3 Storytelling Lessons From The Little League World Series

The Little League World Series (LLWS) came to a startling close after holding the world’s attention captive for the past several weeks. The incredible drama produced by the actions of a few 11-13 year olds on a youth-sized baseball diamond is worthy of applause and consideration in and of itself. These kids play the game because they love it, and most of them behave like they cannot get enough. Despite earning no money (for the kids), no guarantee of winning, and certainly no certainty of future success; these athletes present themselves as incredible examples of pursuing dreams and living with passion.

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Additionally, there are some lessons from this beautiful athletic portrait that can be applied to the business of storytelling in marketing. Three lessons, in fact, to remind us of the importance of a good story, and to solidify our foundational jobs as compelling storytellers.

  1. The quality of the product or service (this case the product on the field) does not directly resonate with audiences in the same fashion that heart, loyalty, and passion always will.

    The product on the field is not the highest quality of amateur baseball. There are leagues with older, more skilled players that cannot bring in these kinds of ratings. The missing ingredient? Desire. The tears that stream from both the victors and the defeated pull at our heart strings and make us want to see (and feel) more.

    Often times, we get so caught up in our product set or service expertise that our brands don’t compel audiences to listen. While the product is obviously important, ultimately, we as consumers want more. We want to be moved emotionally. We want to feel something. We want to know the brand we buy is interested in more than selling widgets.

  2. Users want to participate in brand messages that provide a sense of urgency, or have a definite date of expiration.

    Major League Baseball provides the pinnacle performance for the sport of baseball. Speaking in terms of quality, there is no better product that is produced in the world. It’s fascinating, then, that the LLWS outperformed the MLB in ratings when the two were pitted against each other head to head.

    How is that possible? There are brand names and cult-like followings in the MLB. Conversely, almost no one knew the names of Mo’ne Davis or Jackie Robinson West just a few weeks ago. Yet, the MLB has been hammering audiences with stories since April (earlier if you count spring training), and will continue to inundate audiences until early November.

    The LLWS tells an urgent message. If you miss out on seeing a girl strike out the side against boys, or the first all-black team make the finals in decades – you may never get the chance to see either feats again. The season is short and powerful. Our marketing should take a similar approach at times.

  3. Audiences (still) love the story of an under-dog.

    All of the stories in the LLWS are incredible in my opinion. However, there are always those special athletes that perform above the incredibly high expectation we’ve come to enjoy from these remarkable kids.

    This year, Jackie Robinson West became the first all-black team to represent the nation in the Finals. America rallied behind this team as a nation and fell in love with the personalities and the talent boasted from this group. For added drama, a determined girl from Philadelphia decided to ignore stereotypes and outside opinions and pitch her way into the nation’s spotlight. Mo’ne Davis mowed through opposing lineups with ease throughout the tournament and became the 18th girl in the 68 year history of LLWS to perform on the big stage. Even more spectacular is the poise and demeanor she displayed while throwing accomplishment after accomplishment onto what’s sure to be an already-filled trophy case.

    We love the underdog. We see ourselves in the underdog and we yearn to out-perform expectations and prove ourselves like these child athletes.

    Let your brand do the same. Tell the stories around your brand that communicate an underdog message. This may be about the founder, employees, consumers, or investors. What “Average Joe” did something amazing because they interacted with your brand? Audiences need to hear about it.

I was sad to see the LLWS wrap up Sunday afternoon, yet felt a sense of joy even as I watched the South Korean team celebrate their hard earned victory. We all feel the urge to enjoy the natural youthful energy we observed on the field. Your audiences are no different. How will you tell your story in a way that allows your audience to be a kid again? Heck, if these incredible kids can do it – can’t you?

5 Lessons Learned During 5 Days Without Social Media

“Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder”

That’s what the articles say, anyway (at least this one does). And I’m a believer.

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For the last five days I did not tweet, post, insta-, snapchat, or spyfu and I didn’t read those who do. In fact, I did not log into any social networks for five days, and I limited my use of the internet to checking email and reviewing resume submissions (both for work purposes). Why? Mostly to see if I could, and partially to ensure I’m not addicted to social media. Here’s what I learned:

  1. I’m way more attached to social media (particularly Twitter and LinkedIn) then I probably would have admitted.
    • This should’ve been expected, but it took me a full day to stop unconsciously reaching into my pocket during moments of spare downtime.
    • Additionally, I opened my various apps (out of habit) multiple times only to have to quickly close them down prior to content appearing.
  2. Personally, there are some strong benefits to putting down the iPhone.
    • I spent more time having verbal conversations with friends and family.
    • Instead of reading about the different hobbies I enjoy (Crossfit, sports, writing, etc.); I took the time to improve my performance in each of those areas.
    • I was able to spend an increased time in meditation and prayer. The Bible app became a frequent replacement for my favorite social networks.
  3. Professionally, there were a few benefits to abstaining from Social Media:
    • Travel time was utilized for brainstorming ideas and thinking of solutions to client issues.
    • This week left me with more time to read industry-materials (some of them regarding social media), then what is typically possible.
  4. News is much harder to obtain when not using Social Media.
    • I found myself craving to know what was going on, but not necessarily knowing the fastest way to procure news without access to Twitter. Also, my favorite industry experts and writers are folks I follow on LinkedIn and Twitter. Finding short-term replacements proved difficult.
    • I felt slightly out of the loop in conversation because of my lack of news access. In fact, one customer referenced the Ferguson story (which I’m now aware of);only to be dumbfounded at my ignorance of the situation.
  5. Genuine collaborative opportunities were lost (or at least paused) due to my absence.
    • I had a potential client reach out to me via Twitter, but had no knowledge of it until today (we’ll see what happens).
    • A friend asked me to promote a conference he is holding, and I had to tell him there would be a delay on any content (tweets coming soon).
    • A startup reached out to me to request an opinion on their social network. Unfortunately, I could not participate (until today and I am responding after I post this).

All in all, the experiment was a success in the sense that I completed it in it’s entirety, and that I’ve learned more about the way I communicate with others as result. My hope is that I’ll learn to facilitate communication in various ways that depend less on one medium, and that I’ll become a better listener to my friends, family, and business associates because of this challenge.

Who else has taken a fast from social media? What did you learn?

How To: Turn Your Sales Force Into a Team

The words “sales” and “team” are often put together in a facetious and sarcastic manner. As in, “Sure we can ‘team-up,’ heck, we should even form an ‘alliance’ and covenant ourselves together through a ‘truce.'”

Many a Dwight Schrute-esque sales person has fallen for this type of jargon as blood-thirsty sales sharks take advantage of weakness and go in for the kill.

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So, how can you avoid chumming the sharks in your group while forming a true team-oriented environment for other sales people to collaborate within? After all, we know sales people are incredibly competitive (a good quality), often butt-kissing (a necessary evil), and stereotypically self-centered (a negative truth).

These attributes can be leveraged to provide your sales group with incentives that appeal to their often extroverted nature, fulfills their drive for competition, and ultimately offers stabilization to what can be an otherwise tenuous culture.

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Tending the Sheep

The Old Testament of the Bible tells a story about a young guy named David. You may have heard about him. David is the most famous king in the history of the nation of Israel. Additionally, he was a tough, fierce and, mighty warrior (read 1 and 2 Samuel sometime – he makes Seals look like boy scouts), the musical icon of his era, and a man of God.

But, he started tending sheep. 9018013942_efbee314ea

It was his defining purpose, and his only occupation prior to becoming who he would eventually become (giant killer/greatest king in the history of Israel/ brilliant general).

For a vast majority of folks in my generation, our role right now feels a whole lot more like watching sheep eat grass then it does killing giants. That’s ok. Faithfulness in the present is preparation for future success. Don’t despair (like I have at times). Instead, prepare. Our giants are coming and we need people in our generation ready to knock em out.

So, today tend sheep. Do whatever you’re called to do today. Do it to the best of your ability. Tomorrow (and all the challenges it will bring) is coming.

(By the way, if you are interested in reading about how bad David was — check out my friend Cliff Graham’s series Lion of War. It’s awesome)

The Diet of Legend: My Personal Review

Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with sales or marketing. 
However, I am a HUGE believer in health and fitness, and believe 
every professional needs to take fitness seriously. So…

Overview:

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Many of you have approached me over the past few months regarding the “diet of legend” that I followed (borderline fanatically) for the first three months of this year. While I’m not currently attacking this diet, I do plan on demolishing it (or a similar diet) this fall. Again, this is not a usual post, but since I’ve had so many questions regarding it; here’s how it went down:

What:

  • This diet follows a path written out by an author by the name of Joe Warner. Joe was a fitness editor for a magazine in the UK, and he did this diet as at test case. His results are stunning.
  • 12 weeks: Let me just say, 12 weeks is longer than it initially sounds. For whatever reason this number did not concern me at the onset of the diet. It should have. By about week 3 I was seriously doubting my life-decisions and whining an above-healthy amount. By week 8 I had stopped craving the “old foods” as much and was focused on the finish line.
  • High Protein: Almost every meal consisted of meat and vegetables (including breakfast). I learned to love Greek Yogurt through this diet, and have essentially cut my former mistress of bread out of my life entirely. Sidebar: Steak feels weird as a regular breakfast food at first, but becomes a welcome addition to the morning routine.
  • High greens/vegetables: This was the biggest adjustment I had to make. Eating vegetables at every meal, and trying to find new ways to prepare vegetables is a challenge. However, I came upon some really tasty veggies I hadn’t regularly tried before (e.g.Kale, Brussels Sprouts, etc.).
  • Almost no carbs: I mean it. There are very very few carbs in this diet. Even fruits were extremely limited (if not banned altogether). The point is to make sure you’re feeding your muscles protein while starving your fat cells of carbs.

Observations:

  • Cut fat early; gained muscle mass as the diet continued.
  • Grew extremely lethargic over the course of the first 4 weeks. Body craved carbs for energy (wife mentioned some faint “irritableness”).
  • By the end, did not crave carbs, but felt like they provided a huge boost to my energy levels.
  • Ended up losing about 12 pounds of fat in first month and a half, then regaining much of that weight (about 8 pounds) back in muscle.

Conclusion

I don’t know that I’ll do this particular diet over again, however, it did set the tone for my year (in regards to fitness) and provided some solid guidelines that I am continuing to follow post-diet. My current fitness regimen (primarily centered Crossfit workouts) would make it almost impossible to exist without some carbs in my diet. However, I most certainly will diet again. I had not seen physical gains like this since my Sophomore year of college (first foray into working out regularly).

Let me know if this quick snapshot is helpful. As I stated at the beginning, fitness is a really important piece of my life, and I’d love to share/discuss how other professionals and marketers are using fitness to advance their lives/careers. You can find this specific diet here, and I’d love answer any questions you might have when launching into this diet at: adam at adamvazquez.com .

3 Cheers for July 4th

Today I’d like to take a moment to consider three things I’m immensely thankful for. While we won’t be eating turkey on the 4th of July, the pause and reflection warranted by this wonderful day revealed three blessings which I regularly enjoy, but don’t always publicly recognize. 4th-of-July-Sparklers

1. Freedom. Watching the world cup the past few weeks reminded me what kind of people we have in our nation. We (for a few weeks) enjoyed a similar sense of unity and solidarity that motivated the men who declared our freedom 238 years ago. We are blessed to live in the greatest country on the face of the planet, and we have every veteran, soldier, and even many politicians to thank for their work and sacrifice to preserve our freedom.

2. Work. This week brought obstacles, trials, and frankly some hard questions to which I cannot provide the answers. However, I was gently reminded through Scripture and the wise counsel of some mentors in my life to consider Colossians 4:2, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Although I don’t have the answers today, I can trust in my Savior’s guidance and provision. And I can always give thanks. I’m grateful God has put strong Christian leaders in my work place to help guide my personal development . What a kind Redeemer to give us work we can glorify Him through.

3. Family. Long weekends provide the time to spend with family that is difficult to create otherwise. My wife is not only my best friend, but also the first person to hear my whining, complaining, crazy ideas, and overall frustrations. She is an incredible source of stability as compared to my wild ideation and brainstorming, and I don’t deserve her. Men, if you want to take the next step in your life/work, don’t believe the hype about singleness. Marriage is where it’s at. Additionally, my parents and brothers are a constant source of encouragement and support. Holiday weekends like this one allow for me to realize that more than usual.

I have a ton to be thankful for. The fireworks, the flags, and the euphoria of American pride are a simple reminder of the blessings we get to enjoy every day. What a beautiful country.

I hope you’re able to enjoy and reflect on the blessings granted to you as well. Cheers on this July 4th!

Born for Adventure

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We’re all created with an innate need to be challenged.

God created paradise (Garden of Eden) with challenges in it. Adam and Eve weren’t simply lounging in a zero-gravity memory foam hammock while living in the garden (although can you imagine?? I’m sure we’ll get those in heaven). Instead, they were naming animals (potentially chasing those bad boys down first), gardening wild plants and flowers, and (unsuccessfully) avoiding huge snakes. Point being, there is a whole lot more to life, and to what composes who we are as humans, than comfort and relaxation.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say we were created for adventure and challenge. Think about it. This purpose explains the reason we get up and go to the gym.Challenge is the same reason we work hard to increase our salary/status/power hold, etc. Sometimes, we find ourselves seeking to grow within a social group or societal structure. Why? We naturally crave challenge.

Additionally, sometimes our day jobs don’t provide us with the necessary challenges and adventure we want or need to fill our lives with meaningful events. Which leads us to the question, “How do we provide worthy challenge to ourselves?”

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Your Small (Big Ripple) Impact

The internet is like an enormous lake. Often times, an article, video, or story will toss a pebble into that grand lake  that causes a tiny ripple. For whatever reason, common folk like myself don’t tend to believe we’ll ever cause a ripple (and certainly not a wave) to be formed due to some content or message pushed out from our limited perspective.

 

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Recently, I’d definitely fallen into this scenario. It seemed that although I’d been casting ideas and vision into the lake of projects, conversations, and frankly, this blog; the water was resistant to my pebbles breaching the surface and causing an impact.

Then, tonight after work, I met up with some guys who I don’t get to hang out with very often, and the topic of my blog came up. One guy in particular seemed to be genuinely interested in the content posted here, and even mentioned he had shared the content with some of his roommates and friends.

What a huge encouragement. 

This kind fellow was simply discussing some of the ideas he appreciated (specifically from “Monday is Coming: Set Your Mind Above”). However, the impact on someone whose mind has seemed to be restrained and rejected was endless. He informed me of my ripple effect, which in turn tossed a new pebble into the lake of my psyche.

So, what’s the point? You have no clue what your audiences (clients, customers, target demos, friends, colleagues, etc.) are experiencing at any given moment. As humans, we’re created to communicate. The fact that you have a message to communicate is all the motivation and reason you need to find a medium and transfer those ideas to a greater audience. You don’t know who is in need of that message, and you can’t begin to know how big your ripple will become. Gather your confidence, find your platform, and share.

Oh,  and if you’d be so kind, let me know where you’re spreading your ideas.  I can’t wait to feel the ripple.

 

 

Morning Leadership: Bring the Cheer

The scene begins to play out as soon as the elevator doors crack, and the fluorescent lights from the hallway stream into the glorified cargo vessel I ride from the ground floor to the third.

Hushed whispers, quick glances back and forth, and raised eyebrows are noticeable as I make the trek from the elevator to my office all the way in the corner of the building.

I wonder to myself, “Why so much whispering back and forth? It’s only 7:45. Did I miss some big news overnight?”

One of the production team members runs in and hurriedly drops off a calendar update while anxiously whispering,”…hmm, um – so…um how was your morning? Here’s the update…listen, have you had coffee yet?”

That’s when it hits me.

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Monday Is Coming: Set Your Mind Above

I was reading from Colossians 3 this morning when the first several verses struck me. The passage is a familiar one, and probably memorized by those of you with Christian upbringings,

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. “

The author is talking about putting on the new self once we are believers. After redemption through faith, the first step in our new race starts in the mind. Similar to physical training, our heads have got to be right or we won’t make it anywhere.

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