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Why Marketing Gets a Bad Rap Sometimes

Dilbert creator, Scott Adams, has spent years skewering all things corporate America, and marketing is no exception. If you want a good laugh, read through some of these Dilbert strips on the subject:

And, honestly, most of the time, corporate America has earned the skewering. In fact, when I see things like I saw today, it just reminds me of how bad things can be. But, instead of ranting, I've decided to turn my observation into a bit of advice (hopefully, useful) for business and organizational leaders who are contemplating doing business with marketing types. Here goes: 

When a firm, agency, or individual boldly proclaims that they've "built some of the [city] area's most successful brands" ... you should check AT LEAST two things: 
  1. How long has the firm, agency, or individual been 'building brands'? 
  2. How many years have the biz/orgs referred to been strong? 
If the answer to (1) is less than 4 years and the answer to (2) is more than 30 years, it's pretty safe to say that the firm, agency, or individual is blowing smoke up your behind and deserves to have a Dilbert strip made about them. I advise you to place both hands firmly on your wallet and back away slowly. 

But that's just me. I could be wrong on this one. Either way, you have a link to some great Dilbert strips, so you can chalk it up as a win.
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Someone should create an RPG and call it Trumpolitics & Trumptianity

I think I *may* understand the appeal of Trump for the average American, Christian or not: He claims to be somewhat of a political conservative, while at the same time, *morally*, the facts about his life and beliefs seem to indicate that he is anything but the so-called fringe known as "strictly Evangelical." In the parlance of classic RPG alignment, Trump is "Chaotic neutral."

For those of you who know what that means, let that sink in for a moment. Yeah.

Meanwhile, polls have shown for years that the Church, as a whole, is also NOT "strictly Evangelical." The bell-shaped curve is still alive and well, and the majority of the Church fits neatly into the giant bell in the middle. Interpret that in whatever way makes you happiest. Leaders who do fall along those thin lines to the right of the bell are generally viewed as "too good for their own good" and out of touch with how "real people" live day to day. Today's culture--the Church included--rallies around leaders who unashamedly embrace their own "flaws and humanity" and are viewed as "real" and "authentic." Let's face it: we want leaders who are at least as messed up as we ourselves are, only "successful" regardless of any supposed moral failures. Leaders like that put us at ease, and allow us a chance to dream of success that doesn't really require that we change ourselves in any significant and especially difficult ways. Trump certainly meets that criteria--at least the Trump brand does. Trump, as far as I can tell, is a PERFECT statement about the current state of the Church in America. I suppose how you interpret that depends on your own "alignment."

I get it, really. Everyone has different values. And by casting your vote for Trump, you are--in essence--saying that you value Trump's style and occasional campaign promises as more critical than moral leadership on any number of fronts, including: 
  • abortion 
  • greed 
  • sexual immorality 
  • and even the treatment of others 
I get it, really. Everyone has different priorities in life? Heather Fox, a field director for the Trump campaign, recently showed where Trump and his followers’ priorities lie:

“Look at immigration, look at terrorism, look at the things that really matter. If we don't have a country, it's not going to matter about the Bible or the Constitution because we are going to be dead and gone."

Things that really matter. Not the Bible or the Constitution. In the end, those things don’t really matter to Trump or his followers. They only matter if everything else in the world is right.

Those of us who oppose Trump and his “chaotic neutral” manner happen to have priorities that are the complete opposite. “Strictly Evangelicals” happen to believe the Bible matters regardless of what is happening in this world. And some of us happen to hold the Constitution in high enough regard that we also believe it matters regardless of what is happening culturally.

Listen, if you plan to vote for Trump, far be it from me to try and persuade you otherwise. Exercise your citizen right and cast your vote! All I'm asking is that you be honest -- "real" and "authentic" -- enough to admit that you consider Trump's lack of moral leadership to be far less important than some other issue(s). I will caution you, though: you can be absolutely certain that, should Trump take the White House, there will come a time when you will be immensely and irreparably "challenged" by his lack of moral leadership. In that day, I'll do my best to keep from saying, "I tried to warn you, but you wouldn’t listen."
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Jólabókaflóð: The Icelandic Christmas Book Flood

I feel like 22 years has just been stolen from me and my family. Why? Because I recently learned about an Icelandic Christmas tradition called Jólabókaflóð.

I’ll let the blogger at icelandwillmakeyouhappy.wordpress.com give you the details:

“In Iceland, the Christmas season … starts with the publication of a catalogue, the bókatíðindi, a catalogue that lists all of the books available for purchase in Iceland during the Christmas season. As it is customary for every Icelandic person to receive at least one book for Christmas, approximately 80-90% of the books published each year in Iceland come out during the Christmas season since this is the time of year with the greatest book sales. So many books are sold during this time of year that this period is referred to as the jólabókaflóð, or ‘Christmas book flood.’ In each family’s home, the bókatíðindi becomes dog-eared and worn by the time Christmas comes around. … Oh, and also the commercials. The TV commercials at this time of year are full of advertisements for books – not TVs, laptops, or diamond stud earrings.”

Did you catch that? Every Icelandic person receives at least one book for Christmas. That is amazing and wonderful. Jólabókaflóð, where have you been all my life? All my family’s lives? [Obviously, in Iceland. Duh.] So many years of traditional, purposeful, all-inclusive book-giving missed out on. Sigh.

But wait. There’s more!

“It is common to discuss potential book purchases with friends, family, and work colleagues. While soaking in the hot pots, the common conversational topic at this time of year is a discussion about the books that one plans to purchase. … There are discussions about the design of the book covers and the recent interviews on TV with the big authors of the season. Christmas is very much about books in Iceland. 
“All Icelanders sit down to a formal meal on Christmas Eve and listen to the mass on the radio at 6 pm, even if their families aren’t religious. That’s just what you do to start the holiday celebrations. Once the meal is over and cleaned up, the gift distribution (or book distribution) begins. When everyone has received their book, it is common to climb into the freshly cleaned sheets of your bed, in your new pajamas, and read late into the night. Isn’t that the coziest thing you have ever heard of?”

A study conducted by Bifrost University found that over 50% of Icelanders read more than eight books in a year. As the Brand Consultant for Pathway in Cleveland, I can tell you that the average American doesn’t read books at all. For the small percentage who do read them, the average is five books per year.

I can’t do much to impact the culture at large, but I can do this: I can adapt the beautiful tradition of Jólabókaflóð for me and my family. I may have missed out for 22 years, but I don’t have to miss out anymore. This year, I plan to spend the final hours of Christmas Eve and the first hours of Christmas Day—together with my entire family—snuggled up in warm PJs with a hot cuppa (tea for me) and a good book. How about you?
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How to use the Hootlet Chrome plug-in now that Facebook has changed the partner API policy

UPDATE: The folks at Hootsuite are seriously "Johnny-On-The-Spot"! They've already made fixes so that the following blog post is already outdated. BOOM!  Nevertheless, I'll leave this post up as a record of how much chaos heavy-handed API changes can cause for end-users. ;-)

In case you haven’t noticed, Facebook made some API changes recently that resulted in a significant shift in how third-party platforms function, even when not being used to post or schedule posts to Facebook.
Here’s part of the explanation/notice from Hootsuite:
“Facebook requires that messages posted to Facebook be fully user generated, and not pre-filled with any content that the user did not write themselves.” You can read the rest here: Facebook Platform Policy 2.3 Updates.
The bottom line is that the Hootlet no longer works like it used to, even if you are scheduling for Twitter, not Facebook. After a little bit of experimentation, here’s how the Hootlet now seems to works for Twitter.
  1. Navigate to an article you want to share. Click the Hootlet icon in your toolbar.
  2. The new dialogue/share window which pops up will look like this:

  3. Select the Twitter profile you want to post to or schedule for.

  4. Your Twitter post will be constructed with the following parameters:

  5. Here’s the info from the previous image after being shared on Twitter, noting that the content below the "C" link will NOT show up in your Twitter post:

Have I left anything out? Let me know in the comments!
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A Simple Solution for Those Who Disagree with the Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage

It is official: The Church drug its feet, and has lost the battle over marriage. Government and homosexual advocates have co-opted the word "marriage" and redefined it to suit their purposes. There is no going back (at least not any time soon … if ever). As they say, that ship has sailed.

For those who are bothered by this, I have an idea of how to “fix” this situation, but first some groundwork.

What has been the “stated” goal of same-sex advocates? The hashtag says it plainly: #EqualityForAll. We could have easily solved that by adopting my initial “simple solution” and dropping the word marriage altogether. Everyone gets a civil union. Everyone is “equal.” But few people bought into my proposal. Only a couple of thousand people even read it. I suspect that, even had my proposal gone viral and received national attention in every news outlet, every pulpit, and bent the ear of every politician, it still would have been rejected because it would have seemed like a compromise for both sides. In the end, there had to be a winner and a loser. That’s the American Way. So those who support traditional marriage between one man and one woman (apparently the overwhelming majority of Americans by a 12 to 1 vote ratio in State amendments) lost. Those who support same-sex marriage won. Game over.

To the winners: congratulations. You showed tenacity and commitment, and you had a brilliant, shrewd strategy that you stuck with start to finish. You earned the win. Kudos. The “losers” could learn a lot from you in that respect. It reminds me of the words of Jesus: “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their contemporaries than the people of light” (Luke 16:8).

So, what about the losers? What has been the driving force behind their less-than-stellar opposition to such a vocal and potent minority? I think part of the problem is that the opposition could not really be powerfully summed up in a hashtag. (As a branding person, I mean that sincerely.) But if I had to encapsulate it in the smallest statement possible, I’d say it was a desire to be recognized as having something different, something “loftier,” something divinely ordained. Those who support traditional marriage did not want the unions they have with their opposite-sex husband or wife to be demoted and equated with the same-sex unions proposed by those who supported this new definition of marriage.

So I have another simple solution, a way for the “losers” in this socio-political game to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Move the goal line. Raise the bar. How? Glad you asked.

Give up on the word “marriage.” Accept its full demotion. [Relax, take a deep breath, and stay with me. I think you’ll at least appreciate where this is going, even if you disagree.] And for those congregations who still believe that homosexuality is a sin and that homosexual relationships cannot and will not be recognized or blessed by God, refuse to hold "marriage" ceremonies for anyone, under any circumstance. Set yourself free from the tyranny by joining the #SCOTUS (and culture, to a small extent) in demoting “marriage” to the place of a civil/government program, required by law in order to enjoy certain legal benefits. In plain language, accept that the bar for marriage has been lowered and that marriage is now nothing more than a legally binding contract. Stop trying to give meaning and power to a word which has lost its meaning and power both in the eyes of civil society and the government.

Think about it. If the word "marriage" is now legally and culturally defined and recognized to include what you see as sinful activities and mindsets, then you should put a little distance between yourself and that word. Instead, I suggest the Church begin to offer restricted "Covenant Union" ceremonies, available only for one man and one woman who have professed their mutual faith in and commitment to Christ—“till death do us part.” Covenant Unions would then become a sacrament of the Church, like baptism and communion.

By leaving the "legal marriage" business to the government and other organizations that have no problem endorsing homosexual activity, the Church can return to focusing on sacraments—a practice that no law will ever be able to co-opt. By doing so, the Church rids itself of any legal issues concerning the secular marriage ceremony.

What we used to refer to as “marriage”—a union established by God in Genesis 2:21-25 and upheld by Christ in Mark 10:5-9—needs a new, more powerful, more descriptive name for disciples of Christ: a Covenant Union. Those who believe that only a husband and a wife can become sexually yoked without shame and joined by God the Father as one flesh need a way to describe that union without allowing it to become legally entangled or culturally irrelevant. Let’s be honest: those who oppose same-sex relationships do so because they view those relationships as a shameful celebration of sin. And if those relationships are to be associated with marriage, then the Church must accept marriage as something far less than the standard by which we conduct our own relationships.

So I challenge you, Church: Put up or shut up. If you really believe that the Christian union between a woman and man is somehow “better” than a same-sex partnership, prove it. Raise the bar. I urge you to adopt the sacrament of a Covenant Union as your standard. In fact, my wife and I have often discussed renewing our vows. As far as I am concerned, the “marriage license” we have is now of no greater value than our drivers licenses. It is legally necessary in a civil society, but religiously irrelevant. Since we have always approached our relationship as a covenant, we are now looking to make our covenant ceremonially official, as a public statement that what we have is far more than a marriage—it is sacred and holy.

The added beauty of this approach (and, frankly, what makes it much better than my previous proposal) is that it requires no government intervention of any kind. In fact, any effort to turn Covenant Unions into a kind of legal ceremony will eventually be no different than marriage. We are in our current state because the Church gave marriage over to the government. It was Luther himself who said marriage is “a worldly thing ... that belongs to the realm of government.” We do not need the government involved in a Church sacrament. All that to say, you can make this change yourself. You need no permission from anyone to move forward. Decide today that you will abandon the civil idea of marriage as your goal and allow it to be what it now is: a legal agreement. Then, make your true goal the sacrament of a Covenant Union. Ask your pastor to do the same. If you are engaged, go to the court house, do your due diligence to secure a civil marriage license, and then plan a Covenant Union ceremony to make it matter. And if you are already legally married, ask your pastor to perform a vow renewal ceremony under the banner of a Covenant Union. Local congregations can establish their own guidelines for Covenant Unions, and/or denominational headquarters can set standards for each of their congregations.

Move the goal. Raise the bar. Set it much higher. Snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and allow your Covenant Union to become what it was always intended to be: an example to the world of God’s Covenant Union with His Bride, the Church.
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The Confederate Flag Battle

For the record, I do not currently own anything with a Confederate flag on it. Growing up in South Georgia, I knew it as the "Rebel Flag" and used it as a curtain in my bedroom. It was just another piece of art, along with a hundred or so heavy metal posters which adorned every square inch of wall space. When I became a Christian (mid-80s), I got rid of it (and the posters) because "rebellion" seemed at odds with the person I was trying to become. To my knowledge (i.e., the friends and family I had contact with, black and white), never once was the flag associated with slavery or hatred for another race. For me, it was simply a symbol of regional pride. Think about it: How many times have you seen a southern roadside stop selling wares with the phrase “Southern and proud of it!” (or similar phrase) accompanied by a Confederate flag emblem? I know, you will point out the history of the situation as you’ve been taught. I’m not trying to debate history. I have friends who are much more capable of making that debate, and so I’ll leave that to the experts and all you who aren’t experts but play one on social media. I’m merely pointing out my own experience as a bona fide Southerner, born and raised in the Deep South. I’ve never in my entire life met a single human being for whom the Confederate flag was a rallying call to hate people of color. Maybe I was just naïve or sheltered. I’m OK with that as well.

Fast-forward 35 years, and much has changed. A June 24 article from Reuters pointed out that Google, Amazon, eBay, and Walmart have all jumped on the “ban the Confederate flag” movement, ignited by the demonic attack that happened in Charleston, South Carolina, leaving nine people dead. Now, as I previously stated, I do not own (or sell) any confederate flag merchandise, so I’m not personally affected by a ban. But I fear that I will be greatly affected by the movement itself. Here’s why.

That same June 24 article from Reuters went on to say, “In announcing its decision to pull Confederate flags on Tuesday, eBay said the banner had become a ‘contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism.’”

Notice the phrase “had become.” So even eBay is passively admitting that the symbol has not always been (or in every case been) a symbol of racism or hate. And then there’s this statement from Google: “We have determined that the Confederate flag violates our ads policies, which don't allow content that's generally perceived as expressing hate toward a particular group.” Generally perceived? Hmmm.

For a country that has always prided itself on Liberty and Free Speech, we are on dangerously thin ice, here. And for those of us who are disciples of Christ, the threat seems even more ominous.

While it may be hard for some to understand, there is, in fact, a war on Christian values, both in this country and around the globe. The war did not begin this week, this year, or even this century. Americans didn’t even start the war as it preceded our history by more than a millennia. But it is real. What has changed is the number of vocal opponents and the number of laws being enacted to limit Christianity’s reach and influence upon society at large. So, what happens when the efforts of those who want a society free from religious ideals, values and beliefs are successful in having those things labeled as “divisive and hateful?” One only need to look to other countries to see some implications of this already in action. And if the Confederate flag issue is any indication, the move to ban Christianity from the public sphere could be swift and exacting given the right ignition switch. That’s frightening on every level imaginable.

I recognize that this is a very complicated and nuanced issue, that my perspective is subjective and limited by my experience, and that there is plenty of room for civil debate. I also realize that, for you, the Confederate flag may well be a symbol of racism. I’m sorry for that. I do not share your perspective, though I can comprehend it. But we must also admit that most people don’t think very deeply about these type issues. Instead, we go with gut reactions (as evidenced by the swift move on the part of corporate and government types this week concerning the Confederate flag). That’s all the more reason we should think twice about jumping on the bandwagon to ban the flag and begin cleansing Southern culture of public references to the Confederacy. That action could one day become a nightmare of our own making—allowing something we associate with to become labeled as hate and banned from the public sphere as well. That thought should send cold chills down your spine.

P.S. As I was getting ready to post this, a friend of mine shared this article by Robin Koerner titled “150 Years After the Civil War, How That Flag Comes Down.” It is a thought-provoking piece with a unique perspective and well worth your time to read.
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Losers, Baseball, and Mindsets

This morning I had the privilege of sharing a morning devotion with 100 or so Regional Speech and Debate competitors from the NCFCA. I thought I'd post the "transcript" of that message here for those who may have missed the devotion as well as for those who simply need a word of encouragement. The message I had for them was tailored to the speech and debate competitor, but I think you'll find the overall theme can be applied to each of us in one way or another.

Take a good long look at the people around you--left, right, front, behind. You ALL have something in common and I bet you'll never guess what that is.

Go ahead. Take a guess.

Ready for the answer?

You are all losers.

That wasn’t very nice, was it?

Before you get too offended, let me clarify. I don't mean "Loser” as in the infamous L-shaped-hand-gesture-to-the-forehead, I mean that you've all lost. Repeatedly. Even the so-called "winners" in the room have lost far more often than they've won.

You've lost arguments. You've lost debate rounds. You've lost speech competitions. You've lost athletic events. You've lost. And losing can be tough.

Any baseball fans in the room today? I truly love baseball because Baseball players have to learn to cope with defeat more constantly than any other athlete.

If you know anything about baseball, you know that even the greatest players in history only have batting averages in the .300s. Ty Cobb’s lifetime batting average was .366. Ted Williams was .344. Babe Ruth: .342. Lou Gehrig: .340. Hank Aaron: .305. Mickey Mantle: .298.

That means that for every ten times these Hall-of-Famers got up to bat, they either struck out or batted out seven times. Seven out of ten times they failed. 70% fail rate. Wow.

Sports columnists Thomas Boswell once said:

“A losing streak can mount up on you so much quicker than a winning streak that it's a kind of terror that grips a team. It's like the spooky music that runs under baseball.”

So how do baseball players learn to deal with SO MUCH constant “failure” and loss?

It could be their superstitious nature. Or maybe they are just mentally deranged? Can they not see that getting out 7 out of 10 times is a horrible track record?

I think Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has the answer.

Dweck has spent decades of research on achievement and success, which she wrote about in her book called Mindsets.

According to Dweck, mindsets are just beliefs—beliefs about yourself and your most basic qualities.
  • your intelligence,
  • your talents,
  • your personality.
QUESTION: Are these qualities simply fixed traits, carved in stone? ~OR~ are they things you can cultivate throughout your life? According to Dweck, your answer indicates whether or not you have a FIXED or GROWTH mindset.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities—intelligence, talent, etc.—are simply fixed traits. They spend their time PROVING those qualities over and over. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser? And they have no strategy to deal with failure. They give up and move on to something easier.

By contrast, in a growth mindset, your qualities—the hand you’re dealt in life—is just the starting point for development. Someone with a growth mindset isn’t focused on PROVING but on IMPROVING. They believe everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

This growth mindset creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. People with a growth mindset understand that no one has ever accomplished great things—not Tchaikovsky or Ty Cobb—without years of passionate practice and learning.

Dweck argues—quite convincingly—that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life and what you will be able to accomplish.

Why waste time PROVING over and over how great you are, when you could be IMPROVING instead? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them?

The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives—those times when the losses seem to be mounting up.

Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Phillipians (3:2-15, NET):

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh!
For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, exult in Christ Jesus, and do not rely on human credentials – though mine too are significant. If someone thinks he has good reasons to put confidence in human credentials, I have more:
I was circumcised on the eighth day, from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews.
I lived according to the law as a Pharisee.
In my zeal for God I persecuted the church.
According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless.
But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ.
More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung!– that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness– a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness.
My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already attained this – that is, I have not already been perfected – but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore let those of us who are “perfect” embrace this point of view. If you think otherwise, God will reveal to you the error of your ways.

The Apostle Paul did not have a fixed mindset. He did NOT believe that who he was and what he was capable of was fixed, written in stone. He believed in a God who makes change and growth possible—and so he determined to continue learning, continue growing, and continue IMPROVING!

I challenge you: when you walk into a room today and prepare to debate or give a speech, check your mindset. Are you going in there to PROVE yourself to be a winner (fixed mindset)


Are you stepping in that room and looking at those judges, that moment, as one more chance to IMPROVE yourself—to become a better speaker, a better debater?

If you choose the latter, you have already won, regardless of how you score on the judges ballots.

Medals, awards, certificates … these are all great. But let’s be honest: They have no value in and of themselves. You can’t resell them—even on Craigs List—for more than a buck a piece. But IMPROVING yourself, LEARNING to be a better speaker than you were, a better debater than you were, that knowledge is a priceless treasure that will profoundly impact your life—far more than any trophy or award ever will!

Say this with me:
  • Always learning!
  • Always growing!
  • Always Improving!
Now go learn. Grow. Improve. Always.

More Bible Passages

For those who would like to explore this topic from a biblical perspective, I encourage you to meditate on the following passages of Scripture:
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