To make the biggest changes, focus on the smallest things.

March 1, 2011

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

“It’s all too complicated.” We’ve all felt and sighed that. Life moves fast and can have so many layers, one can get paralyzed under the tonage.

Same with work. With so many channels of information constantly being updated even as we’re analyzing it all, we can get caught up in just staying current instead of creating change. When we get overwhelmed, we can’t be our most effective or happiest. If you want to change the direction of your life, of a company, of a brand, try to focus on one thing only. You have to block out the noise to hear the music. It’s that easy. Sure it’s an oversimplification. But oversimplifications can get you moving — and action wins.  So, instead of the entire web of intricate behaviors, see only the action of a single movement.

For example, since I’m hungry, let’s say sales are down 24% on your global company’s frozen turkey slices. You’ve stared at the data for days and the turkey still isn’t moving. So forget the data, the percentages, the fact that your company produces turkey for most of the meat-eating world, and imagine a single person in a single store passing by the rack and reaching for another brand’s product. Your entire mission goes back from this moment — all you need to do is get that consumer to reach just a few inches over for your brand. For right now, it’s not about the changes in distribution, the trucking contracts, rising cost of turkey feather pluckers, shifting trends in eating habits, new entrants to the marketplace — so much, too much. Just focus on moving that customer’s hand over to grab a cold handful of your turkey. That’s the entire mission.

In all matters it comes down to one thing more than any other: what is that one thing that will make the customer move? It’s not everything, but for this jump-start it is the only thing. If you can bite-size the matter, you can handle it more easily, you get unfrozen yourself. Same in your personal life: if you want to stop smoking, you need to see yourself not as a child being brought up in the house of a smoker, not a smoker yourself for 17 and a half years who has tried to quit and now will lose the love of your life if you don’t. You just have to see yourself simply not putting a cigarette in your mouth. Once you master the image, you are on the way to doing the action, repeating it. Where do you not put a cigarette in your mouth? In church, your kid’s classroom – see that; it’s a starting point. Small movements, no matter how small, shape all things. Small makes a big difference. All the difference.


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!


Art of Transition

June 22, 2009

By Lynne Roswall, VP and Director of Production @NYCA 

Transitioning an advertising agency into the fast-paced new media landscape is a little like becoming a new parent.  As with parenthood, one can never know what it is like until that fateful day when birth arrives– you can read about it, talk about it, gain some exposure through taking care of nieces /nephews, but it will never be like the real thing.  And it is irreversible.  One day you aren’t doing much in digital and then the very next day you are moving dozens of diverse digital features through production. 

Transitional experiences take guts and a little naivety.  Not able to rely on the ‘old standards’ means what is in front of you is uncharted territory.  Embracing possibility is something we creative entrepreneurs do naturally, and yet there is still struggle to get out of our own way.  For seasoned professionals to think with a beginner’s mind is a part of transition that’s both exciting and uncomfortable.   

The art of transition is facing those crevices of having no idea how to move forward – not for lack of smarts, talent, or inventiveness – but because it’s never been done.  Those who have an incessant need-to-know embrace becoming a beginner again, not being perfect and not having the answers.  The great thing we found is that prior experience – those faithful systems and experiences our folks had in their general market advertising careers – are critically important for solving problems in new media. It’s challenging to learn how to engage consumers in an ever-changing digital media landscape. But you have to start not with mechanical knowledge, but with great consumer engagement skills – period. The right mechanics are nothing without a create idea as a spinal cord. 

The art of transition lies in balancing the fever of exploration, development of a new business model and the acceptance that transition takes time.  We now tell expectant digital parents to enjoy the journey, bring what you have learned, rely on your successful core, be open to imperfection and just DO.