My read write render epiphany – it’s always personal [growth]

In my last post, which feels like forever ago, I made the personal commitment to start a new routine: read, write, render.  Admittedly, that has been easier said than done, or so I thought.

One thing that is routine for me is the read part. I read everyday.  Just an hour of reading or listening (Podcast) in the morning starts my day.  From random articles coming across my social feeds, to subscribed research pushed to my inbox, to the recommended content from family, friends, peers and coworkers, I’m never short of reading material (probably why I love the Pocket app so much).

Making time for reading is not the issue. It’s the making time to write then render (visually) that I thought was my achilles heel. Take for instance how I started this post, “In my last post, which feels like forever ago…”  – those words alone imply I’m holding myself to some standard on the volume of writing and rendering I push out via this blog or other channels.  That’s not the point of the routine. Read write render is not about unselfish acts of sharing some insight or thoughts with the masses x number of times a week, month or quarter.  My read write render – at its core – is personal.

It’s Always Personal [Growth]

I read everyday to be a better father, husband, friend, coach, mentor, marketer. I write every morning to remind myself of what’s important. I render everyday to challenge myself to think outside the box and always approach things with creative thinking.

Writing is not about turning some new found knowledge into a blog post.  Rendering is not about turning every idea into pictures and pushing it out via social media.  For me, writing and rendering is not supposed to be work. It’s supposed to be routine and in hindsight, I’ve been sticking to a routine fairly well.

From my Focus Planner to my Field Notes to my Idea Reel in PowerPoint, I’ve been reading, writing and rendering constantly. It’s become routine for me. I haven’t felt the need to throw everything that I read, write and render at you.  Instead, focus on the times when what I read, write and render is worth sharing, perhaps worth your time.

Compelled to share

Take for instance this morning.  Combing through Pocket, I read five articles. Two were related to remote work routines. Two centered on strategic focus and one was about scheduling time for creative thinking.  What felt like random topics when I started began to blend and gel into an epiphany, so naturally, following my routine, read turned into write and write turned into render.   This is what I wrote in my Focus Planner for today 08.08.20 under Myndfuel:

  1. Write everything down (Ironic, I know)
  2. Focus on the 30 percent (Steve Jobs rule)
  3. Schedule the work  (Full Focus Planner)

My new routine – read | write | render

I’m trying to get in the habit of reading and writing on a daily basis. I’m also a visual thinker. I internalize the stuff I read and write better by putting it in pictures be it a powerpoint slide, flowchart, graph, illustration, or simply scribbling in a notebook. Hence a new habit or routine is starting to take hold:


Case is point, my most recent weekend read was The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I loved this book.  Maybe because the message was so simple. Maybe because in this day and age it’s so applicable.  Probably because it struck a personal chord and I felt compelled enough to render a visual reminder that sits on my desk at home.

The whats, hows and whys that matter most

The first quarter of 2020 has come to a close and needless to say, our world has been turned upside down.  I took the time this week to reflect on the first three months of 2020 as part of my normal routine assessing where I am so far this year relative to my three words, focus areas and goals – my whats, hows and whys.

The Whats
I’m a believer in Chris Brogan’s 3 Words – what are the guiding principles that center me for the year.  In past years, I had words like: Create,Move,Matter and Adventure, Celebrate,Remodel.  No matter what I set out to do, or what opportunities arise or spontaneous ideas I have – do they align to my whats? This year I landed on:

  • Build: Build a routine. Build opportunities. Build something new.
  • Brand: Compassion over fear. Simple over strict. Help over hype.
  • Balance: Time all the work versus work all the time. Dates matter.

The Hows
Nearly everything I set out to do in living my three words, I broke down into three focus areas.  Since starting the Full Focus Planner 3 years ago, these are probably the most fluid. Originally, I had five: family, finish, fitness, fame, finance. Five was too many, so I went to four: health, home, wonder, work.  Year 3, I consolidated down to three:

  • Heart & Home: How I am present.
  • Mynd & Body: How I am healthy.
  • Work & Wonder: How I am growing.

The Whys
The whys are my goals – the evidence, the why I am present, healthy and growing. Why do I believe that? My whys were everything from the normal end of year weight goal to miles on the bike, miles walked, books read, acts of charity, volunteer hours, etc. to the new family experiences, new connections, resurrecting connections with old friends. 2020 was the year I felt like I finally found full focus. I had built the perfect system and was establishing the ideal routine to make the most out of every day, week, month.

Then our world turned upside down.  What feels like overnight – probably because it was literally overnight, my routine broke down.  For one, like most of us, I now work from home full-time. Sure, I WFH’d every once in awhile, but not always and the clear lines between being present@work and being present@home got really blurry.  I must have read dozens of articles with all kinds of advice on WFH. Everything from carving out a dedicated space (mine is in my basement), to changing scenery (aka seeing the sun), to making sure I get up and go for a walk (stand, move, reboot the brain), but something was still missing – granted, it’s only been three weeks, I should give myself some latitude.

Upon my Q1 reflection, it hit me.  It’s all about the whys.  As Simon Sinek would say, “start with why.” So I did.  Part of the journey that was March 2020 involved a lot of reading and one piece that still resonates with me is an article written by McKinsey consulting. – “The path to the next normal” – that talks about the process nearly every business will go through over the course of the next year. They break the process down into five phases: Resolve, Resilience, Return, Re-imagination, and Reform (I probably like it because of the alliteration, and I’m a sucker for phases, pillars, frameworks, structures).

I started thinking about how these five phases relate to my own journey and my 2020 goals. Looking back, January really started with re-imagination – a new year, a fresh start, new words, focus areas, goals. Then COVID-19 and in a day, I was thrust backwards into resolve mode. What do I need to do to keep my family safe, myself, my team. What about my parents who are in there 70s?  I had to find the resolve to adjust to something that has not happened in over a hundred years.

Today, there is so much uncertainty, fear, anxiety, I find myself focused on resilience.  Resilience came in changes to my routine –  family walks, meals, together-time. Like many families, we started going through bins and boxes of stuff in the basement and in the process of “minimalizing,” we took trips down memory lane – those family experiences I talked about earlier. The girls’ artwork from kindergarten to high-school, old greeting cards from loved ones, pictures, postcards, sports memorabilia.

Then an epiphany.  “My” became “Our” – my 3 words became our 3 words. My focus areas became our focus areas.  My personal goals were shifting to our shared goals. From this experience, we started setting new goals – new Whys.  Go on a trip down memory lane every week (we have a lot of bins and boxes to go through). Finish painting the room we haven’t touched since my older daughter went to college.  Exercise everyday albeit at the same time, but different forms – my wife runs and I prefer the bike.

Like many of you, we are still figuring it out.  We are taking the time to figure out our the new normal and reimagining what McKinsey calls the “next normal” just might look like. Perhaps at the end of this shared journey, we will have been reformed in some small ways, some big ways and have become focused on the whats, hows and whys that matters most.

At least, that’s our goal.

A lot less hype and a lot more humanity-please.


Three principles that are just good practice when it comes to the buyer experience:
Be compassionate, be succinct, be helpful. This have never been more true, more relevant, more needed.

Compassion not Fear:

Buyers no matter the industry don’t need more fear – especially security buyers (the industry we operate in). Think about the security industry and the security buyer. Their work is rooted in risk, threat and vulnerability, so by nature, they operate in fear 24 x 7 x 365.  Today, arguably this is true for all buyers.  Security leaders often say say they are “always on”  and feel personally responsible when something goes awry. So, why in the heck would messaging rooted in fear ever work with these buyers? Until we as marketers walk in their shoes, we have no right fear mongering.  Show some damn compassion for what they are dealing with on a daily, hourly, minute by minute basis.  In the end, they really don’t have time for us which brings we to our second principle.

Succinct not Sermon:

This is nothing new, yet we in marketing are guilty of this all of the time.  We have all sent those 3 to 4 paragraph emails and pushed the 1500 word blog posts and content pieces that we are so proud of and want to believe buyers have the time to read ( guilty as charged – I promise to keep this post to less than 500 words). Cut to the chase people – please. Stop spending 2 paragraphs (or 2  minutes) selling the problem and loading buyers up with shocking stats and another 2 paragraphs (or minutes) on the pitch. Buyers are thinking “why are you calling” me and “what can you do to help me right now?” This brings me to our third point.

Help not Hype:

This one is should be a no brainer.  Stop the marketing hype and just talk about what you are doing to help your buyer.  It doesn’t even have to be rooted in the product or service you deliver.  Simple tweaks to the buying process and the customer experience are helpful.  It’s less about how great we feel about ourselves and more about how our buyers feel about themselves. Be compassionate about where they need help, be succinct in how we can help them, and then just help them.  There’s no hype in that.  It’s called humanity.

Marketing amidst mass corporate culture shifts – it’s a two way street

2019 CEO studies by PwC, Deloitte, McKinsey, Gartner, Forrester, IDC –they all say the same thing:
digital business remains the CEO’s #1 priority.

In a recent study, PwC asked CEOs to grade themselves on the company’s use of data to drive digital business initiatives. They compared how CEO’s responded based on two factors: comprehensiveness and criticality. How comprehensive is the data the organization collects and analyzes versus how important or critical is that data to digital business success, the 5 biggest gaps CEO’s believe they have:

  1. Data on customer needs: Are customers happy?
  2. Data on brand reputation: Are we trusted and respected?
  3. Data to compare against industry peers: Are we unique?
  4. Data on risk exposure: Are we safe?
  5. Data on employee needs: Are employees engaged?

To best answer these questions, we explored what CEO’s believe enables digital business success, and it came down to three: data, technology and talent. Given these are the top 3 digital business enablers, we looked to see if CEOs are putting money where their mouth is relative to these enablers – where is more of the new money going?

  • Data: 77% of the new money is to close the comprehensive vs critical gaps we discussed above.
  • Technology: 74% of the new money is going towards technology to help drive workforce productivity and efficiency – to make the workforce more performance minded.
  • Talent: 64% of the new money is going towards changing the culture to be more data centric and move faster.

The one thing about digital capabilities and information technology spend…it’s worth nothing unless your people and your culture embrace the change.

The 10,000 foot view

80% of enterprises will change their culture by 2021 as a way to accelerate their digital business strategy. 89% of CEO feel that culture directly impacts the bottom-line metrics of the organization

Baby boomers are retiring. GenXers are climbing the ranks. GenY & GenZ now make up 59% of the global workforce. Corporate cultures are shifting because they have to.  The cultures of the past are not made for such a diverse, digital, mobile and collaborative workforce. No wonder CEO’s say talent management is a top digital business enabler. At the same time, no wonder more employees in the US changed jobs in 2018 than ever before – 40 Million of them according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s safe to say that culture has a huge impact on job satisfaction. A recent Gartner study found that the number of employees regretting their job decision increased nearly 50% over the past decade

So, who owns culture?

Ultimately, the CEO owns the culture, but when it comes to making culture change happen, they look to the CHRO (People) and the CIO (Technology). Not surprising, considering talent and technology are 2 of the top 3 digital business enablers. Corporate Executive Board’s Future of Work 2019 study found when it comes to driving employee engagement and growth, technology is the number one lever to pull – more than skill development or rewards and recognition.

73% of human resources leaders believe that significantly changing the technologies employees use for work will drive better engagement & enable growth. 

This not only aligns to the CEO’s digital business enablers and investment priorities, it also aligns to what 88% of CEO’s stress the CIO’s top priority is – increasing employee productivity and organizational efficiency. In other words, being performance driven. This is evidenced by Gartner’s projection that 70% of CIO’s will have invested in some sort of employee collaboration platform by 2021. No doubt, technology is where CIO’s and CHRO’s find common ground. This is why many CEOs anoint them the agents of change and task them with building a collaborative culture.

Collaboration cultures drive results.

According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2019, nearly one-third of organizations have adopted a collaborative culture. When asked: How much work is done in teams vs. hierarchical functional lines? 31% of companies said most if not all work is done collaboratively in teams. And, thus far over half (53%) of the companies that have built collaborative cultures have seen significant results relative to bottom line metrics around innovation, recruiting and retaining talent, customer experience, strategic initiatives, growth targets, and revenue and profits.

Right now my head’s spinning from stat-overload, so let’s recap.

  • CEOs say digital business is the priority
  • CEOs recognize they have gaps in digital maturity
  • CEOs invest “new money” in digital capabilities, technology and culture
  • CEOs anoint CIOs & CHROs the drivers of culture change
  • CIOs & CHROs see technology as their primary path
  • CIOs and CHROs build a collaborative culture
  • Collaborative cultures drive results
So what does all of this mean for marketing? It’s a two-way street

I go back to the original digital business gaps: Are customers happy? Are we trusted and respected? Are we unique? Are we safe? Are employees engaged? These very questions are at the core of our market[ing] research


At the 10,000 foot view, our mission is to tell a company story through our go-to-market that sparks interest. In order to do this, we need to answer one simple question: are we trusted and respected? If our customer’s mission is to build a collaborative culture, then are we living up to their needs as a trusted and respected brand that enables said culture?  At the same time, are we enabling their brand to be trusted and respected.

At the 100 foot view, our mission revolves around customer success and optimizing their experience with us in order to build an army of advocates. Answering the simple question “are customers happy?” is the basis for our research.  If our customer’s culture is rooted in productivity and efficiency, is the customer experience we deliver actually productive and efficient – for them?

The 1000 foot view

Where the rubber meets the road is square in the middle of our research aperture – the 1000 foot view. Enabling digital business cannot start and stop with being a trusted and respected brand and knowing if our customers are happy.  The path from customer needs to brand and back again travels through the buyer. The product story we tell is all about enabling the buyer and giving them reasons to engage with us. Here we center our research on the levers we can pull (data, technology, talent) that not only help buyers be unique, safe and engaged, but prove that our product is unique, safe and that our employees across the organization help our buyer answer these questions. Again, it’s a two-way street. Yes, we as a vendor want to be differentiated and deliver value to our buyers, but at the same time, our buyers want to feel they are delivering differentiation and value to the employee base and customers they serve.

If we fail answering these very questions (Are customers happy | Are we trusted and respected | Are we unique | Are we safe | Are employees engaged), and fail at enabling our buyers to answer these questions inside their own organizations, then we both fail being a trusted and respected brand.  And if that happens, neither of our customers will ever be truly happy.