Thursday, November 14, 2013

The day I almost died.

In July of 2012 my family went on a trip to the Hawaiian Islands. I learned a bit about myself on that trip. The power of stillness was something that I kept noticing. I caught myself realizing my moments. Reflecting on the now in a way that was reminiscent to the way I would as a child. I would be playing in my backyard with some plastic army men and I would pause and look around me. Take in the sights, sounds and smells. I would try and capture that particular moment in my memory as much as possible. “I AM Now”  I would think to myself. I hadn’t created that realization for a long time. The clarity of those moments held tight enough to my memories that I was able to recall them quite clearly. So I would sit in a wooden chair in a balcony and really look at the landscape before me and then draw my attention in to the pealed tangerine on my armrest. There was a beauty in the uniqueness to the texture that I could relate to the moment.
I actively searched for those escapes into these “Now” moments. Then one afternoon in Maui I decided to leave my wife and daughter at the pool and go, unbeknownst to them, for a walk on the beach. I stepped into the perfect water and there it was again. I decided to explore a bit further so I rented some snorkeling gear and headed into the ocean. I awkwardly put on the mask and flippers and swam out. The sudden silencing of the yelling, splashing tourists surrounding me felt like a massive door had shut behind me as I sunk my head into the water. The amazing scene before me of colorful fish and coral made the world above me seem like it was in black and white. It was in a word, magic. I slowly swam and took in the sights doing my best to survey as much as possible. There was a school of fish that swam past me that was impossibly white. I decided to follow it as far as I could. I was truly lost in the experience.

After a while I began to realize that I was beginning to get tired. I wasn’t an avid swimmer and was clearly not in as good a shape as I may have thought. I popped my head up to start heading back and realized that I had swum very far from shore, very, very far. I was in-fact farther from shore than anyone at the beach.  I began to realize I had no other option than to put my head down and swim back as quickly as I could with the little energy I had left. So I took a deep breath and swam hard toward the shore. I lifted my head after a while hoping that I was close enough to possibly reach down and touch the ground with my foot and then was shocked to see I had not moved any closer to the shore. Looking back on that moment I’m surprised to say, I didn’t panic. I got mad. I got mad at myself for allowing this to happen. Allowing myself to get into a situation I couldn’t control. So as tired as I was I had no other option than to keep swimming. For some reason, at this point, I removed my mask and snorkel and swam as hard as I could for as long as I could. At one point I saw a woman on a surfboard and called out to her with a feeble wave. She responded by waving back with a smile and paddling away. This made me even angrier than I was before. The best I could muster was a pathetic dog paddle at this point breathing shallow breaths and counting every stroke. I could feel my muscles cramping up but now got close enough to call out to a person playing in the water on shore. He ran out and leapt into the water like Aquaman. I remember this heroic man grabbing my arm and yelling, “Swim!” “Swim!” and me thinking to myself he seemed a tad over dramatic but I really appreciated the help and enthusiasm. I thanked him and once I was able to touch the ground I slowly walked myself to shore and collapsed. I laid down on the sand feeling angry and ashamed at myself. It was at that moment I received one of my biggest moments of clarity. I realized that my wife and daughter almost lost a husband and father. They had no idea I even went into the ocean. I had another “I AM Now” moment that felt very different from any other I had ever felt. I had escaped tragedy by the skin of my teeth. It made me feel fragile. I realized that my moments were just a grain of sand in an endless beach of existence. My “Now” moments are not there for my amusement. They are reminders that life is finite. I need to make the most of them. I don’t want to live my life in the striving for something else. Those moments I spent fighting the currants of the North Pacific taught me that is pointless. Life is not lived in the planning. There is nothing before me other than a string of “Now” moments, each leading to the next. I am grateful that I had the wherewithal to keep going that day. And although my situation was dire I saw it as a problem to solve and a moment that was meant to lead me to the next moment. I think of this every time I look into my wife’s beautiful eyes or see my daughter’s contagious smile. I’m looking forward to many more moments to remember during my short but sweet stay.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I'm raising money to help kids with cancer.

I've answered the call to be a hero! I'm having my head shaved to stand in solidarity with kids fighting cancer, but more importantly, to raise money to find cures. Please support me with a donation to the St. Baldrick's Foundation. This volunteer-driven charity funds more in childhood cancer research grants than any organization except the U.S. Government. Your gift will give hope to infants, children, teens and young adults fighting childhood cancers. So when I ask for your support, I'm really asking you to support these kids. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A portion of a chapter of my book called "BE CONFORTABLE WITH FAILURE:

Charles Darwin, known as the father of the Theory of Evolution, was told by his own father "You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat catching." In his autobiography, Darwin wrote, "I was considered by all my masters and by my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect.'' What would have become of Charles Darwin if he had allowed the words of his father to dictate his own perception of his intellectual and creative capacity? The way we respond to failures, criticisms or inconveniences will likely reflect how we will react to a creative opportunities as they present themselves. Not all opportunities seem initially valuable. The majority requires the effort of being placed into context. Our over reaction to a negative notion could kill our progress as we develop a solution. Our frustration with our own ability to not have the answer now feeds our failure. Our perceptions set the tone for the outcome of everything we do. If we believe that creativity is a skill set that we are gifted at birth. Then you will likely immediately justify your own limitations and never try to grow.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Managing a Strong Creative Team

The key to managing a strong creative team involves hiring the right people for the culture of your business and empowering them. Empowering your staff creates ownership and shows them that you respect them. It produces work that reflects the level of commitment your staff has to the business.

When you create a nurturing environment that respects good work and sees bad work as learning opportunities, it helps build a culture of innovation that is inclusive and inspiring. It's important that your people feel (and know) that you have their backs.

Understanding that the ultimate goal is to create an efficient and profitable workplace, protect your staff from things that waste everyone's time or create unnecessary situations. Doing this shows your employees the quality of their work environment is a priority to you.

Be aware that you are being observed. The vastness of a leader's responsibility can sometimes cause him/her to lose touch with the emotional sensitivity of employees. Realize your performance is always being judged.

And lastly, remember that everything you do affects everyone on your team. Your bad day can ruin their good day. Your goofy dance can break them out of a creative slump. We're all human, we're all friends. Remember that and you'll always have success.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Wicked Tusk of the Narwhal

“You question me about the wicked tusk of the narwhal, and I reply by describing to you how the sea unicorn with the harpoon in it dies.”
 – Pablo Neruda from the poem the Enigmas

In the poem Neruda speaks of the narwhal, that is an odd looking whale with a tusk that protrudes from its mouth. An animal feared and once thought to be a monster. The creature is used to illustrate how we make snap judgment. The answer is relative to the asker. People live within their own values and morals. We are all slaves to our own experiences. A person who lives a peaceful life is affected by cruelty differently than a person who had never known a life without cruelty. It’s natural to see how difficult it is making judgments on choices or what is right and wrong when the fact that all of us are so tightly wound in our experiences and fears that it makes highly improbable that any of us will ever see things the same. Understanding people instead of vilifying them for believing differently is instrumental in the evolution of humanity and the key to the development of our own understanding of our creative capacity.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Left Brain vs Right Brain

The "Right Brain" Creative side feeds content to the "Left Brain" the analytical side so that it can be executed properly. Successful implementation of an idea inspires more ideas and the circle continues. It's not so important that you are either right brain or left brain. What is important is the understanding that one needs the other to innovate and succeed. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Creative Courage Workshop at American Institute of Architects Las Vegas Chapter Design Conferance.

These are photos of a workshop I did on Friday September 20,2013. I had 3 hours so I was able to include a creative exercise. I gave 6 different groups 6 different props and had them come up with Names, What they do, and had them write a commercial spot for them. The result was very fun. You can see the video of one of them here:

A little taste of my workshop. Audience participation.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Courage of Knowing by Alex Raffi

The wind pressed on a smile
We gather our intentions and wait
Our ticking life tips us off to the waiting calm of our discoveries. 
It's the noticing that escapes us
The silent scream of invention in our ear.
We are surrounded by it in its silken blackness.
Slightly waving in the breeze.
Light peeks between the drapes. 
Now... Now... Now...
A soft slow flash of knowing.
There and gone again. 
But always there, waiting.
We stretch and reach for it from our seats.
We fail and learn and live with the courage of knowing
And that is enough, for now.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Nuance surprises us. We often don’t seek it out. It just sneaks up on us. It is the unexpected insertion of life into the adequate expression of a thing. We don’t consciously miss it, but definitely know when it happens.

You see this very clearly in music. An amateur cellist for example can take a sheet of music and play every note perfectly. Not one error. Not one missed beat. Yet the same sheet of music in the hands of a seasoned cellist result in something very different. The same notes are also played in the same order and tempo yet there is a life within the melody you don’t get from the amateur. There is fullness to the execution that only comes from complete faith in intuition and skill. This is also true in our creativity. The creative process is a skill to be mastered. We begin to focus less on the acquisition of ideas and innovations and begin to act instinctively and trust our judgment. Trust it so deeply in fact that we are able to just live in the process. In the same way be become familiar with a musical instrument.  Our understanding and implementation of it at its fullest capacity becomes a common practice. We then begin to act instinctively and become less focused on our technique and more focused on the experience of expression. We live it rather than execute it. It becomes equivalent to our expression rather than what we do to express ourselves. It is the moment when you become creatively free.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fall Upward

We take in our days with the familiarity of comfort. We believe in our predictions. We depend on the consistency of our survival while forsaking exposure to a deeper consideration. We tell ourselves that there is little hope in chance even while we take it. But all of us have wandered. All of us have walked into the dark places with wide eyes and have been elevated by the discovery. Those moments are not chance exploration. Those moments define our "why". They are the essence of what makes you believe in your truth. They are manifestations of our creativity and courage. A new belief holds power. A power that like a fire spreads and grows but builds rather than destroys. It inspires and delivers opportunity. We do this and call it luck. We explore and see new things and don't take credit for noticing. Learning and teaching take equal shares of courage. Accepting a new idea at times feels like standing on the edge of a rocky cliff and letting yourself fall forward. But it's important to realize that there is no gravity in the creative process. You are in control. Allow yourself to fall upward. Learning and teaching, listening and sharing is the most important thing we can do for each other.

You need to get wet.

Imagine a never-ending rain that covers the entirety of the earth. Now imagine every raindrop as data that could be used to solve problems, understand language, inspire emotions, and deliver expectations. Now imagine how many of these drops actually touch us with a lifetime of rain. How many times we've shielded ourselves from data necessary to collect so we can creatively process these drops into manageable solutions, important questions, bigger understandings, stronger communications or in essence conscious realization. The rain is out there always falling always present. We just need a willingness to get wet.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Nobody Cares about You

Sorry if that seems harsh, but the truth is in the way that statement makes you feel. If you agree, then I am likely right. If you are offended by that statement, you likely don't believe it's true and you've already begun to file through all the reasons why'.

"I have value!"
"I make a difference!"
"I change lives!"

Great! That is the perfect state of mind to be in to get some real work done. If you really believe those things are true, you must ask yourself if others also think that way about you or your brand. Do people seek you out? Do they value associating with you? If not, is it their fault, or yours?

When people ask "What do you do?", are they looking for a list of tasks? Or, are they actually asking "What can you fix?", or "Can you enlighten me on solutions I didn't even realize I need?" If they had the answer to those questions then they wouldn't be talking to you, right? So, it's not about you, it's about the results you can achieve.

But to find out how to answer those questions, you first need to figure out what it is you do, how you do it and why you do it. Be truthful to yourself at this point, as it will lead you on the right path. It will open your eyes to the value and impact of what you do. This makes answering the big questions easier, because you become more qualified to understand what motivates and drives you. Solutions manifest themselves more quickly as a result, and you can answer the "What can you fix?" questions with confidence.

When people ask you, "What do you do?", you should describe the impact of what you do first. Then the tactics on how you get those results, so they can clearly see how what you do impacts what they need.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Monday, June 3, 2013

What does your brand stand for?

I recently encountered the question, "what does your brand stand for?" In essence, what makes you different? The advice that followed the question recommended making "a list of the differences and the extremes and start with that. A brand that stands for what all brands stand for stands for nothing much."


I don't agree with the premise that you need to compare and contrast your business with others to discover what your brand stands for. Comparisons don't reveal the truth about who and why you are, they only reveal differences. But being different is not your goal, it's your inevitable result if you go through the process of defining your brandWhen using comparisons to define your brand, you are more likely to see perceived negatives and counter them with definitions that may or may not be true. At that point, your brand is being defined by the failings of others and not by what is truly great about it. I believe the better advice is to look inward and examine your methods and techniques of doing business. What are your personal motivations? What are your learned solutions?Collecting that information will define your brand truthfully,and the differences will manifest themselves within the definition. If you are able to share with others who you are and why you do what you do, you are communicating the truth of what your brand stands for. And, if you don't like what you see,you are now in a position to develop an informed solution.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Finding out the why could lead you to the correct path.

When you find yourself liking something or inspired by something, take a moment to ask yourself "why?". Finding out the deeper reason of why something inspires you could be very valuable. You will be surprised at what you might learn about yourself. It's good to break away from the roles we feel we need to play and find our true path in life.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Our Theater Within A Theater

One way to illustrate how we as a whole don't even come close to reaching our own creative capacity is to consider our dreams. If you think of your dream as a movie  you would begin to see that your role in it consists of being the writer, director, actor, costume designer, set designer, casting agent and the list goes on. This can be seen as activity developed by our unconscious mind. On top of all of that we also act as audience members in our own production. This can be seen as our conscious awareness. 

Our creativity works in the same way. Within the theater of our mind lives another smaller but very powerful inner-theater. Our unconscious mind. We have a conscious awareness of our creative process as well as an unconscious awareness that gathers and ignores information. We could never consider every possibility at the same time so we must process this information quickly and efficiently. 

Our inner-theater makes choices for us and at times decides what information we value and wish to retain. It then offers these ideas up to our conscious mind and we decide again from this "conscious awareness" if it is relevant. But it is important to realize that this "conscious awareness" is now directly effected by fear of judgment, intimidation, shyness,... All the things we struggle with and that limit us during the creative process. But if we realize we ultimately have control over these unconscious values because we are the programers of them, it may help us trust and improve our own creative capacity. 

Our unconscious mind is in a sense programed to react to information by our own conscious values. If we understand that exploring new ideas, by enriching ourselves through taking hard thoughtful looks at our successes and failures and by really listening and seeking out fresh data; We begin to program our unconscious mind. We can actively begin to develop our own creative capacity and reach better solutions more quickly. If we begin to realize we are programming ourselves with the impressions and values we gather throughout our day, we can then see how we are reprogramming our unconscious mind to build and deliver better more qualified information to our conscious awareness. What we do with the information once we get it is another story. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Creative Courage Webinar

Creative Courage is a webinar designed to demystify the idea of the individual and group creative process and discuss creativity as a necessary problem-solving skill. Creator Alex Raffi believes if people realize the creative process is not exclusive and is readily available to anyone willing to use it, the wall keeping them from tapping their creativity will eventually crumble.

As people get older, they generally tend to discourage themselves from reaching their full potential because they are afraid to fail. A need to place value on results and to compare accomplishments to those of others arises. Creative Courage fights these demotivating factors and encourages people to harness the creativity they once had as children and use it in their business and personal lives.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Capture Inspiration

It's widely believed that inspiration can not be forced. It's also a widely held belief that time is money. Unfortunately those two ideas work against each other. Usually we find that, at work or school, inspiration is needed within a deadline. That's why it's important to realize that inspiration can be more easily accessible.

We can use preparation and practice to help draw that inspiration in . Surrounding ourselves with reminders of our success sets an optimistic environment to build from. We must work hard to create an environment that nurtures and inspires the creative process as much as possible. We must entertain every thought and consider every option. We can develop our creative efficiency when we realize the differance between qualified and unqualified ideas as individuals. We must leave our ego at the door and work together to find the best solution. We must allow ourselves to entertain seemingly irrelevant notions with the understanding that they can lead us to innovation and we must be fearless during the process. Capture inspiration. Waiting for inspiration is for amateurs.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What is Creative Courage?

Creative Courage is a workshop designed to demystify the idea of the individual and group creative process and discuss creativity as a necessary problem-solving skill. Creator Alex Raffi believes if people realize the creative process is not exclusive and is readily available to anyone willing to use it, the wall keeping them from tapping their creativity will eventually crumble. 

As people get older, they generally tend to discourage themselves from reaching their full potential because they are afraid to fail. A need to place value on results and to compare accomplishments to those of others arises. Creative Courage fights these demotivating factors and encourages people to harness the creativity they once had as children and use it in their business and personal lives.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Drawing with numbers

This is a little simple drawing lesson I developed for kids. Feel free to share with your little ones. If they like it share the pictures with me. :)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Have you ever wondered how to draw a dragon?

The Creative Journey is more amazing than the destination.

Offering freedom for children to explore their creative process and develop is so much bigger than the physical results of a finalized pieces of artwork. Something much bigger is happening within their minds that we don't see. It's important to realize that the act of creating art is honing the child's ability to problem solve and be innovative. They are learning to trust their intellectual capacity. This makes them better learners with more empathy and curiosity as they enter into and grow through a very structured educational system. A system that requires self motivation and a broad acceptance of many new ideas. It is the perfect preparation for whatever may come their way. So when a child creates a piece of art we need to realize the amazing voyage that happened during the process. And we need to make sure they keep taking those voyages and don't forget them.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

13 lessons I've learned on how to have a productive discovery meeting

Here are 13 lessons I've learned over the years about how to have a productive discovery meeting with a client. It's during these meetings that we develop our understanding of our client and build strategy.

1) Pay close attention to body language throughout the meeting. It lets you know how much you may need to elaborate on a question or move on to other topics.

2) Establish trust by showing you are making an effort to really understand their needs early on.

3) Try not to ask generic questions. Build your questions based on previous answers. Progressive questions will lead you to a better understanding of needs.

4) Try to find easier ways to illustrate ideas presented by the client through metaphor or personal anecdotes. It will show a true want for a deeper understanding and also allow you to know if you are on point.

5) Really show them who you are during the meeting. Be yourself.

6) Don't be afraid to ask "dumb" questions. We tend to ask questions based on an initial intellectual need. It may help to elaborate after the answer is given on why the question was relevant to you and what you learned from the answer.

7) Remember you are the "expert," so be confident and share some industry wisdom.

8) Remember that you are discussing a topic that is deeply personal to the client, so act accordingly.

9) There is always a hidden truth that will teach you something really valuable. If you don't know that truth, you must dig deeper.

10) Remember that it is a process. If you don't feel you've found what you are looking for in the allotted time, schedule a new meeting.

11) At some point, explain to the client an idea or thought given to you by the client. The hope is that the client will begin to think in terms of marketing. This will make the relationship more valuable and effective.

12) The best way to impress a client during a discovery meeting is to show you were paying attention. Make sure they see that you have been.

13) And most importantly, after the meeting, do what you said you were going to do. It's much easier to lose integrity than build it.

The Power Of Photoshop

The Shining
Six years ago a close family friend broke the news that their 9-year-old daughter, Claire, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Hearing such devastating news about people that you care so deeply about immediately gives you a deep feeling of helplessness. Claire’s father signed up to be a shavee for St. Baldrick’s that year and my wife, daughter and I attended to show our support. Being a fan of all things Irish, I was taken over by the incredible energy of the night… the music, the kids, volunteers and of course, the shavees! I was so inspired that I signed up the following year myself. I've been a passionate supporter ever since. 

Anyone who has ever been tasked with fundraising knows it is sometimes difficult to draw interest. I decided that the best way to create a donor opportunity was via social media, mainly Facebook. The core of running an effective social media campaign is "sharing." A lot of sharing. A strategy developed from that idea. I knew that just publicly thanking the donor for their generosity via Facebook was not enough. How could I make that "Thank you" bigger and more noticeable to others in the process? I decided to combine my passion for helping families dealing with childhood cancer and my passion for graphic arts. 

Star Wars
I decided to begin offering the donors photoshopped images as a way to recognize people's generosity but also to draw attention to the cause in a light-hearted way. I then made sure to keep all these images in a special folder so that they could be seen collectively and inspire others to give. The reaction was immediate.  Friends and family tried to "out do" each other by coming up with the most humorous photo ideas.  Some were based on their kid's favorite movie, some based on a historical moment, some just plain bizarre!  But each was personal and made the donor want to share it with their own family and friends, which introduced many people to the efforts of the St. Baldrick's Foundation.   

I believe it's important to acknowledge the charitable nature of others but also make the participants. It becomes a chain reaction that motivates more generosity. St. Baldrick's is a constant reminder of the power and importance of our children. And I believe the silly nature of this particular way of raising money has become a nod to the spirit of fun found in every child. Although it feels like the love we have for our own children is the most powerful feeling in the world, we must remember it is not unique to us. It's that love that gives families strength during trying times. I believe that is what motivates our family most and why we are all so passionate about the St. Baldrick's Foundation. 

Finding a way to inject fun into your fundraising efforts not only increases your donations, but also encourages others to join the cause.  I have found that by just offering this one incentive, my donations have increased considerably as the years progress.  And I love every minute of it!

Here are samples from the last campaign

Flash Gordon


Love Actually

Where the wild things are