Change is hard. Wait, no it’s not.

November 9, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

At NYCA we have a criteria that our work is only good if it grows the business. We say, “Nothing Matters But grow!” Of course, many other things in life matter but this is a mantra to help us focus and steer clear of the staticky small stuff that can get in the way. Like noise cancelling headphones. It works, but extreme focus can cause rigidity, fear, burnout or repeating a method because it is known, or merely time efficient. We want consistent production of grow! ideas and the benefits and joy that comes with them.

It’s easy to get stuck, trapped emotionally, creatively and fall into a pattern (a pitfall in consistency). This is bad for new ideas, bad for the soul, bad for business.

That’s why change is not only good, it’s a must. They say change is the only constant thing in life and I have heard and know personally how hard it is. But it beats the same every day. So I’m going to try to convince you and myself to stop resisting the inevitable and learn to embrace change, flow with it, even push it along.

1- Change requires deep introspection. That means learning about yourself. Who can be more interesting? So we gotta love that!

2- Change causes internal shifts. Shifts remind you that you’re alive; you can’t argue with life!

3- Change is giving up the known. I love pizza but how many times can I eat it? I discovered sushi many years ago when someone pushed me to it and it’s my favorite now!

4- Change challenges our self-image. I hope I’m better tomorrow than I was today, so thanks, change, for the opportunity!

If I haven’t convinced you of the joy of change think of this: what does it cost you to constantly stay the same? Talk about tense! How does it feel when you have to shut down your own natural energy and desire to stretch, to explore? That’s one person with two mega- forces inside them going against each other! Pepto anyone? How does staying in a rut, going over the same spot, again and again, affect your heart, your mind, your sense of self? I think it’s against the Geneva Convention.

So as we say in the NYCA Seed book each NYCAer gets when they drink the grow! juice (paraphrased to protect the ancient secret code of the NYCAer): Try new things, fail, fall, learn, take a new route to work, go out to a new place to eat, sit in a different spot at the conference table. Reinvent yourself in part and find your authenticity. And never ever be boring! Oh yeah, and grow!


Rut Buster II

October 13, 2010

By Dave Huerta, VP/Associate Creative Director @ NYCA

When I was 9 I used to play this game with my uncle where he’d draw a squiggle on a piece of paper, then hand me the pen and ask me to finish the drawing.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s whatever you want it to be,” he said.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could approach more projects with that in mind?

It’s a tough challenge these days. In our attempt to give consumers more ways to connect with brands, a single print ad, for example, can end up with multiple logos, multiple urls, tag lines, QR codes…

“Hey, what’s this ad supposed to communicate again?”

Well, here’s an exercise that helps us get back to that idea of “whatever you want it to be.” Pretty amazing how many different things can be seen from one squiggle.


Why I have the children and pets of NYCAers on my wall.

September 17, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

I have been told to take the cute pictures of the children and pets down, it’s too emotional.  And emotion can blur the ability to see and execute with great accuracy.  I can see that.

I keep the pictures of family members up because they remind me that decisions we all make affect more than what is right in front of us. When we are so focused on one thing we lose the concept of inter-being and the truth that we are all, and everything we do is, deeply connected. We must consider that our actions and words have an effect, often lasting. We must hold ourselves accountable. This is a way of living, thinking and acting mindfully. And that will keep us all on task with accuracy and compassion.

So the cuties stay.


The Harvester

September 14, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

He stands tall outside of our NY conference room offering his last food. His hand extending a bronze apple is a reminder of the power of generosity and the strength of our servant mentality. When the collective ego is in the goal of growing the business, this is not a sacrifice but a show of power. NYCAers are generous in spirit. Each fully offers their experience, their talents and passion to growing our clients businesses, growing each other, themselves, and the world around us. Hungry to succeed. Full of optimism. Always giving.


To find an idea, get lost.

September 10, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

I’m scared of the usual. I go out of my way to avoid it. So I’m perpetually lost. And I’m good with that. It’s why I try to eat at different places or never sit in the same chair in the conference rooms. Anything to give me a new perspective. New stimuli to react to. Anything to run me off the road of a routine and jab my senses awake.

The safe and well-lighted can be deadly attractive. But the need for originality has a greater power than the comfort of the known, and forces me into the gray. Off-balance is better than balance. I’d rather fall than stay still; I’d prefer to trip forward and land wherever. You have to live in-between, in the synapse, in the fog. Romantic, isn’t it? Yes, and we all love romance but there’s a danger: Will she kiss me? Will she slap me?

That’s the only way I believe you can discover a new way, invent a new road, what we at NYCA call a grow! idea. You gotta make yourself uncomfortable.

I actually like working on trains, planes, in the car. (You ever wonder how you got to where you’re going? Me too.) The motion pushes and pulls me, and my mind shakes free of the everyday. I might see something out the window, and that sparks something. I might hit the car in front of me and that makes me think something else. I might hear something on the radio and that makes me sing something. I might get off at a different exit – not wrong but unexpected – and that makes me see something new. I might not get to where I was going but I might get to a better place. And “I might” is what I’m after, not “I have” or “I did.”

So when my team tells me they’re lost, I know they are on their way. When I hear, “Oh, this assignment is easy,” I start getting tremors. Sometimes it is easy – the vision presents itself in a moment, and that’s great — but more often you bite into it and it’s fool’s gold.

You know that term “losing your mind”? I recommend it. The mind will tell you the rules, the mind will tell you fire burns or that is a bad thought. When you lose your mind, I think you lose your connection to the traditional – the acceptable way of doing something. And you can have originality – let’s call it temporary creative sanity. And what do you replace your lost mind with? A new idea, I hope. If not, get on a bus to anywhere.

So if you’re looking for a grow! idea, my direction to you would be to get lost.


Spirit of Water

September 3, 2010

We freely follow the path that we choose

We fill the world with our laughter

We roll with the tide, we rise with the dew

We are the spirit of water

We create energy dancing or still

Movement is part of our nature

We heal the earth, we always will

We are the spirit of water

We are an idea stream

Trickling into a river of dreams

Roaring and rumbling down to a creative ocean

We rise up to the sky

As clouds we fly by

Pouring down rain we fall and we flood and we flow

And open the seeds so new life will grow

We bring serenity, peace from within

We melt the ice of the winter

A rainbow, a storm, a comforting friend

We are the spirit of water

© 2005  Guy Hufferd, Senior Writer, NYCA

(For NYCA on the occasion of their 3rd anniversary)

Water’s essence is fairness; transparent, lifting all, nurturing all, so much of us all. At NYCA we work in such openness. Vulnerability and innocence blend with expertise and frankness. Guy was inspired to write a song. The lyrics hang in a frame outside the New York conference room and permeate the ocean air that fills our home.


Gifts to the kids of the gifted.

August 25, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA


“You sure you want to work at NYCA?” I always ask, shove a bit, “There are many easier places to work.”

Though we are a wonderful place for some, we are not right for most. It’s my job to point out what we really have going on here with candidates to help them make the best decision for both of us.

I tell them we work long hours, including weekends now and again, we are meeting crazy (too crazy and we are adjusting that with the hope of keeping the collaboration strong), we are relentless, always searching for a better idea, even on the way to the meeting, in the meeting, after the meeting is over and the work is approved. It’s demanding. That’s why we always give birthday and holiday presents to the kids of the people who work here. It’s our way of thanking them for so generously sharing their loved ones with us and to let them know we love them, too.


Spirit of Water

July 23, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

At NYCA we don’t have an elevator to the executive floor. In fact we only have one floor, the ground floor. Right on Main Street. This building used to be a grocery store and, before that, a bank. We chose this place for our agency for one reason above many: this is where people walk to the market, get their dry cleaning, stop to have a cup of coffee and a chat.  Here we are part of the world with which we engage every day on behalf our Clients.

We are a working class breed.

So don’t expect a slick granite lobby or high end designer furniture. Our money is hard-earned and goes to the rare, deeply passionate and talented people that fill our agency with inspired ideas, each aimed at growing our Clients’ businesses.

We have something we say around here; more than say, it’s how we live – “Spirit of Water.” It means everything we do is clear and open, and all are treated fairly. Just the way water buoys us all up equally. It’s about integrity and trust. Big deal around here.

Which brings us to our $700 conference room table. Nothing fancy. Holds cups with coffee, laptops and the tins of late night dinners. Many a grow! idea has been conjured,  tough-loved and shared on and around this table.  And more than once, its trembled under the weight of an impassioned NYCAer pleading their case on behalf a potential grow! idea.

So when an inspired group of art directors and producers came to show their conference table design based on the Spirit of Water, we took a moment.

It was a magnificent sculpture of molded and burnished domestic woods and finely-etched glass with a fountain of spring water running under and through it. Art, truly.

More than a conference room table. This was a beautiful challenge to our creed!

And even, though water flowed freely to all ends of the table, we had to wonder: is this in the Spirit of Water? How is this fair to all when most of the agency won’t be able to enjoy the table? The production artists, programmers, and traffic staff who spend so much time over the critical details that build our work would rarely see it.

Plus this table was so fancy we likely wouldn’t feel at ease working on it, for fear of messing it up with our markers and various forms of caffeine. Now, any detraction to the creation of a grow! idea is an enemy of the state – lovely as the design is. Oh, and at $23,000 – well any Client would have to ask, “If you are so careless with your money, I hate to think what you are doing with mine.”  Our controller would certainly ask that.

It simply isn’t how we do things on Main Street.

So when you visit you will see our $700 table at work. It may not inspire you at first glance but have a seat and be joined by some NYCAers with ideas focused on growing your business and you’ll soon know — just as any NYCA Client does – that this sturdy discount table is testimony to who we are and how we do things. And when we are around it together, pounding out and sketching and creating grow! ideas, it’s the best conference table in the world.

If this is how you want your agency to act, we invite you jump deep and freely into the Spirit of Water.


A tale of the little tree…

June 22, 2010

By Mark Graham, Traffic Director @ NYCA

When I started work at NYCA three years ago, the philosophy of “grow” was what drew me here. The grove was the physical representation of that philosophy. The grove had plants associated with each of our clients and with agency anniversaries and other milestones. The grove was dominated by a large tree. It shaded our meetings. It sheltered us in the rain. It provided a feeling of tranquility as you walked in and out of the office.

Then one day the tree was gone. The building owners had it chopped down. All that was left was some bark and a few stumps. Michael tried to save some pieces to remember that tree, but that tree was gone. Where was our shade, where was the shelter?

Not too long after, I planted a seed. A seed of a sago palm. Most people don’t realize that it is not a palm at all, but rather a Cycad, a totally different type of plant. Cycads are a group of plants that are very primitive in their origins. Fossils have been found on almost every continent on the planet. What better representation of keeping the history of the old tree alive with than this! I watered the spot. I made sure it was free of weeds. There wasn’t anything there, but I knew where the seed was planted.

As the new tree sprouted this spring, I began to think back on that old tree. It was being replaced right before my eyes. With a tree that was going to be just as inspiring. Just as good at providing shade. Just as good at sheltering. Just as good at everything we valued the old tree for.

Then it dawned on me. The old tree was like an old employee. An employee that we thought was always going to be a part of the agency. She was the go-to person — but then she was gone. Guess what?! The “small trees” are being nurtured and growing to be even stronger. Would my sago palm have grown in the shade of the old tree that we found so fantastic? No. They prefer direct sunlight. Growing the sago palm in the shade typically gives one lanky, stretched-out leaves that are weak. If in too much shade, this species can actually just stall and do nothing. Just as the employees are thriving now that they are in the direct light of their own – they will be strong!


True blue, baby.

May 19, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

NYCA’s corporate color is baby blue.

We paint our walls with it, our PowerPoints show it off, so do our biz cards, our site, and our grow! studies. One of our beach cruisers was even dipped in it.

Baby blue is a mindset.

Our baby blue Electra cruiser.

We bravely fly the pirate flag of innocence. This is hard to do with a team as deeply experienced as ours.

With knowledge comes history. History brings memory. Memory can make you lazy, whispering, “Oh please, we’ve done this before; just go about it this way again.”

We firmly resist such a paint-by-numbers approach – politely, of course – as our culture is one of spirited collaboration.

We go at the daunting task of growing our clients’ businesses fortified by our daily dose of naiveté.

This beginner’s mindset is fearless, eternally optimistic and wide-eyed to better see the possible along the well-trodden road or ones forsaken just because there’s a sign that says, “Dead End.”

The world’s too young and abundant with great opportunities to be so cynical. You can’t be anything but productive and hopeful in baby blue.

Some great brands are affiliated with colors. Coke has trademarked Coca Cola red, a color suggestion from inventor John Pemberton. McDonald’s has golden arches reminiscent of its famous “golden” fries. Apple does gray to let its products star and bring the color.

Baby blue represents the vision to see and the ingenuity to create what’s next.

And it makes a great t-shirt.

You have something you believe in? What’s your color?