakespeare, but a chicken is not merely a piece of meat.  Therefore this farmer thought deeply about the theology of raising chickens.  He came up with this, “God wants every chicken on our farm to have the opportunity to strut his/her chicken self infront of the other chickens.” In that theology I hear echos of the local farm movement as described to me by Mark Canlis, that the goals of these farmers is to have their cows (or other animals) only have one “bad day” in their life.  That day would be the day they are slaughtered. Though the image Richard provided me was so much more winsome because I see in my mind that chicken strutting around, rather than focusing on the bloody chopping block.

This can be a helpful premise for chickens, but I propose that people cannot think deeply about these issues because we don’t recognize that we have been created to strut the glory in which we have been created, theologians refer to this as being created in the image of God. Marianne Williamson was famously quoted in a speech by Nelson Mandela, she says,

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measureIt is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

The knee jerk reaction people, especially from my theological tradition have, to this kind of thinking is that we are sinful therefore pride and arrogance must be guarded against. This warning is fair but it sets up a false choice between humility and glory.  Jesus lived in the fullness of God and yet was extremely humble.  He accepted all people as equal, he did not use them as means to an end, the only part I would add to our responsibility in the area of humility is that we recognize that we are wrong intentionally because of bad motives and unintentionally whereas Jesus did not have this struggle because he was God…he was perfect. One friend of mine says, “I’m wrong 50% of the time, the hard part is that I don’t even know which 50%, but God is making me better.”  Live out in the glory that you have been created in, be quick to acknowledge when you fail at it, and in gratitude acknowledge that the source of every good gift in your life is not your own but rather a gift from God.

The question that Richard’s (free-range) Chicken Theology brought up for me is, how do you apply this in the darkest valley’s of your career and work? In the past two years before my current job I walked through a few of those valleys, the struggle of broken promises that would not reward me for my work, getting fired, and having a job where I felt lonely and hopeless.  How do you strut your stuff in those circumstance? I asked the question and Richard’s answer was twofold as I understood it, in thinking about it I think there may be at least third option as I understand it.

Richard said first your current circumstances may be preparation for the next step.  This rang true for me because I look back on the last two years and acknowledge that I would not be currently living in such glory without all that I had gone through.  The experience humbled me, gave me fearful experiences that I persevered through, and provided tangible knowledge that assists me daily in my current job.  Learn everything you can if you are going through a hard time, examine your character, life and work for there could be something on the horizon you are completely unaware of that will be a blessing.  This answer provides hope, but the truth is like a chicken we are completely ignorant if our future date is the chopping block.  And yes I know that even for the child of God the chopping block is not the end of the story because there is greater glory beyond, but I still find this answer a part of the overall answer rather then complete.

The second answer Richard provided is that your vocation could be less then the sum total of your calling.  Our callings are greater than our work, I sell therefore I am a salesperson yet I am a father, husband, churchman, and the list goes on and on.  Perhaps your work is merely a platform that provides you the freedom to pursue the other callings in your life with greater glory. I have met many people in my life that this is the circumstances they live in, they are lawyers but their passion is to see the gospel forwarded in particular countries in the world like China.  The short side of this answer as complete is that we were created in a garden where all aspects of life were intended to work for God’s glory, so when we set create an arbitrary distinction between our work life and home life, for instance, it is impossible to live as God intended…as a whole person.  I know for me personally when my work life was hopeless it was very difficult to enjoy my time at the park with my children, most of my conversations with my wife were in tears clouded by depression.  This is why I contend again that work as a platform merely for the rest of our life falls short in allowing us to live gloriously.

A third option I want to propose does not answer the question fully either. As a matter of fact I sense that used incorrectly it could be the most damaging of the the options as it is the most deterministic and could create an undeserved heavier burden on someone already struggling. This option is the most Taoist or Confucius of the options, and because of that I think it is the most practical (in touch with how the world really functions and how our role relates to that functioning).

A documentary came out recently titled, Jiro dream of Sushi “by David Gelb takes a look at the work and life of Jiro Ono, a Michelin three-star sushi chef who, at 85 years of age, continues to work on his craft every day at his tiny restaurant in a Tokyo office building basement opposite a subway station entrance. His colleagues, his country, and at least one very knowledgeable food writer recognize him as perhaps the greatest sushi chef alive.” This description is taken from an article on Lifehacker by Maximiliano El Nerdo Nérdez.  In the article titled Lessons We can Learn from Jiro Ono, Maximiliano encourages readers as his first point to fall in love with your work.

“Once you decide on your occupation,” says Jiro, “you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”

Deciding on your occupation is a challenge for we live in a society that provides the opportunity to live in reasonable comfort regardless of your job or if it is in line with your calling.  The hard work is not finding a job, it is discovering calling…once your calling is discovered or rather accepted (if you are a Calvinist) then the path of occupation is more clear though it may be a difficult path.  Part of my calling is as an evangelist, meant that for a time my occupation would place me circumstances to lead people to a similar vision of my spiritual practice though for most people I talked with they would not share the same vision.  So I became a pastor of a church in Oakland, CA.  The church had financial challenges from before I started there, attendance was poor, and it was in a city that was not necessarily supportive of the entire scope of work we were pursing.  The path for me as an evangelist was not easy.  Now that I am in technology services my calling as an evangelist has not changed, but the path is much easier in many ways, and the path still allows me to live out my glorious calling while dedicating myself in excellence to my occupation.

Today I want to encourage everyone, strut your stuff in front of us other chickens. If you are in a dark valley, remember your current occupation (or lack of occupation) could be a learning step, a platform for other work, or the place you have been given to dedicate yourself.  Even as I write that I believe the answer is all three not merely one or another.  When I worked in a church we began each service with a call to worship, and I would frame the call to worship and the entire service with these words, “The good news for those God loves is that he has the first word to us and that first word is always blessing. God loves you and has made you in his glory! The good news does not end there rather God has the first word and the last word.  The last word of those God loves is also blessing, you have been delivered.” So regardless of your circumstance remember you have been created for glory and you will be delivered unto glory. Amen.

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Starbucks’ amazing marketing and happy election day

In advertising,art,blogging,Blue Monster,Community,culture,design,faith,familiy,Friends,Fun,mission,politics,principles,publicity,Theology,Uncategorized,work on November 6, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , , , ,

Living in Seattle I am very accustom to hearing people criticize Starbucks, my thoughts on the topic of coffee are that I prefer how other companies roast their beans. Therefore it is aesthetic not cynical in my critique.

ImageOne thing I am blown away with regarding Starbucks is the sophistication with their marketing.  Today I am in Redwood Shores, CA working at a Starbucks before my appointments.  The baristia offered me a ‘free’ bracelet that clearly has $5 donation marked on it, my defenses went up and I started trying to uncover the angel.  The bracelets are for Let’s Create Jobs for USA, a campaign sponsored by Howard Schultz and others that has raised $15M and leveraged $105M, estimating 5,000 jobs created for small business in the USA.  Since it is election day they are giving the bracelets away for free.  This ‘gift’ took me from being someone who would never donate to the cause to someone not just interested in donating but blogging on it.  Brilliant.

This is a corporation taking advantage of a term I learned from Hugh MacLeod @gapingvoid, check out his article on “Social Objects are the future of marketing.” Hugh states:

The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the rea­son two peo­ple are tal­king to each other, as oppo­sed to tal­king to some­body else. Human beings are social ani­mals. We like to socia­lize. But if you think about it, there needs to be a rea­son for it to hap­pen in the first place. That rea­son, that “node” in the social net­work, is what we call the Social Object.

I’m wearing my bracelet, talking with those around me at Starbucks about it, and will wear it to my appointments this afternoon sharing my experience.  The ‘gift’ Starbucks provided me today is not only the bracelet but the opportunity to be part of a story that is larger than myself…that is impacting the world for good.  This is something that we all should inspire to provide the people around us. There is a place for companies to provide something for free, if that is all you do you are not a company rather a charity (and that is good too).  Starbucks used a social object to engage me on a cause but also it helps change a brand that I do not have the most favorable feelings toward.

So on this election day that is filled with disgusting shit on all sides, make a positive difference.  Inspire something larger than yourself to impact the world for good.  Perhaps it means not having the shitty conversation with someone who may think differently then you, or maybe it is something else.  Do your civic duty and vote, then go hug someone you love and let them know how grateful you are for them.

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White guilt and african american culture defining America

In art,business,church,culture,design,faith,Theology,work on November 10, 2011 by mstevensrev

It seemed unusual but I gave a presentation in Orlando, FL in 2003 to a classroom of pastors in training titled, “Why you should care about Eminem.”  In it my partner and I traced the thread of influence from the Negro Spiritual to Jazz to Blues to R&B and to Hip Hop as significant influencers of spiritual music, or as Jon Michael Spencer formerly Duke University refers to it Black Sacred Music.  While appropriate for that audience the scope was far too limited, since the practice of American slavery as a oppressed people group African Americans have had greater influence then most realize, the clearest moment I point to is what is known as the Harlem Renaissance .

So this week I watched two interviews that sparked my passions on this topic one again first from the Harvard Business Review titled, The Tanning of America, interview with Steve Stoute.  Perhaps it is my sensitivity but throughout the interview I feel the weight and appreciate Senior Editor Scott Berinato interviewing and awkwardness in using the term Tanning, it both highlights but also takes some of the power out of the white guilt associated with many similar conversations.  That is an aside to the meat of the interview is when Steve Stoute discusses the Madison Square Garden performance of RunDMC.  How they were not only changing music, fashion, but global culture.  The significance that an executive from Adidas had vision in that moment is beautifully redeeming.

For those who have not heard the story, one of our cultures most successful and popular actors Will Smith was deeply influencing by RunDMC. When asked why he got into rap as The Fresh Prince, Smith answered that he saw the video of Run DMC doing a stadium concert in Japan when during the concert they told everyone to hold up their Adidas.  Smith said seeing the influence these guys had over 20,000+ Japanese fans in that moment made him want to get into it.  For those who don’t know the picture in this post is of my current version of the shoes which I grew up with in Baltimore and there is a collectors addition commemorating  the 25th  anniversary of the song My Adidas, available.

The other interview that got me thinking this week was from Inc. with Russell Simmons.  Russell is one of the great culture leaders in our country and the world, this interview also gives him the opportunity to talk about his deep spiritual side to his life and ventures.  He does have one great story he tells about LL Cool J and a commercial for The Gap. Sometimes the most powerful culture changers are clearly in your face but so transcendent that you cannot even see them, and for America there is a great responsibility for it’s citizens to respond to such a beautiful and tragic influence that has so deeply shaped us.