Sunday, December 20, 2015

99U: The Power of Empathy Over Ego


My talk from the first-ever 99U Local Worldwide Event event last September.

Jen Hohn, Executive Creative Director at Vladimir Jones, explores the power of empathy — in both creativity and leadership. 
Unless you happen to be a fine artist getting paid to make your latest crazy whim, your creative job is probably not about you. If you’re a creator, you work for your client’s audience. And if you’re a leader, you work for your team (not the other way around). Now, more than ever, creatives must get into the minds of their targets and give them the reigns to interact with brands. And leaders must listen to a new workforce that demands a two-way relationship. It’s no longer about ruling followers; it’s about mentoring more leaders. In her 99U talk, Jen explores the neuroscience of how getting over yourself and into another’s shoes will not only help you climb the creative ranks, but will also bring more meaning to what you create.

Check out the other amazing speakers from that night here » 


Thanks to my new Co-ECD Matt (Vladimir Jones), Jeff (Grenadier) and Max (School) for taking the stage with me. And, thanks to Studio C3 for filming/producing these videos and to Chip Kalback for the head shots. Also, thanks to the amazing Colorado community that came out that night and cheered us on.

I hope all of you are inspired to go forth and make ideas happen.

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Friday, September 4, 2015

Chase Your Someday.


Someday is a myth.

Someday hangs out with Bigfoot and The Loch Ness Monster; carefully staying out of the camera’s reality clutches. Someday prefers the shadowy distance; putting off things like completing that leggy to-do list, achieving work-life balance or even (gasp) reaching an inbox zero. Someday is a hazy time gap somewhere between a wish and a follow-through. Most will tell you to forget someday, because it simply doesn’t exist. They’ll say things like “keep your head down, don’t buck the system and stop dreaming.” Because, let’s be honest—with yesterday already gone—we really only have today. And today is often all too real.

There’s hope in someday.

It’s reassuring when we pause our daily routine, gaze out the window and imagine what our someday could be. Everyone’s is different. However, universally, someday is the satisfaction you’ll have when you feel like you’ve finally made it—whatever your it may be. Achieving a lifelong goal, overcoming adversity, basking in fame, or even simply (exhale and unfurl your brow) finding peace of mind with those you love. There’s something about someday’s promise that’s very motivating—that is, if we take action toward actually achieving it. If we roll up our sleeves and set our sights beyond today’s perceived limitations. Someday gives us a star to reach for. An idea to actualize. A reason to keep going.

My dad believed in my someday.

Growing up, my dad instilled a level of expectation in me that left me constantly grasping for something just out of reach. He showed me that optimism, commitment and hustle can flatten obstacles. What I didn’t realize at the time was that he was teaching me to be self-driven—to accept challenges and quietly, yet fearlessly, overcome them. And looking back now, I know that main skill was meant to give me a better chance at my own someday. During my last visit with him, he told me I could accomplish anything as long as someone was telling me I could. And at the core, that someone had to be myself.

My dad enabled somedays for others.

As a teacher, he took pride in helping those who didn’t have a good chance at their somedays—the kids who were underdogs or troublemakers. He believed these kids could do well if they worked hard, and they sensed he meant it. Starting from a place of expected success rather than anticipated failure was often all it took to change their life paths. And with their first 'A', they’d run down the hall to show my dad this hard-fought evidence of their newly found potential.

Someday never waits.

Opportunities are everywhere, but easy to miss. So ask yourself, what can you be doing now to make your or someone else’s someday happen sooner than later? Because your honest belief in yourself or in someone else can fuel the self-drive necessary for reaching a meaningful goal. That is, if you’re willing to believe in a crazy, imaginary thing like someday. And then, even crazier, bravely chase it.

This piece was written in memory of and with gratitude for my dad. As a coach and teacher, he pushed me and many others to be more than we thought we could be. I hope this way of thinking will inspire many more to think beyond the boundaries of today.

Crossposted on The Huffington Post Blog.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

99U Local: Denver // Speakers Announced

All of the 99U Ambassadors from around the world while we were together at the New York Conference.

Introducing 99U Local:
 A One-Night Event Hosted in 28 Cities Worldwide. 

We’re thrilled to invite you to join us for an intimate, new 99U talk series about how to kill it in your creative career. The program will feature three short talks offering practical, creative career and business advice from exceptional Coloradans who are making ideas happen. Come for the road-tested, no-bullshit advice. Stay for the drinks, food, and networking.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015
6:30 PM to 9:30 PM
Denver Post Events Venue Auditorium
101 West Colfax, Denver, CO 80202



This event is free to attend, but there are a limited number of spots available, so we highly recommend you RSVP here: http://www.meetup.com/99U-Local-Denver/


Speakers and Topics Include:



Max Lenderman
Founder and CEO at School
How To Try and Give a Shit
We are all faced with the prospect of becoming uninterested in our work, and worse still, uninterested in the world around us. But we all know that to truly get to great work — and to dent the world a bit — we need to give a shit. So how can we get there and stay there? In this 99U talk, Max Lenderman explores the ways that we can all get to give a shit. Drawing on his experiences from the Peace Corps, running creative teams at Crispin Porter + Bogusky and founding a “purpose-based” agency in Boulder, Max will try to get us a to give a shit a bit more. 


Jeff Graham
Founder and Partner at Grenadier
Creative Account Leadership
They have terrible design skills, and (God willing) will never write a single line of copy; but creatively-driven account managers are critical to making the work happen – by creating the conditions on their accounts that allow bold, culture-changing ideas to live. To be a successful account person in a creative agency, it requires a different perspective on the advertising industry, and a rare breed of partnership with creative teams. Today's most sought after account talent transcends the table stakes of owning business strategy and the client relationship. They also make it their business to be students of great creative ideas across platforms, and around the globe. They possess a producer/maker mindset. They're relentlessly focused on generating consumer insights & creative briefs that inspire creative teams to do the best work of their careers. They condition their clients to expect it, and give them the courage to make it. Creative account leaders are as responsible for killer campaigns as any writer or art director in the business; and at 99U Jeff Graham will talk about what it means to be one.

Matt Ingwalson
VP and Creative Director at IMM
Don't Let Smart Be Dumb
The Internet gives marketers access to an infinite amount of data. But used incorrectly, all those numbers lead to false conclusions, off-target creative, and the wrong sorts of consumer actions. In this talk, Matt will outline the common mistakes we make when we tap into Big Data. And he'll share a strategic process for getting from an unwieldy set of numbers to a tight brief that will set your creative team - and client - up for success.

Jennifer Hohn
Creative Director at Vladimir Jones and your 99U Ambassador
The Power of Empathy Over Ego
Unless you happen to be a fine artist getting paid to make your latest crazy whim, your creative job is probably not about you. If you’re a creator, you work for your client’s audience. And if you’re a leader, you work for your team (not the other way around). Now, more than ever, creatives must get into the minds of their targets and give them the reigns to interact with brands. And leaders must listen to a new workforce that demands a two-way relationship. It’s no longer about ruling followers; it’s about mentoring more leaders. Let's explore the neuroscience of how getting over yourself and into another’s shoes will not only help you climb the creative ranks, but will also bring more meaning to what you create. In her 99U talk, Jen will explore the undeniable power of empathy—in both creativity and leadership. 

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Your Inner Critic Is A Jerk.

He resides under your skin and over your shoulder. Breathing down your neck. Whispering behind your back. Ceremoniously leading the war within while unapologetically telling you how it is.


He offers snarky feedback like, “Wow, did you really just say that? Man, you sounded like an idiot.” Right after he insults your wardrobe choice. (Well, let’s be honest, velour is not a good look on most people.)


You don't need this lover of bad hair days. This heckler of good intentions. This taker of parking spots that you clearly claimed with your blinker. He'll continue to trade confidence for doubt and minimize success.


Don’t listen to him.

He knows nothing.

He's a jerk.


Your Inner Critic Is A Genius.


He knows good work when he sees it. And, because he’s tasted it, he’ll settle for nothing less. His discerning taste took years to refine—all in the name of protecting you from becoming a hack.


He offers road-tested advice like, “That. That part you’re overlooking. That’s the idea. That’s what matters.” Right after he sends an epiphany rush through your soul.


You need this honest collector of influence. This critical evaluator of performance. This never-satisfied driver of betterment. He'll continue to make you stronger and remind you why you love what you do.


Listen to him.

He knows.

He's a genius.


You Are Responsible For Holding Yourself Back.


Don’t be so hard on yourself. Think about obstacles you've encountered. Were they real, or were they in your own mind? Were they built on facts or assumptions? Chances are, you can remove most hurdles.


You Are Responsible For Moving Yourself Forward.


As humans, we possess the blessing and burden of self-awareness. (Well, some more than others.) However, sometimes we just need to get out of our own way. Never let the past dictate the future.


Find your voice.

Follow your passion.

Each and every day, go forth and set your respective worlds on fire.


Show your inner critics who’s boss.

“Be stronger than that which holds you back.” – Shiza Shahid
(Especially if that which holds you back is you.)

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