What I Learned This Year 2012

We wanted to finish the year on a local high note here on The Egotist. So, we asked the most respected creative visionaries in Colorado to create a piece, entitled "What I Learned This Year." It can take any form they'd like — an illustration, a top-ten list, an article, video, photo or anything else they envision.

This is an archived collection of the pieces we received, posted daily during December 2012. Great thinking from Colorado's best thinkers.


What I Learned This Year #1: Jim Elkin, Owner/Director/Executive Producer, Roshambo Films

What I Learned This Year in 2012 or How I Learned to Appreciate Zombies.

"Reality is wrong. Dreams are for real." - Tupac Shakur

I'm having a baby. Not me personally, but my wife. I tried changing this, but evidently the doctors frown on that kind of thing and science hasn't quite caught up to some of my wants and desires. This is one of the reasons this year I learned more than anything about being grateful.

In a time when some of us have gotten bitter, spiteful and even mustered up a golden warmth of betrayal towards our fellow man and woman...I feel all of life's little challenges for better or worse have made me more appreciative. Before you start looking at me as the guy who is whistling through a field of napalm....Give me a chance. Things have changed. Not just for me personally, but professionally, spiritually and emotionally.

I should rewind. My father, who has suffered through Alzheimer's is still alive. He is unable to communicate in a normal way. It's mostly through smiles now when I bring him Amish Dutch Apple Pie from the heart of Philly, frowns when the heat is turned up too high in his room or just speaks through garbled words that are mostly made up within his own imagination. But, he is here. Still here. And that is amazing. Many of us who love him didn't think he would make it this long. But, he still fights to be here...to continue to live. When I fly 2000 miles to hold his hand, not knowing if he'll recognize me or not...and that smile happens from the corner of his mouth...that's when I know...he's still here and so am I. My father's son.

Something springs eternal in all of this for me. Not just hope, but appreciation for life itself. Having the chance to wake up and see the sunrise. To be with the people we love the most. Even at its most fleeting and passing...it means the world to me. In a world of texting, emergency meetings, late night panics and our all too forgotten "to do" lists that are never ending...there are much more important things. Seeing my father fade away slowly, but still fight on to be here for another day no matter how hard it is for him to breathe, walk, talk...he keeps fighting to live.

I'm not sugar coating anything. There is a lot of hurt and pain out there. Work has changed. There are less opportunities. Things have gotten more grim if you look at it from a certain point of view. People are more bitter and have gotten more survival-istic. I see it every day. I talk with many of you. I share your pains and your heartbreaks. Some days it does seem like a reality episode of The Walking Dead out there.

"This is mine..."
Not yours..."
"I used to have this..."
"I'm fighting to keep this..."

I made that last one up, but you get the idea. There are an amazing amount of negative feelings and emotions that we all share. I don't blame you. Not one of you. I'm with you. But, something has to change or we will all start eating each other. Maybe not literally...like I won't eat your brains...but it might feel like someone is trying to eat your soul.

There is good news. You have the power to change. Treat each other with respect. Give yourself and others the love they need when life is at it's hardest. Give people the power to change things for the better and they will surprise you. I promise.

I can't promise that things will get better the way you want them to. But, you do have the power to look at challenges as new opportunities. Just look at things in a slightly different way and be grateful for what you have. As an example, zombies are really dangerous...but they can't run that fast and they probably have some good qualities. You can always make a weapon out of one of their bones...like that one guy from Walking Dead and use it to almost escape. That was pretty awesome.

In the end, you are going to be OK. There are people in our community who left us way too early this year, but they won't be forgotten. You can keep living for the people who are gone and the ones that are still here. But, that means picking your head up and carrying on. Keep fighting. Make each day count. Appreciate everything and everyone that you have. These are the things I'm going to teach my daughter. I'll teach her all of the things my father taught me. Be grateful for what you have.

On a side note, do not — under any circumstances — call your wife a beautiful looking penguin during her pregnancy. This will lead to you being in the dog house for a majority of the day.

"It ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward." - Rocky

What I Learned This Year #2: Blake Ebel, Founder/Creative Director, GoodnessWorks

This past year has been a very interesting one for me. Here are a few things I learned in 2012.

1. Giving is the antidote to greed.
2. Surround yourself with good people and good things happen.
3. I should have started an agency two and a half years ago.
4. Tell the truth.
5. Believe in the unbelievable.

What I Learned This Year #3: Jeremy Seibold, Creative Director, TDA_Boulder

Babies can pee in their own mouths but don’t like to.

My wife is a lot tougher than I am.

My OCD goes away when I’m dealing with dirty diapers.

Baby pee on my shirt is not enough reason to change.

Only other people’s babies are always happy.

Wipe warmers and video monitors are awesome.

My wife is an amazing mother.

I need more patience.

I wish I thanked my Mom more often.

How much double ACL surgery on a dog costs.

Taking vacations can make you a better employee.

Cancer fucking sucks. (I already knew that, but I learned it again.)

My wife and I have amazing friends.

Neither my father-in-law passing or my son being born made me cry (for the most part), but “We Bought A Zoo” made me ball.

I repress emotion.

Repairing drywall is now one of my few man-skills.

Old people call anything cordless a cell phone.

A final thought: The Egotist doesn’t help Denver Suck Less because Denver doesn’t suck. I like Denver and I love Boulder. New shops are opening in both places and I wish them all the best. Collectively it will raise the bar and force us all to get better. What suck are the anonymous critics with their petty comments who frequent this site. Instead of telling everyone how much better you could have done it, prove it with your own work.

What I Learned This Year #4: Evan Fry, VP, Executive Director of Creative Development, CP+B

Art Director / Illustrator - Tim Opsahl

What I Learned This Year (and the Four Before That) #5: Matt Ingwalson, Creative Director, Karsh\Hagan

"You need a new job every three years."

I don't know where I first heard that advice. But it's true. Careers are like sharks. You swim or you sink. You need a new client, a new promotion, a new responsibility, a new agency, a new something every three years. Or you're drowning and you don't even know it.

I joined Karsh Hagan five years ago. The agency offered me the chance to do something I've never done before. Take on new challenges and responsibilities without job hopping. And my time here has been all hopscotch and kisses.


These years have been a whirlwind. Often exhilarating. Frequently exhausting. Sometimes tragic. And they've taught me something that everyone needs to know.

Character is not revealed through victory. Or at an office party. Or over coffee.

You learn what people are made of when you're climbing into a production van together at 4:00 a.m. on three hours of sleep because you have to chase the sunrise.

And when you're sweating at the agency at midnight pulling a deck together for a presentation that's happening in nine hours. Tick tock.

And when you realize that if you don't win a pitch, a friend is going to lose his job. So you find a way to make it happen.

You learn what people are made of when you're all standing in the same room staring up at the ceiling or out the window, trying figure out how you can bear to go on after someone you all loved dies.

Celebration is nice. And important. But it doesn't teach you much. I've learned to welcome the foxhole. To be inspired by it. To let it bring out my best. To trust my team. To find ways to win.

And you should learn that too.

What I Learned This Year #6: Rob Schuham, Founding Entrepreneur, COMMON; Vice Chairman & Chief Innovation Officer, Match Marketing Group; Founding Partner, Undercurrent

2012 has been a wild professional ride for me. In essence, some of what I thought I knew about the marketing, media and social entrepreneurship worlds held steadfast and true. And on the flipside…well, let’s say I learned some new things. So here are a couple of “a-ha’s” coming out of 2012 for me:

Industry learnings:

Media has changed forever. Again. Between smart phones, a continued rise in new social platforms, and the increasing level of sophistication around digital sharing by both young and old, we have seen a massive increase in interpersonal engagement. I have done some speaking recently on how the terrain has altered and the sheer velocity of this behavior has increased dramatically. The most fascinating byproduct outside of one K-pop phenomenon in particular is the speed and ferocity of online collective action that in turn leads to physical movements. It’s here. And it’s game on. Arab Spring and Occupy more than demonstrated the power of digital to drive physical movements in 2011 and on into 2012. And believe me, there’s more to come in 2013.

Related, consumers (that’s each one of us) want a sense of purpose. Whether it's better corporate behavior or a cause that a particular brand supports, more and more we want to feel like we give back to the world with the each dollar we spend. I learned some of this at Made Movement. The crew tapped into cultural zeitgeist with the notion that red, white and blue is the new green. And with Boom Points you can see how buying American products creates job growth. With apologies to my more enlightened friends, there is hope for materialism.

Management learnings:

Ego kills: Ok, a little harsh. It may just wound a bit. But most every time you get wrapped up in ego and let it lead out, it bites you in the ass. I’ve learned to back down and breathe which is really hard when you have a Triple-A-type personality. The very thing that drives you to succeed will vanquish you if you don’t manage it in a contemplative and healthy way. Confidence is great. But don’t let it come at the expense of compassionate listening. And guess what? Sometimes the client is right! And sometimes someone who reports to you is too!

What I Learned This Year #7: Ryan Johnson, Associate Creative Director, Cactus

What I learned this year I actually learned in 1999, and that is this: go ahead and buy a lifetime of shoeshines.

In the late ‘90s, a street-walking shoeshiner worked the area around Larimer Square in Denver. A wiry fellow with a broken-tooth grin, his approach to selling shines consisted mostly of heckling passersby. “Shabby shoes! Shabby shoes! You got shabby shoes!” he would sing with a smile. “You ain’t got no woman on your arm ‘cause you ain’t got no shine on your shoes!” I heard that one a few times.

I worked for a small agency called Reece and Company at the time. The agency was located a block off of Larimer and we would see the shoeshine guy regularly on coffee walks and lunch breaks. Dave Reece, owner and leader of the agency, had been an occasional customer, stopping by for a buffing before meetings. I know that along with the shines, Dave enjoyed the conversation.

Dave Reece was, among many things, an adman. He loved the business, he loved the creative process, he loved his clients and he loved the group of people he got to work with every day. He could tell a good story, and he knew how to listen. Clients appreciated this. We all did.
Early in 1999, Dave visited the shoeshine guy and was given a sweet offer — a lifetime “membership” for just $50. Dave took the deal and parted with a 50-dollar bill.

In March of that year, Dave was diagnosed with brain cancer. In September, he was gone. He was 46 years old.

In the months after his diagnosis, Dave made just a few visits to the agency to see the crew. We were all in a fog of sadness and uncertainty. Our leader was dying and the future of the agency was not yet determined. On one of those visits, he mentioned his ill-timed shoeshine deal to someone.

“Well, isn’t this a bitch,” he said. “I just bought a life’s worth of shoeshines and I get freaking cancer.”

Here was a man facing his own mortality and he was making a joke to soften the gloom, to make us laugh. It made sense. That’s how he approached the business. When the self-imposed seriousness of the work was getting us down, Dave was always there with an inappropriate wisecrack.

What I learned then I remember always – even in the dark hours, you have to make room for lightness and levity. The other message? No one really knows what’s around the bend, but $50 for a lifetime of shined shoes is a good deal. Take it.

What We Learned This Year #8: GRIT. - Sean Topping and Holly Menges

To be honest, (generally a good thing but it sometimes gets us in trouble) and for reasons both personal and professional, this year was a really really really really tough year. What we learned, is that we aptly named our company without fulling realizing it. This year has taken more grit than any other year we can recall.

The learnings we'd like to pass on to you is simply that we all have grit, and you probably don't know how much you have until you are tested. So if you are afraid to take a risk, to go for a job, quit a job, start a company, put your creative work on display for public critique, or ask for help, or admit you are in pain or scared or whatever it is— don't be afraid. It just matters that you put something out there. You will be able to handle whatever comes back. You are stronger than you think. And there are people who love you who make you even stronger. 

Take care of each other out there.

What I Learned This Year #9: Mike Sukle, Owner/Creative Director, Sukle Advertising & Design

It was an incredibly busy year for our agency and with that come a lot of lessons. Here a few thoughts from 2012.

The industry may be losing a bit of craftsmanship but it’s innovating at a phenomenal pace. It’s an exciting time to be in this business.

Momentum is awesome. Inertia sucks.

An optimistic fool does more good than a pessimistic genius. There are millions of really good reasons why something shouldn’t work. And too often, not enough good reasons why something should. Trust your instincts.

We’re happiest when our hands are dirty and we’re creating things. That’s why we all got into this business and what will keep us in it.

Laughter leads to better work.

No matter how big or successful your business is today, there are hoards of talented young people trying to do it better. Stay hungry.

I scoffed at Twinkies. I laughed at them. I even used them as the butt of humor in ads. And now I really miss them.

What I Learned This Year #10: Wade Paschall, Partner_Creative, Grenadier

I learned that opening your own agency is simultaneously the happiest, scariest, most inspiring, worrisome, hardest-working, funnest-having, soul-crushing, fulfilling, greatest thing you can do. I’ve learned that every agency the five of us have ever worked – good and bad – has provided lessons to prepare us for starting Grenadier. I’ve learned (thanks to Rob) that while almost everyone in advertising dreams about starting their own agency at one time or another, the biggest obstacle is being in the right place at the right time with the right people to make the leap with, and I’m very lucky to have had those stars align. I’ve learned that I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed working with Jeff Graham. I’ve learned (thanks to Randy) that we have no excuses now; Grenadier will be what we make it, good or bad. I’ve learned (thanks to Mark) that anything I can write, he can make funnier, and that anyone, including me, can become addicted to fantasy football. I've learned that when you dream of setting up shop, you're so focused on the big things – i.e. mission, core beliefs, clients, revenue, office space – that you rarely consider all those little, but crucial start-up-ish things like, "Who's buying the toilet paper?", "Do we want yellow, pink or green highlighters?" or "Who's on trash duty tonight?" Lastly, I’ve learned that I should never do these ‘What I’ve Learned’ things while on the road and away from my family. It makes me sound like a sentimental wuss.

What I Learned This Year #11: John Winsor, Chief Innovation Officer, Havas; CEO, Victors & Spoils

2012 has been a crazy year. V&S has added a dozen new clients, grown the team by 50% and taken on Havas as a new investor. Likewise, I’ve added a new role of Chief Innovation Officer at Havas along with being CEO of V&S. The dual role has given me some wonderful insights as we all try to figure how to build an agency in a world that is constantly being shaped and reshaped by technology.

Here are 14 guiding principles that I’ve been thinking about for 2013:

1. Identify what wants to happen and help it happen

2. Serve the people

3. Be a social business with a purpose

4. Ask forgiveness not permission

5. Prototype don’t present

6. Open systems beat closed systems

7. More transformation less innovation

8. Do less with less

9. If you’re going to fail, fail spectacularly

10. Architecture is more important than execution

11. Learn how to code

12. More signal less noise

13. Small ideas are better than big ideas (thanks @garethk)

14. Bottom-up not top down

What I Learned This Year #12: Dave Schiff, Founding Partner/CCO, Made

I learned that there's no substitute for good old fashioned give-a-shit. I used to think it was possible to manufacture a pretty good facsimile, but there's nothing quite like the real thing. Call it what you want. Expressing shared values. Aligning around a cause. Believing in what you do. It's all give-a-shit, and there is nothing more powerful when it comes to connecting with consumers, forming partnerships with clients, and attracting top talent. There is no fee or line item on a scope of work for giving a shit, but all the "core competency" in the world is useless without it. As an organization or an individual, it's the most formidable thing you can have, and the most valuable thing you can offer.

What I Learned This Year #13: Haley Turner, Freelance Creative Director/Copywriter

A friend once told me “A comfortable life is not a life worth living.”

At that moment, I knew exactly what she meant. While my life was pretty easy-going, I was in a rut. There was no challenge to anything I was doing. I felt like I was just existing. I hated it.

So two years ago I picked up my life in the Deep South and moved out to Colorado. I had a pretty steady freelance career in Atlanta, but I was bored out of my mind in my personal life and something had to give. Why Colorado? The cooler, drier weather, the down-to-earth attitude of its residents, the adventurous lifestyle, and the enormous mountain range that perches like nature’s cathedrals on the horizon. (They still take my breath away.) Everything about this place was exactly what I needed.

I know people thought I was crazy to give up my cushy Atlanta freelance connections for the wild frontier. However, I’m still taken aback when people tell me “You were so brave to do that.” I wasn’t being brave. I was propelled by my restlessness and a need to get away from the predictable. I think, as creatives, we need to constantly challenge ourselves and strive for something better. Otherwise, that muscle between our ears atrophies.

So far, moving my life out here has been good for me. For my creativity. For my soul. I have found plenty of opportunities to get outside my comfort zone and I’m never bored. Has everything been perfect? No, but I didn’t come out here so life would be easier. I came out here to see what I was made of.

If anyone else out there is looking to shake things up, move to a new city or even just change jobs, I say go for it. Fear is a self-imposed feeling and you have control over that. Even if you stumble, you’ll find the fortitude to pick yourself up and keep going. It’s the scars from those stumbles that make us interesting. And give us great stories to tell.

I’m so glad to be out here in Colorado. Thanks for reading.

What I Learned This Year #14: Jessica Grenier, Photographer

The journey is what makes the trip. My husband and I recently took a trip to Peru and Ecuador and on that trip we were fortunate enough to do the 4 day hike along the ancient Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Many people choose to take the train and get there in a few hours, however, we chose to go the long route, which the ancient Incan people walked daily, in hopes of experiencing how they lived. After 4 days and 3 nights of hiking and camping, we crossed through the long awaited Sun Gate. Upon finally arriving at our destination, we stopped, took a look around, and realized... Machu Picchu wasn’t that great. Granted, it was stunning and powerful and visually extraordinary, but it didn’t compare to the 3 days of getting there.

So, yes, the destination (Machu Picchu) was great, but what we enjoyed and will remember the most was the journey that took us there. The challenges, struggles, smiles, laughter and peaceful moments were what made the entire experience so special and memorable.

As a photographer and business owner, I’m constantly striving to make it to my next major goal. There is always the pressure of not knowing where your next paycheck will come from or if you’ll accomplish the shoot at the high standards you set for yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in stressful moments and zipping from one job to another, never taking a break or time out from work. But instead of rushing to get to that next milestone and expand business, I think it’s especially important to take note of and appreciate all of the incredible moments and events along the way. This may sound simple, but that's not always the case.

Just a few other things I learned on this particular journey...

Endurance. Push yourself and you’ll be astonished at what you can do. The most amazing results can come from the most uncomfortable situations, when you are not sure of the outcome.

Laugh. In times that are difficult a good laugh will ease all pain.

Hard is good. This may have come out wrong (eeek!) but what I mean is our work is not always easy, in fact, it’s rarely easy. But if it were easy, not only would it be less satisfying, but everyone would do it. The challenge is what makes it so great.

So take my advise and don’t take the train!

I’ve attached a collage of a few candid photos from the journey, not the destination. They may not be photos you love or of people you know, but for me they represent a learning experience and an adventure.

What I Learned This Year #15: Ana Bogusky, Founding Insurgent, FearLess Revolution

How I look at things is
all that matters:
My family is breathtaking and delightful.
My work is inspiring and satisfying.
My history is comforting and interesting.
My health is precious and wonderful.
My being continues to be reminded of all of this.

What I Learned This Year #16: Ryan Johnson, Creative Director, Vladimir Jones

The truth is, our problems are rarely as ominous as we make them out to be. And sometimes, what people want most...is an armrest. Allow me to explain.

So this year, I boarded a plane. I was lucky enough to be seated in the bulkhead. In the moment, of course, this barely made up for the burdens of our business that sat down with me. Now, if you have been on an airplane lately, you know every flight is overbooked. So, the guy in 6A and I eyed each other optimistically, while noticing 6B remained empty. The steward was about to reach for the microphone, announce that it was time to cut ourselves off from the world and close the door just as 6B showed up.

He burst through the door like a German Liberace.

Swinging his briefcase at the heads of the unsuspecting first class passengers. Apologizing, “Entschuldigen sie bitte,” to each row in a heavy German accent. iPad, magazine, newspaper and iPhone clutched in his non-assault hand. Red-faced and sweating it was as if he--in his bright red jeans and silver high-tops and Wham! backup dancer t-shirt--had suddenly realized he wasn’t at the airport to just drink beer and stain his t-shirt with mustard. He was at the airport to catch a flight. He had clearly sprinted from the bar to do just that.

He hurriedly settled in. For the next two hours we waged an epic battle over the armrest. He would lay claim. I would counter with the deep breath draw in, expand and push. This year, I learned that in the chess match for the armrest, he whose elbow is closest to the seat back has the leverage. And he who has the leverage wins.

I learned how to remain fake-sleeping while sustaining near-full blown punches to the bicep and forearm. I also learned that maybe the German in 6B needed the armrest more than I did. That maybe my problems aren’t that all-consuming. Maybe by providing the one thing people need, you’ll win in the end. These lessons reminded me once again that we work in a business of compromise.

This year, I learned that true wisdom is the ability to know which fights are worth fighting. Which of those compromises are worth making. Or not. I learned that the armrest can stand for a lot of things. A laugh. An opportunity. A belief. A team. I learned that my job is to make sure people on both sides of the armrest feel like they have all the comfort they need. And then some.

I learned that often times the fights not worth fighting are the most stressful. The most unfulfilling. But, the easiest to turn into leadership opportunities. I learned that knowing the fights to fight makes all the difference.

However, that day at that time, I chose not to subscribe to those higher notions. Not to relent and give up my hard-fought position on the armrest. I denied all aspirations to attain loftier ideals. No, this day I chose to win that particular game of armrest. I don’t know why. However, my win was acknowledged as the plane headed in for its final descent. As the landing gear opened into place, my eyes opened to 6B looking me squarely in the face. He boldly declared out of frustration in his heavy German accent,

“Du knowest, zie awmvest ist un give und take.”

I responded almost unconsciously in my very much feigned German accent,

“Zat ist vie you give und I take.”

I learned one more thing this year: sometimes, it’s too much fun to mess with people who tuck bright red jeans into silver high-tops.

What I Learned This Year #17: Mandy Stevens, Freelance Creative Director + Copywriter

As I look back over the last year, I’ve learned a little about a lot of things. The one notion that seems to find itself in everything is this:

You have to want it. Whatever it is, you have to really, really want it. You can’t just picture it or visualize it or set your sights on it. These days that’s not enough to make it real. At least not in my world. You have to want it so bad that you’re inspired enough, intensely driven and even frighteningly pressured to do everything it takes to get the most out of life. Professionally (as a full-time freelancer), it has meant continuing to commit to every project as if I’m one of your die-hard employees even though I might not get a call back. Personally, it has meant putting everything on the line (my husband and I opened The Desk in April, a coworking café in Capitol Hill) and taking a hard look at what I thought really mattered to me and realizing I’ve never been more wrong in my life.

What I’d like everyone who might still be reading this to realize is that when you really want it, what tends to happen is something you could never imagine. That’s why all the visualization techniques in the world don't work all that well. When you want something–I mean really want something–you actually wind up with so much more than you could ever hope for.

And for that I’m thankful and wish everyone a new year chock-full of that beautiful thing called want.

What We Learned This Year #18: Quick Left, Software Development Consultancy

2012 was a dynamic year for us: we changed the make-up of our executive and leadership team, grew (and shrunk, and then grew again) our sales and marketing teams, penetrated new markets and created new revenue streams (training, expansions to other markets). We continued to find out what's in our wheelhouse and (maybe more importantly) what isn't and refine our emphasis on customer service. We took risks, made key hires and acquired some big-name clients along the way. We contributed more open source than ever and continued to stretch our legs in our fabulous office space in the heart of downtown Boulder. We put a sign on the window with large, bold type explaining exactly what we do in a single sentence. Most importantly, we've set the table for even better things to come in 2013.

Here are a few other observations:

• There can be a kids table and an adults table–everyone ends up having more fun that way anyway!
• Unfortunately, we had to part ways with a co-founder. We learned that growing up is hard, but pushing through difficult times leads to even better things on the other side.
• Presentation is just as important for internal communication to your team as is for external communication for your customers and partners.
• Apropos to that last point, gray area and ambiguity can undermine even the best efforts.
• Learning from your mistakes and staying positive will always get you further than pointing fingers or promoting a doom & gloom attitude.
• It's important to figure out what you are really good at and staff accordingly to fill in the gaps, rather than trying to "hero" it through because you're "supposed" to.
• As we grow and get more smart problem solvers, better process and become scalable, it's important to remember how we got here, by being scrappy and taking risks, and having a passion for the craft.
• We love doing this, we love working together and we've got a lot yet to learn. We are excited for 2013!

Happy New Year, Love, Sam (@wookiehangover) and Ingrid (@electromute)

What I Learned This Year #19: Melanie Pruitt, Illustrator

I learn small lessons every day. One of my continuing lessons – and it can be a tough one – is to be less aware of myself and more aware of others. This can be something as simple as holding the door for someone or noticing a slight flicker in someone's eyes that lets me know they need some encouragement. I've learned I'll never be "the best" at my craft, and I'm ok with that. I'm content with being aware of my surroundings.

What We Learned This Year #20: Legwork Studio

Not to sound cliché, but 2012 was an amazing year for us. We saw new challenges and accepted new opportunities. We grew our staff, but not too much. We became very aware of our capabilities and pushed them to the limits. We hit the skateparks during lunch, formed Andrew WK cover bands, did kegstands, and worked our asses off. We think of ourselves as a family and we thought it made sense for each individual Legworker to share a lesson learned, check out our little retrospective at this link.

What We Learned This Year #21: Ink Lounge Creative (Stu & Nicky Alden)

To make things happen you gotta boon your doggle – Every 6 months or so we find a coffee shop and hash out where our company is and where it is going. This often leads to drinks at a nearby bar as our discussion and excitement cannot be quenched by coffee alone. In our January boon (or doggle) we realized that having two companies, Idaho Stew AND Ink Lounge, was a fragmented brand and that we would scold each and every one of our clients if they approached us to communicate/brand a business model like this. We are many things, but hypocrites is a label we did not want to wear. So we decided to say some lovely words about Idaho Stew and respectfully lay it to rest, with maybe a 21 gun salute, and welcome Ink Lounge Creative. And it made sense, because overall we are a creative company who has built great relationships with our clients, who really don’t care what our name is as long as we serve them well, and with the community who has gotten to know us as Ink Lounge. And did we screenprint our sign and our website? Yes, yes we did.

Mother Nature is a bitch – we had heard that you can expose a screen by using the sun and eagerly tried it out, discovering that it takes mere seconds outside to do what it takes us 6-7 minutes inside using our exposure unit. We even exposed one on a cloudy day during a rain shower – fantastic! We were doing a workshop at the University of Wyoming and this was so much fun we figured we should have the students use the sun to expose screens there. Except that Laramie is a higher elevation, the clouds kept creeping over and their setup wasn’t exactly like ours. The first group was kinda hit and miss so we quickly pulled out lights and went to plan B, which worked great but by then we were stressed and just overall disappointed that Mother Nature was not cooperating, although the students had a great time and were not fazed much at all. Ok, so what we really learned is to have a stellar plan B, and if Mother Nature is part of any equation you better test your process in other parts of the country. In the end we had lots of smiling faces and that’s ALL that matters: http://www.flickr.com/photos/14868235@N02/sets/72157629831181327/

Your head will explode if you don’t say “no” – We have a tendency at Ink Lounge to say “yes” to almost everything that comes our way. Craft fairs, workshops, new clients, speaking events, portfolio reviews, student tours, you name it, you ask it, we do it. And we don’t do it half-assed, we stay up all night, we get up early, we work weekends. Why? Because we love what we do and are super excited to share it with the world. That is until this year when our heads literally almost exploded, and then we understood that if we don’t say “no” occasionally we don’t get to actually enjoy what we do. We want to always love it, and people understand you can’t do it all. It’s not a new lesson, it’ just that sometimes it takes getting knocked in the head by a truck to bring it to the surface.

Cross the pond to pull a sicky – we love to travel and we love design and we love to screenprint and if you can combine all of that into one British ball of amazing, by all means do it. When our friends moved to England for the year and offered up a spare bed to crash, we realized that all that time we spent searching the web for workshops overseas has finally paid off. We sent off our fee to pull a sicky (I swear that’s what they call it) at Print Club London, bought plane tickets and spent 2 weeks learning how the Brits screenprint, design, eat, drink, travel and celebrate the Olympics, plus got a taste of Belgium too. Getting out of the country once a year puts our life into perspective, feeds our creativity and opens our eyes to the world. And even though we already know how to screenprint the Ink Lounge way, there is always more to learn. Wa-lah!

Dudes are crafty too – Technically we did our first Holiday Mancraft in December 2011, but it was a bit of an experiment to see if we gathered a bunch of guys in one place to show what they were made of, if anyone would come to check it out. And they did. So, in 2012 we put even more guys in a place that serves food and makes whiskey, to show what kind of awesome crafts they can man-up and make, and do you know what happened? Even more people come to check it out. And they buy stuff too. Maybe the lesson here is talented guys + manly craft + good food & whiskey + festive holiday shoppers = an awesome time by all http://www.flickr.com/photos/14868235@N02/sets/72157632215558144/

Cheers to 2013!

What I Learned This Year #22: Josh Wills, Creative Director, Factory Design Labs

No. 1 : Lucky Number 13

People change. Learn to love them for who they are just as much as you loved them for who they were. My wife and I are celebrating thirteen years of marriage this New Year. Four children and a few knife fights later we have both changed a lot. I’ve enjoyed the great pleasure of falling in love with the same lady a few times over. She has and continues to change my life.

No. 2 : Work Harder Than Everyone Else

A strong work ethic will take you a long way. A wee bit of talent, hard work and perseverance mixed together is an unstoppable force.

No. 3 : Be Uncomfortable

Seek out experiences that offer opportunities to learn/do something new.

No. 4 : Learn The Bidness Side of Design

I’ve had the great pleasure of working with an account director that knows our
clients business / industry inside and out. This has proven to be invaluable. Trust
works both ways… clients have to be able to trust that any creative ideas, strategies,
etc. presented are for the greater good of the brand and their business.

No. 5 : Chase Rainbows

Create, champion, and defend work that you believe in all the way through to the end. See No. 4.

What I Learned This Year #23: Andrew McGuire, Creative Director, Impossible

Every Brand is a Content Network

It was the day after Christmas last year when the movers arrived. After seven years in LA, I was taking my wife, twin two-year-old girls, and my dreams to Colorado.

I've been a hybrid talent before it was trendy, which means I was somewhat out of place in the mega agency world. I've always been about making media-neutral content that tickles brand strategists and audiences alike. So I jumped at the opportunity to return to my beloved Colorado with a hybrid shop trying to do things differently.

I liked that they were called Impossible (not Impossible Pictures, that was so 1990s) because that's pretty much what they're asked to do every day mostly for television networks cranking out award-winning rebrands, promos, commercials and motion design. The new job was going to give me a nice change of pace from the ad world. So I thought.

I soon learned, that the ad/brand world and production/network world are in fact not all that different. They both are facing seismic change with the explosion of social media, new technologies, shrinking budgets, and an infinitely segmented market. Above all, they're both now in the "content marketing" business.

You may have seen the term "content marketing" trending on the conference scene and filling up every "what's gonna be hot in 2013" blog post. Some call it the next big thing in the post-ad world. Reality is, it's nothing new. It's been around for years in many forms and under many different names – from soap operas to BMW films to, recently, Red Bull's Stratos. While I have a great disdain for any "marketing" term, I believe it isn't just another fad. Thanks to social media, content is now the conversation currency of our time.

Today, every brand is now a content publisher and network. At least they ought to be. Relevant content (unlike interrupting ads) gives brands new relevance and a unique voice in a sea of sameness, ineffective ads, and cynical audiences. In short, content is a BFD. Some brands have learned this lesson. Red Bull, Coca-Cola, American Express, Kraft and GE are themselves turning into niche content networks.

Of course, television networks are still players in the content hungry world, they just no longer rule it. For them, they're hope for survival lies in making the pivot from content destinations to content curators across all screens.

Like social media strategy, a clear content strategy (and production platform) needs to be fully integrated into every business model from the inside out. Brands will be creating content labs (much like news rooms) and social command centers to crank out a constant flow and stock of content for their customers to engage with and share.

So whether you do words, images or moving images, this is an exciting time for content producers and marketers. The need for quality and quantity of content is only rivaled by the need for good storytelling and clear brand voice.

So I'm glad I made the jump to Colorado and Impossible. I'm living the dream in the cross section of brand and content. For Impossible, we continue to be specialists in branding television networks but are now poised to conquer all content networks.

Get ready. 2013 is the year of content. And like it or not, we're all in the content marketing business now.

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