Friday, December 21, 2012

Screw Being Reasonable...

There’s always at least one in every group. The “let’s be reasonable” guy.
Anytime a plan get’s too audacious or expectations too grandiose, that guys chimes in with his obligatory reminder that you need to slow down, think a little more clearly, and “be reasonable.”
And it usually works.
Instead of dreaming about breaking new boundaries and setting new records, you decide to play it safe. To not risk too much.  To do what an average, ordinary person would do — be reasonable.
And nothing you do is ever more than mediocre. Nothing remarkable. Nothing world-changing.
Just forgettable activity. Mindless daily grind.
And that needs to change.
If you want to be amazing you have to push back against the common sense of “being reasonable”.
It’s not reasonable to keep trying when you fail. But that’s the secret to breakthrough.
It’s not reasonable to get back when you’re knocked down by a bigger opponent.  But that’s how you win.
It’s not reasonable to give more than you get. But that’s how you build relationships that matter.
It’s not reasonable to believe in yourself when no one else does. But that’s how you change the world.
By not being reasonable. By refusing to play it safe.
By denying yourself the safety of looking like you have it all together when you’re really scared inside.  That’s the stuff of champions. That’s real guts.
And you can be that guy.
You can be the rebel. The fighter. The under-dog.
Anyone can give in to fear and doubts and peer pressure.  That doesn’t make you great. It makes you get along with other people. Other people who are losers like you could be.
Except you’re different. Today is different. Instead of choosing the easy path, you can make the choice to stop being reasonable.
To dream bigger. To fight longer. To lead when no one else is following.
Leave being reasonable to the people who call you “lucky” later.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Jellyfish-in-the-Ass Kind of Day

This has been one of those weeks. Or so I thought.  Then I read this. And realized, I ain't having a bad day...

Bob is a commercial saturation diver for Global Divers in Louisiana. He performs underwater repairs on offshore drilling rigs. Below is an email he sent to his sister.

"Hi Sue,

Just another note from your bottom-dwelling brother. Last week I had a bad day at the office. I know you've been feeling down lately at work, so I thought I would share my dilemma with you to make you realize it's not so bad after all.

Before I can tell you what happened to me, I first must bore you with a few technicalities of my job. As you know, my office lies at the bottom of the sea. I wear a suit to the office. It's a wet suit. This time of year the water is quite cool. So what we do to keep warm is this: we have a diesel powered industrial water heater. This $20,000 piece of equipment sucks the water out of the sea and heats it to a delightful temperature. It then pumps it down to the diver through a garden hose, which is taped to the air hose.

Now this sounds like a darn good plan, and I've used it several times with no complaints. What I do, when I get to the bottom and start working, is take the hose and stuff it down the back of my wet suit. This floods my whole suit with warm water; it's like working in a Jacuzzi.

Everything was going well until all of a sudden, my butt started to itch. So, of course, I scratched it. This only made things worse. Within a few seconds my arse started to burn. I pulled the hose out from my back, but the damage was done. In agony I realized what had happened. The hot water machine had sucked up a jellyfish and pumped it into my suit. Now, since I don't have any hair on my back, the jellyfish couldn't stick to it, however, the crack of my arse was not as fortunate. When I scratched what I thought was an itch, I was actually grinding the jellyfish into the crack of my arse.

I informed the dive supervisor of my dilemma over the communicator. His instructions were unclear due to the fact that he, along with five other divers were all laughing hysterically. Needless to say, I aborted the dive. I was instructed to make three agonizing in-water decompression stops totaling thirty-five minutes before I could reach the surface to begin my chamber dry decompression.

When I arrived at the surface, I was wearing nothing but my brass helmet. As I climbed out of the water, the medic, with tears of laughter running down his face, handed me a tube of cream and told me to rub it on my butt as soon as I got in the chamber. The cream put the fire out, but I couldn't shit for two days because my ass was swollen shut."

So next time you're having a bad day at work, think about how much worse it would be if you had a jellyfish shoved up your arse. Now repeat to yourself "I love my job, I love my job, I love my job!" Whenever you have a bad day ask yourself "Is this a jellyfish bad day?"

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hold The Phone! No...Really.

This week, I had what would normally be a catastrophic event for most people....I broke my phone.  Not intentionally, mind you, but a perfect drop and the only rock within 20 yards, and my verbal link to the outside world was severed.

And I could not have been happier.  First of all, I found 3 dollars on the ground, and it was $2 Fried Chicken Day. Score! How can one be distraught when there's free fried chicken?

But the real glory was in that NO ONE COULD REACH ME.  It was like a self-imposed isolation that so few of us ever get.  I got more WORK done, more PLANNING done, and more RESEARCH done, than I have in weeks.  It was glorious.

This was almost a perfect test case for the disaster plan I had worked out a few months ago.  There were still a few hiccups, which I have now addressed, but all in all, this was a great thing that happened.  And the PRODUCTIVITY? Worth it!

Finally, the lasting benefit is that at least two people have given up calling me.  Now to get the remaining 67 to stop, and life will be even better...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Why am I Peeing?

I had a grand podcast conversation yesterday with Debbie and Karen of Cool and Book  One thing that came out of that was the need for social media when it comes to promoting a book.  In short. I hate it.  The landscape has no roadmap to explain how to do it, when to do it or what do do.  And that frustrates me.

At the end of the day, I want to connect with people. Real people.  Not tweets, or twits, or status updates or GPS coordinates. Maybe someone likes what I'm doing. I thank you for that. And equally so, maybe someone doesn't like what I'm doing.  Guess what? I thank you for giving a damn either way.  So in the world that is evolving of he said, she said, shares and forwards, let's not forget it is about connecting with people. People like a Sacramento-based Karen who loves Voodoo Donuts, or a Rochester-born Debbie who is the guardian of secret family recipes. Or my story (and books)...besides, if you don't connect, I can't send you our family's wonderful pecans!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Why Do We Travel?

This week, I gave an interview about the book that started it all, Signature Tastes of Bellingham (at Village Books, don't go anywhere else for it!), and the writer, Jessica Verner and I crafted the captures our motivation perfectly...

Why do we travel?

For some, it’s a break from a well-known daily routine.  For others, it’s the triple thrill pleasures of planning, experiencing and remembering.  No matter why, when we do strike out and see a new place, we always bring something back.  The airport tag on the luggage stays attached until the next trip.  The coaster from that funky little bar gets tacked to the corkboard in our cubicle.  All of it, a visual reminder lest we forget.

Here in Bellingham, that very notion has taken root in the form of a cookbook.  Well, maybe not so much a cookbook as a “Culinary Postcard”.   A recently transplanted firefighter, Steven W. Siler, came here and saw with a visitor’s eyes things that made Bellingham special: the people and the food.  So he went out and heard the stories.  He gathered the recipes. And he photographed almost everything. Rarely the food, but the sights and the people caught red-handed in the act of being themselves. And from that, the Signature Tastes of Bellingham was born.

And while the City of Subdued Excitement is a unique place, it’s not the only place that’s special.  That firefighter knew they were everywhere.  So that notion that began as a simple homage to the city has now become not just a nationwide, but an international effort. Its purpose is to capture and share those wonderful sights, those incredible tastes and intriguing places that define the area.  Thus, the Signature Tastes series of “culinary postcards” was born, to become the one takeaway that visitors and locals alike can embrace when they start a sentence with “…Remember that place?...”.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Southern Gift of Gab

Yes, I live in the Northwest.  And yes, I stick out like the first topless bikini on a beach.  Wait, you mean ya’ll don’t wear seersucker, pastel shirts (love me some mauve) and straw hats here? And don’t say “ya’ll”? Oh well.

But my own inimitable nature is one that allows me to start a conversation with a stranger, a stranger’s dog, and on one occasion, a beautiful transvestite who was being deported (I didn’t see the handcuffs). For this I thank my Southern-ness.  Years spent apprenticing in the company of skilled conversationalists who know no fear has served me well.

I mention this, because today, in the space of three conversations, I was able to score a television interview, a radio interview, and a production meeting for Signature Tastes (the television show). All unplanned, all unsolicited, and truly a result of the Southern Gift of Gab.

So please, don’t be afraid to engage your fellow man or woman.  They have a story, and Facebook is proof enough that a whole bunch of folks want to share that story.  And it makes for a hell of a good story at times. Now about that beautiful transvestite…

Monday, September 10, 2012

You Don’t Need Books For A Book Signing

Slade Weston making some great Apple-lachian Brown Betties

This weekend, Steve Weston had his launch party for his stellar book, In The Wild Chef, in Boise, Idaho.  The only hitch? No books. That’s right.

We had ordered them from the printer. We knew it was a tight deadline, but we thought we could make it.  Alas, one day late shipping, one holiday, and UPS closed on Saturday (really???), and all we had at the signing was the proof copy, and last minute samplers printed at Office Depot (which cost twice as much as the books. Ugh!).

And it went off perfectly.

Steve had his support network of friends, associates and others there at Sierra Trading Post to support him.  He had wicked cool t-shirts to give away. And he and friends prepared 4 recipes from his cookbook.  God it was delicious. We gave away free $25 gift cards. And a good time was had by all. On the way home, we stopped by Barnes & Noble to show them the sampler. They ordered 25 books.  Sweeeeetttt…

The result? In The Wild Chef bumped from #37 to #19 on Amazon. 

Which shows that with support and goodies, you don’t even need books at a book signing.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It’s 3 AM I must be lonely…

Yup. The clock isn’t exactly stuck at 3, but its making an interminable march towards it.  Am I lonely? How about alone instead?  Me and 3 AM are becoming fast friends, though.  

I am almost asleep…right on the edge…slipping…

Into another idea that lights up my brain like a phosphorus grenade.  In this case, it’s an extension of the Signature Tastes brand into 200 new markets.  Because I don’t have enough to do, right? So here I am, mapping out a production and distribution plan, sending out emails and inquiries and creating mock covers and such. No wonder people think I am a bit crazy. You would think so too if you saw my timestamps on my emails.

It will be successful, this I am sure of.  Because it woke me up from almost-sleep.  Your subconscious is always working, and once you get into that frame of mind where you are absorbed by your work, it will come through in spades for you.  Couldn’t it do it like 9 a.m. with a fresh CafĂ© au Lait instead? Apparently not.

But that is my life. I chose this, remember Siler?

And I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this anything in the world.

Except to maybe not see 3 AM for a few days…

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sell Mortimer, Sell!

We just finished a new book (In The Wild Chef), and I was asked by the author “Are you happy with the final product?”  And here is how I answered…

From where it came from, in the time frame that we had to operate, yes.

Understand I LIVE by the Pareto Principle...80% of your time is spent to produce 20% of the output. We could have gone over this thing 4 more times, and it would not be exactly what we wanted.  It never will. And it would be a piss-poor use of time.  Both our time should be spent on sales, marketing and a new book.

But as far as books go, they have a have a half-life of 18 months...second only to software. And just like software, its better to issue it to the public with bugs, than to wait until it is perfect.  Go for good, and make money, or wait for great and don't.  It's that simple.

I have seen horrid books...books much worse than ours, become best-sellers. By both of our admissions, we are not great authors/editors. And I have seen many, many more books that are much better than ours not sell 1,000 copies. What matters is not so much the content, but the marketing that you are doing now and going forward. Its all in the sales.

Why do you think that certain classics (The Great Gatsby, The Snows of Kilimanjaro) are considered great by our generation? Because we were TOLD they were, by teachers and others. Actually, they aren't any better or worse than many other books then and since.  But the Buzz doesn't stop, once you get it started.

My two-cents worth. And a free eBook of any of our Signature Tastes Cookbooks if you can tell me what movie the title of this post came from...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Driving Online Sales for Books and eBooks

This blog is ostensibly a way to share our (i.e. my) thoughts on our journey to becoming a real, live publisher with business cards and everything.  Every now and then, I come across certain nuggets of information that are incredible helpful.  In the modern world of SEO and information saturation, there is little original content that is truly helpful.  So I turn now to a brilliant source (Nick at Futureworld) from across the pond on driving online sales of your books.  We are going to a new and novel distribution model for all of our Signature Tastes and other books, and it is heavily dependent on our online presence. Understand, I am learning just like you, so this is a work-in-progress for us, too!

To summarize Nick, here goes:
1. Optimise your synopsis information for specific keywords – try the tool, Scribe. It’s designed for non-technical people to optimise text without compromising editorial integrity - publishing and SEO can mix, trust me.

2. Understand the latest SEO trends and rules. One of the biggest problems retailers face is that presented by the Google Panda and Penguin search algorithm updates. Duplicate content (and piracy) is a big SEO no-no - all retailers feature duplicate content. The game is constantly changing.

3. Supply retailer-specific synopsis data to avoid duplicate content issues and to test conversion rates of variations – testing requires the support of the retailer as they’ll need to supply analytics data.

4. Optimise your synopsis information for display on the web, using best-practise reading structures. Think bullet points and lists, F-structures and summary-first techniques.

5. Ensure title and subtitle fields are well-formed pieces of data that facilitate discoverability. In the case of most retailers this will form part of the URL and appear in <H1> tags on the page – vital for good search performance.

6. Sounds obvious but use ONIX to its full potential – most publishers don’t utilise all the fields. The framework is designed with discoverability in mind. 

7. Ensure your eBook synopsis is format-relevant – if the synopsis is for an ebook, edit it with that in mind. It’s no longer enough to just rip the synopsis from the AI or the back of the book to use as metadata.

8. Embed hyperlinks to promote other titles in your eBook files, especially by the same author – note this has to be retailer-specific

9. Try Pay With a Tweet to distribute free book samples on your website and in your marketing. 

10. Use Amazon Marketplace to sell direct-to-consumer, especially consider this if you have the capability to connect to their great API.

11. If you can’t sell directly from your corporate site, connect to an affiliate programme run by your favourite retail partner. Drive sales and margins. 

12. Often the publisher’s own website can rank highest for a book, simply because they are the first people to display the product online (a bit of SEO helps too). Remember this and ensure your landing page is as well presented and structured as possible.

13. Read Google’s Zero Moment of Truth research. It will change the way you think about online shopping and ecommerce.

14. Monitor your product’s performance. If you don’t understand how it’s working online, you can’t improve it. These days releasing data (and your product) into the world and waiting for sales figures is not enough. Most retailers are focusing their business online, even if they have stores and so an ever-increasing amount of data is available if you just ask. Why not explore the data supplied in Google’s partner programme dashboard – that’ll give you a great deal of insight into how people are engaging with your books.

15. Get analytical and get your staff to be analytical. Improving your online book sales requires an analytical mind. You need to be able to understand how your product is displaying and any issues, how it performs in search and most importantly, how discoverable it is. You alos need to be able to understand and interpret the effect your efforts are having on sales.

16. Be tactical – if a competitor product is a penny cheaper, adjusting your price can make all the difference. We live in a world of comparison shopping. In a personal experience, a product I have worked on jumped from 1200 to the top 100 in Amazon's charts overnight using this approach alone.

17. Check for competitor editions – if you’ve sold or bought rights for a book, make sure that other publisher editions aren’t appearing in territories they don’t have the rights to sell in. You wouldn’t believe how often this happens and the potential damage to sales this could cause.

18. Use your website more. Most publishers have websites that let you create landing pages. Your book listing is great, but why not create a few page variations that are optimised for specific searches? You could include links to PR and multiple retailers as well as links to free sample downloads.

19. Think contextually. These days, digital marketing is all about placing your product in the right place at the right time in a position your target audience is going to see without altering their browsing habits. Use YouTube via Adwords. If someone’s searching for a specific recipe on YouTube and your cookery book features a similar recipe, show them an ad. It’s simple, measurable, scalable and cost-effective and if channelled towards a retailer, can form part of your marketing spend negotiations.

20. Join the blogosphere and I don’t mean start a blog. If communicating with key bloggers isn’t part of your PR strategy, you are doing it wrong. Good bloggers have influence and audience and are becoming more savvy by the day. And they all need content. Build your own network and email lists and incorporate communicating to these people into your core activities.

21. Set up and monitor a hashtag on Twitter for all key releases and promote  that in your marketing and even in your product. Let people talk as they read.

22. Use Facebook ads to market to Facebook pages. Facebook ads that drive users to Facebook pages to perform specific conversion goals have considerably better conversion rates. Keep users in the eco-system they are already in.

23. Acquire data. In every piece of digital marketing you run, whether running a competition with a partner or a social media drive, are you always getting data? Direct to consumer is the future and to win that battle, you’ll definitely need data and as much of it as possible.

24. Get mobile. Not just as an afterthought. Make good samples available to Smartphone users, make sure your website works well on mobile, consider mobile-specific marketing (most big ad networks can differentiate by platform / device now).

25. Think about the book’s jacket in terms of the web, not just in terms of print. Is the text legible, will it look good at around 300px wide, 72dpi, what happens to the spot UV layer when it’s in web form, are there any print-specific finishes that will need adjusting for online display?

And a bonus – number 26 and 27...

26. According to Google research, the average customer uses 10.4 resources to influence their buying decisions online. I’m not convinced the number is that high for books but it’s worth thinking about the concept. Have you provided enough supporting material and content to ensure you can send that customer over the tipping point to transact. And, is that information available easily via search? Think press coverage, product reviews, blog posts, twitter activity, the author’s own presence online, video, consumer reviews and much more. 

27. For the socialisers amongst you, check out the new social channels Branch and Medium to see what's around the corner in social media. These channels have been created by the guys behind Blogger and Twitter.

28. Consider Quora. If your book is non-fiction and answers questions from 'what's the best recipe for lasagne?', to 'when was Michael Winner born?', Quora can be a marketing channel for you. 

Thanks Nick!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Working your ass off...

We have had a stellar month, and it’s only halfway done.  We have a certified best-seller in Signature Tastes of London, and released both Signature Tastes of Manhattan and Signature Tastes of Atlanta.  Next week we will release our first national book, In The Wild Chef, along with two more SigTastes (Portland and South Carolina).  In short, we have been working our asses off.

I have to turn to my friends at to explain…Dreaming is fun, achieving those dreams isn’t always so enjoyable. If you want the things you desire, you’re going to need to work your ass off. But it isn’t a matter of just doing a lot for a long time. There are different approaches to use along with working hard and you need to find a balance. It’s almost like an art form.

Work smarter while working harder
One of the new sayings I’ve been hearing more and more is frustrating me more and more; “Don’t work harder, work smarter.” I feel like a lot of people are taking it out of context and see it as advice to find the easiest and shortest way to achieving a goal. I look at working smarter not as the quickest route or cheating, but as learning from yesterdays mistakes so that you won’t repeat them again. If you want to achieve a goal you need to not only work smarter, you need to work harder than you have been.

Hard work can be mental work
Hard work may only seem like back breaking labor but there are a lot of people who are putting their minds to hard work. Most tasks that require you to do so are creative such as writing. When you’re doing mental work people might label you as “lazy” because they don’t see you running around, digging ditches, and lifting heavy items.

You need a little patience (or a lot)
Patience is an action you need to take with all your hard work. The results from doing hard work can take a long time to enjoy so you have to find patience to keep you going forward and sane. Don’t get discouraged though, because hard work does eventually produce results. When there’s an action, there has to be a reaction.

Know that good work is hard
Even if you’re doing noble work like helping the homeless, building wells in Africa, and changing lives, it’s going to be hard work. And a lot of the times it’s going to be harder than doing selfish work, perhaps that’s the reason not everyone does it.

Know what to sacrifice
When you’re working hard you’re going to have to make sacrifices. There’s no way around it. But you need to prioritize and know what is worth sacrificing and what isn’t worth missing.
A few things worth sacrificing:
  • A meal – If you’re healthy enough and have enough energy, it might be worth skipping a lunch or dinner once and a while to give yourself more time to achieve a goal.
  • Partying – I’m taking about going to get drunk. What’s the fun in it first of all? And secondly, what good are you getting from it, especially with regards to productivity?
  • Shopping – If you don’t need anything, try not to go for the fun of it. You spend money you don’t need to spend and you’ll have more junk to cram in your house.
  • Comfort - Go without sleep one night to finish something.  You did in college. I slept in my truck for two months in the dead of winter. It didn't kill me or even hurt me. But I saved money to produce my first book.
Be your biggest competitor
Working harder than other people is important, but your biggest competition is you. You’ve got to work harder and more efficient than you did in the past and you need to do things differently than you have been to achieve something you’ve never had. Hard work can become less like “work” when you have passion and find purpose in what you’re doing. Granted, if we meet head-to-head in business, I will win. because I want it more than you. But you really don't figure into my equation. I'm playing against Steven W. Siler.

If you see me on the streets of Vancouver, Seattle, Atlanta or Charleston, please take notice of two things.

The lack of ass in my drawers.

And the smile on my face.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Five Finger Discount...

Admit it. You have, at one point, stolen something.  Be it too much change at the register, or recording songs from the radio (how could she say no to Roxette's Listen To Your Heart??). But for a publisher, thievery and piracy are assumed character flaws akin to stealing from the offering plate.

I offer now a different take on this.  Witness this article that captures the reason folks pirate books.

The summary is this...

7 Reasons People Pirate eBooks

1. “I’ve pirated electronic versions of books I already own physically.”

2. “I limit myself to pirating things that are out-of-print or otherwise unavailable through a legal digital outlet.”

3. “I’m poor and I like to read, but I can’t pirate food, so I pirate everything else.”

4. “The library rarely has the books I want to read.”

5. “I only pirate textbooks from school … They are ridiculously priced an I have a hard enough time paying tuition.”

6. “If the ebook is more expensive than the paper-version I sometimes pirate it out of annoyance.”

7. “pirating also lets me sample things i would not be willing to pay money for up front”

And I'm going to go out on a limb here.  A really thin, shaky limb.

I want you to pirate our books.  Please. Send them to everyone you know.  I beg you.
It costs us nothing. And it gets the word out. And who knows? Maybe someone will be exposed to our books and buy one who normally wouldn't. Either way, we are fulfilling our mantra of shining a spotlight on "place-based tastes".

In the South, where I was raised, there was an issue that threatened the peace of our small community many years ago.  No, it wasn't integration. It was the opening of a 24-hour laundromat. Yes, that heinous, rending act. But pastors railed from the pulpit about it.  And my grandmother, God love her, raised her logical voice to point out that folks who washed clothes there on Sunday, probably weren't that concerned with coming to church.

That's how I feel, at the end of the day.  If you feel the need to swipe an ebook from us, you probably wouldn't buy it anyway. So enjoy! And either way, let me know if you liked it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why You Will Never Succeed...

This world is tough. Because we make it so.  Our biggest challenges are those we create by our own indiffference. Every day, we lose the battle with ourselves, in little ways that become big ways.  I am as guilty as the next, to be sure.  Which is why I am posting these a public declaration and as an accountability tool.

1. Give a kind word when an angry outburst would feel more satisfying.
2. Take time each day to call (3) executives and just see how their day is going.
3. Spend time at the beginning of each week writing out your “must get done” tasks for the week.
4. Apologize when you make a mistake. Say it. You’ll feel it once you let your ego get out of the way.
5. Devote specific time each day to exercise, meditation, or therapy. Or all three.
6. Find (5) things you can be grateful for each day. Say “Thank You” early and often.
7. Find a way to solve the pain you see bothering someone else around you.
8. Write an encouraging hand-written note to someone you don’t want anything from right now.
9. Carve out time to read a biography and the business section of the Wall Street Journal.
10. Schedule follow-up and follow-though activity and make it the most important part of your daily religion.
11. Ask for help from those around you. Stop pretending like you aren’t desperate. You need to be.
12. Don’t go to sleep without putting in the effort required to be successful. Avoid excuses. Work harder.
13. Remember your manners.  Being polite and courteous doesn’t mean people will take advantage of you.
14. Make it pattern to invest in the physical, mental, and financial success of those around you.
15. Take notes in meetings. Assign responsibilities.  Be clear about the outcomes you expect and the deadlines.
16. Forgive fast.  Forget about fairness. Protest cruelty. Be strong enough to believe in you.
17. Sacrifice being misunderstood now for the truth coming out in the future.
18. Focus manically on making daily progress on each of your goals.  Do something every day to make tomorrow better.
19. Ignore the negativity you hear from your critics around you. Cover your ears. Get back to work.
20. Take it. Earn it. Prove to yourself that your dreams are important enough to pursue.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Men Simply Don't Think

Men Simply Don't Think

Some years ago, the late Nobel prize-winning Dr. Albert Schweitzer was asked by a reporter, "Doctor, what's wrong with men today?" The great doctor was silent a moment, and then he said, "Men simply don't think!"
Rollo May, the distinguished psychiatrist, wrote a wonderful book called Man's Search for Himself, and in this book he says: "The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice ... it is conformity." And there you have the reason for so many failures. Conformity — people acting like everyone else, without knowing why or where they are going.
If you take 100 individuals who start even at the age of 25, do you have any idea what will happen to those men and women by the time they're 65? These 100 people believe they're going to be successful. But by the time they're 65, only one will be rich, four will be financially independent, five will still be working, and 54 will be broke — depending on others for life's necessities. Only five out of 100 make the grade!
And why is that? Because we become what we think about.
Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman Emperor, said: "A man's life is what his thoughts make of it."
Disraeli said this: "Everything comes if a man will only wait ... a human being with a settled purpose must accomplish it, and nothing can resist a will that will stake even existence for its fulfillment."
The above is abridged from the great Earl Nightingale. And with that, I take my hat off to NPR, for the following article: . I have read two (Bell Labs and Thinking) and before the year is out, will have the others read as well.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Read a Book By it's Cover..

It is very important to consider many facets when picking the title of a new book.  I have struggled with this at's amazing where one gets inspiration.

This stack o' books makes me question Steve Weston's title of In the Wild Chef...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Even Smart Asses Can Be Wrong

Those who have engaged me in even the most mundane of debates, know I value intelligence and truth. And wield them like a Big Ugly Cudgel. That being said, I love learning when I'm without further embroidery, here are some new facts that I was wrong on. And the are fascinating.
  • Napoleon was actually about 5'6" – taller than the average frenchman of the 1800s. The whole "little emperor" thing was actually just a term of endearment.
  • Columbus, by the way, thought the Earth was pear-shaped, not round.
  • JFK did not call himself a jelly doughnut in Berlin.
  • George Washington didn't have wooden teeth.
  • Chainmail is actually harder to move around in than plate armor.
  • Iron Maidens were not medieval torture devices.
  • Marco Polo didn't bring pasta to Italy from China. Arabs brought it from Libya in the seventh century.
  • Irregardless is a word.
  • 420 is not a police code.
  • No one actually said "ye" instead of "the" – it's just that the character for Th used to look like Y.
  • Hair and fingernails do not keep growing after you die. Your skin shrinks and makes it look like it.
  • If she said it, Marie Antoinette only said "let them eat cake" when she was 10 – long before peasants where rioting over starvation.

Very cool indeed. All these and more are available in this fascinating book. Happy reading!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Foam is something in a cooler, not on my dinner

I had stood this long enough.  What in the bloody hell is "foam" and why is it being served on my plate? It's like getting the last remnant of a can of Ready Whip, or not-quite-hardened meringue. And if is the pinnacle of culinary expertise, send me back to South Carolina, where I can get a meal to fill me up.  I think sometimes chefs have forgotten that the basic restaurant premise to please the customer, not showcase an obscure state-change skill.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The biggest challenge that Andrew Carnegie faced, by his own admission, was how to disburse his fortune without causing harm.  One solution he pioneered? Libraries. Across the nation.  He felt anyone could improve their life with learning from these institutions.

I am here to day that there is damn little excuse for someone not knowing how to do something.  In the space of 48 hours, I have completely redesigned our website. From scratch. Linked it to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And this blog as well.  And everything to do it was available at my fingertips. For free. Wow.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

This is rather exciting...with the London Olympics coming up, we have a new project starting this week.  Once of my favourite (note the spelling) cities in the world, London!

We already have dozens of recipes from contributing restaurants. So if you think that merry Old England is cottage pie and bangers, think again!
Sometimes, you just need a little push! Just like Champagne...I am taking the plunge into blogging (Facebook doesn't count).  Perhaps you might find this interesting, or perhaps you might be offended.  But it will be an unabashed look inside the mind of Smoke Alarm Media, and by default, inside my own.

So I hope you will take a look.  It's fitting that today is the first day of BEA in New York, which two of our books are being introduced.  And it will be a crazy year!


Steven W. Siler
Editor in Chief, and Chief Bottle Washer