Executive Ideas Marketing Teams

Curious and Rigorous

The best marketers are both curious and rigorous.

Curious means they ask questions. They explore. They create. It’s the creative side.

Rigorous means they are relentless in seeking answers to their questions. They execute. They’re disciplined. They measure and therefore learn.

Goals Reflection

Twenty Nineteen

The most surprising thing about 2019 was that I found out that I’m highly allergic to buckwheat. Buckwheat!? Yep, buckwheat. Got an Epi-Pen and all. The doctor was so surprised he wanted to use me as a case study. Apparently no one is as allergic to buckwheat as I am.

My 2019 word was Finish. So I finished 54 books. Normally I eat books buffet-style. I read for action. Get actionable insight and move on.

However, finishing more books was gratifying. Getting in the habit of finishing books cultivated the muscles of completion; the skill of seeing things through.

NOTE: The goal isn’t to finish all the books you start. Just the ones worth finishing. Don’t be guilted by sunk cost bias.

In addition to improving my habit of reading, there were a few more habits that helped me in 2019:

  1. Daily Gratitude. I started doing this more seriously in 2018 and it became an important anchor.
  2. Daily Affirmation. It might seem cliché or cheesy but starting the day with strong reminders of who you aspire to be and who you are is both empowering and humbling. The exact place you want to be.
  3. Daily Excercise. It took me most of the year to settle into this, but getting into a daily lifting routine is perfect. I like to lift weights and tend to go hard and heavy. Doing that and everything else I do in my day made it difficult to maintain. Once I realized that lifting isn’t an end, but a means to an end I figured out the right level of effort.

The habits are not breakthrough ideas. At the end of 2019, I’m more convinced than ever that success in life is just closing the gap between what you know you should do and your ability (and commitment) to do it.

I love learning and in 2019, I decided to go more formal with it again. I joined the Harvard Business Analytics Program. It had exactly the right blend of coursework that I was looking for in a program. It has business, leadership, data, technology, programming, marketing, and everything you need to become a leader in the modern digital world. You can learn more here. Plan to complete it in 2020.

Twenty Nineteen established a strong foundation. Habits are the key (Atomic Habits is the perfect 2019 book about habits). They are the engine and the wheels, but you still need a map and a destination.

Here is the list of books I finished (in order of when I finished). Some were released in 2019, others have been on my list for a while, and others I like to reread often (like Linchpin and Essentialism). I’ll probably come back and add links later.

  1. Your Best Year Ever
  2. Leadership and Self-Deception
  3. Principles
  4. On Writing (by Stephen King )
  5. Awaken the Giant Within
  6. Power Moves
  7. Zone to Win
  8. Innovators Dilemma
  9. Daring Greatly
  10. Measure What Matters
  11. How to Win Friends and Influence People
  12. Platform
  13. Book Yourself Solid
  14. Deep Work
  15. Linchpin
  16. Essentialism
  17. The Snowball
  18. Extreme Productivity
  19. Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time
  20. Never Split the Difference
  21. One Page Marketing Plan
  22. The Coaching Habit
  23. Own the Room
  24. Made to Stick
  25. What got you here won’t get you there
  26. How will you measure your life?
  27. The Great Mental Models
  28. Extreme Ownership
  29. Trillion Dollar Coach
  30. Loonshots
  31. Making of a Manager
  32. Quiet
  33. Prosperity Paradox
  34. Range
  35. Atomic Habits
  36. Lead and Disrupt
  37. Company of One
  38. The Magic Of Thinking Big
  39. Secrets of Sand Hill Road
  40. Good Jobs Strategy
  41. The Dip
  42. The Culture Code
  43. Blink
  44. The Alchemist
  45. Get Together
  46. How to be yourself
  47. What you do is who you are
  48. Creative Calling
  49. The Compound Effect
  50. Playing to Win
  51. New Testament
  52. The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business and Life 
  53. The Man Who Solved the Markets
  54. Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance

Let’s play startup.

Stop trying so hard to play startup. Build a business. Get funding or bootstrap. But the real goal is to solve a problem people value enough to pay for. Creating a company should come after the product or service; not before.

Stop trying so hard to play agency. Build a team of people that drive results. Organize yourselves in a way that produces those results. Just because we all watched Mad Men and romanticized agency life doesn’t mean we need to call ourselves an agency or act as the agency of the past. Embrace the transformation.

Surface-level-going-through-the-motions is like feeling important versus being important. It’s like telling people you’re going to do something versus showing people.


Tearing down fences.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the fences we put up in our minds.

What would we love to do, but think impossible? What are we saying “no” to before others–people or markets–even have a chance to?

I recently found a card given to me when I was young. It had a quote from Shakespeare on it:

Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.

–William Shakespeare

What are your mental fences? What fences have you put up on your team? Or at your business? What are important things you believe that you’ve given up on?

I invite you to examine the fences you’ve allowed others to put up, and the ones we’ve put up ourselves. And then tear them down.

Execution Improvement


I’ve been re-reading some books that are considered classics. One I’ve been slowly working my way through again is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. My dad gave me a copy when I was 14 years old and I’ve read a few times since then. Even if you haven’t read it, you’ll recognize a lot of the concepts.

The first habit is “Be Proactive” and one of my favorite parts is when he talks about Viktor Fankl (of Man’s Search for Meaning fame). Victor Frankl was imprisoned in Nazi Germany during WWII. From the book:

“One day, [Viktor Frankl] began to become aware of what he later called ‘the last of the human freedoms’ – the freedom his Nazi captors could not take away. They could control his entire environment, they could do what they wanted with his body, but Victor Frankl himself was a self-aware being who could look as an observer at his very involvement. His basic identity was intact. He could decide within himself how all of this was going to affect him. Between what happened to him, or the stimulus, and his response to it, was his freedom or power to choose the response.”

He summarizes the section with this: “Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.”


He gives some examples of reactive language we use and a possible proactive response:

Reactive languageProactive Language
There’s nothing I can do.Let’s look at our alternatives.
That’s just the way I am.I can choose a different approach.
They won’t allow that.I can create an effective presentation.
I have to do that.I will choose an appropriate response.
I can’t.I choose.
I must.I prefer.
If only.I will.

This concept changed my view of the world. The ability to pause and choose is so empowering. Our “circle of concern” is usually bigger than our “circle of influence” but a positive approach to solving problems widens our influence beyond what we directly control and can create real and lasting change.

Execution Strategy

5 points of strategy execution.

  • Execution doesn’t always equal alignment. It’s coordination across units.
  • Execution doesn’t mean stick to the plan. It’s continuous, disciplined reallocation.
  • Communication doesn’t equal understanding. Simple, consistent communication does.
  • Performance culture doesn’t drive execution. It’s the right behaviors that fuel execution.
  • Execution isn’t driven from the top. It happens in the trenches.