Selling The Realized Self

Hail entrepreneurs and marketers! I’m curious, have you noticed the shift? In recent years we've gone from selling “stuff” to selling experiences. This has been coming for a while but the transition is almost complete. You can find the roots in our recent abundance that triggered our shared awakening. Now that our basic needs are fulfilled, what next? I believe it’s the fully realized self.

So in the end, all we really sell is the realized self. So much is standing between us and that “self”. Our bodies, our habits, our diet, our activity, our thoughts. We need help. Underneath all this crap is a unique and, just maybe, magical being. 

This pure self is what we all seek. But we can’t do it alone. We need to help to get there. It’s a  massive collaboration. Essentially the internet is the playground for that collaboration. Not just the old internet trapped behind a screen. We are being connected via an increasingly screenless Internet.

The “internet of things” has begun intersecting our lives at an intimate level. We know the only way to create change is to change thoughts and habits. Recent movements like the “quantified self” are enabling awareness and change. This is not a fad but our new reality. This presents an even bigger opportunity than the screen-bound internet. So how do you cash in? By creating awareness and changing behaviors. By helping others live better lives.

So the more you help others realize their potential the more you will have to gain. But here’s the rub, those that have success will be increasingly held to a higher and higher standard. The next generation of entrepreneurs and marketers will be forced to be far more virtuous than the present or past. 

This is because they will experience an unheard of level of openness and transparency. Which means accountability, which can be bad for sales. 

So how do you navigate this new world? How do you sell the realized self and not screw up? 

We must become worthy of our customers and employees. We must set the example of a fully realized self, show how our product or service has changed our lives. But it isn’t really a product or service we are selling, it’s a cause.

Companies without causes will be lost in a world of infinite choice. If following that cause hasn’t changed your life for the better then why should I bother? To sell the fully realized self we must first practice what we preach. 

The challenge is set, all businesses must answer the question- what helped you that could help me? How can you change me for the better?

The Trouble With Transparency

Sometimes openness seems inevitable. We are on a high speed train driven by technology and open systems – “Knowledge wants to be free” is the saying. I’m not so sure knowledge “wants” anything. It’s people who want things. We are just beginning to explore our wants and technology is a fantastic, and frightening, enabler of that journey. 

Here's the math, as I see it: technology enables data transparency which creates individual and organizational openness which has the byproduct of vulnerability which threatens our privacy.

Organizations seem particularly vulnerable to transparency. I have trouble imagining a future where all organizations of any real size or significance will be immune to its unrelenting light. Anytime there is a gathering, there is data. That data always has value to someone- internally and externally.

But what about individuals? What role does openness play in our individual lives? Openness leads to vulnerability which is a tricky energy. Vulnerability drives all kinds of behaviors and outcomes, good and bad.

Vulnerability is big right now in the business world. And for good reason. It’s a secret weapon. Biz guru Patrick Lencioni said “I’m tired of talking about servant leadership as if there is any other kind." Maybe wishful thinking but it speaks to what works- leaders that show vulnerability build committed teams. You can’t do great things without commitment. 

Now a little metaphysical detour that will make sense later, I hope.

I believe we are wired to create. In my mind, any creation of value serves a purpose. So we are wired to serve through creation. I don’t claim to know the who, how or why of this. I’m just making an observation.

So as Dylan said “you gotta serve somebody”. Why not have it be a group of amazing people? In this case, what has always been true is a somewhat recent revelation in the cut-throat world of business. But again, openness rewards what was once a weakness. Vulnerability works. 

Openness also has an interesting byproduct: data. As noted above, that data has value. Something that originated altruistically (sharing) has become a commodity (data). In the future this disconnect will increasingly drive conflict between creators, platforms and consumers. 

How about another metaphysical tangent? Ok...

Increasingly you can see the revelation of nature’s intrinsic moral compass by simply looking at “what works”- with ourselves, our relationships, our organizations, our government. “Big Data” is essentially revealing our moral DNA. We can debate the author but we are cracking an intelligent code. Our openness, our data, only speeds our discoveries. Many amazing revelations could come, many dangerous tools could be built. I try to see the positive. 

Our collective openness could result in a more empathic world. A world where we truly know and care for each other. But this won’t happen unless people feel safe.

Openness thrives on safety. If we don’t feel safe, we don’t share. 

So openness and vulnerability cuts both ways. Humans are wired to care but they are also wired to fear. Fear drives all kinds of bad behaviors. Fear is the root of all evil, not money. I don’t know what Jesus was thinking. Must be a misquote. 

Beyond creating opportunities for more good ol' fashioned evil, what else will openness do to our nature?

If we open our lives completely to each other (via machines) will we lose some core human element during the reveal? A touch that kills?

Will openness diminish our private selves? That part of us that we only reveal to ones we trust. 

As we rewire for sharing, how will we maintain something worth sharing?

Not to mention the fatigue that comes from sharing. The constant flow of energy, mostly leaving. It’s as if our devices run on that energy. Maybe someday they will figure out how to do that.

After much wandering here’s where I’m at – humans are wired to have an off-state, computers are not. We need downtime. Our human rhythms are poorly matched with a machine’s. Maybe we should make them more human before they make us permanently less. 

This is where we could find some balance between openness and privacy. Creating safe environments for expression. Limited environments. 100% analog, not digital capture. As we open ourselves to each other, let’s remember to keep a good chunk separate, just for ourselves. 

My 2015 Wish List

I've been making a wish list of stuff that would be awesome to have happen in 2015, mostly Indianapolis related. This is an experiment, putting ideas out there to see what happens. Anyway, here are 5 things from my list. What’s on your list for 2015? What would you love to see happen?

Space for Musical Family Tree- MFT is now a 501c3 and needs a space to take its mission (to spread Indiana music) to the next level. We feel strongly that this starts with having a space- to host shows, recording/mixing, after-school programs, a store, meetings, tech for musicians to use, etc. We are currently looking at spaces in the Fountain Square area. We need a larger space with some separate spaces internally (ideally) and some help with funding as well.

20th Anniversary Re-issue of Sardina's "Presents" album- Sardina remains my favorite band to come from Indiana and their 1995 album "Presents" is one of the lost gems of the 90s (local or otherwise). It would be great to see some kind of re-issue for this album with outtakes, etc. I know the band would get behind it.

Cultural/Community Center in Broad Ripple- this is one of the missing ingredients in Broad Ripple and very needed at this time. The library isn't it, the Art Center isn't it (too far from "downtown" Broad Ripple). It's been great to see the BRVA open a retail location on Guilford. I'd love to see a larger community center that brings the community together, holds events, etc.

Co-working Space Downtown- despite the strong technology presence downtown we don't have a good co-working resource. The Hinge is great but in Fletcher Place. The Platform isn't really a co-working space, at least yet. A larger co-working environment (club structure like Speak Easy or Launch Fishers or just traditional day/week/month structure) is very much needed downtown.

Sake Brew House- this is a little out there but I strongly believe in the potential of a Sake brew house here in Indy. We are flooded with micro-brews, and that is awesome. But for those of us that avoid wheat/gluten (since Sake is gluten free, made from rice) along with the fact that people are just getting burned out on beer leads us to Sake. I love Sake and it is a very versatile drink. I went to a Sake brew house in Minneapolis (Moto-i) and it was awesome. They had 5-6 different Sakes on tap, served Asian inspired food and had a great info graphic about how Sake is made on a chalkboard. I think this would work in Indy. 

So what's on your list?

Reflecting on 2014 #thinkkit

I’ll be honest, 2014 was a mixed year in many ways. I’ll start with the good stuff.

It was a great year for the spaces I lived and worked in. My home had major renovations- our kitchen was completely transformed as well as several other areas of the house. We also added a tree fort to the back yard. My business, SmallBox, was able to purchase our building- the old Broad Ripple library- and it is a wonderful place to work.

It was also a great year for travel. Between business and family/pleasure I was all over the country in 2014. Nashville, Siesta Key, Tampa, Chicago, St Louis, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Portland, Phoenix, Redlands (CA), Bloomington (IN), Yosemite, Tahoe, Cleveland…I’m sure I’m missing one or two. I really love traveling and going to new places. It shakes up my thinking.

All this travel made it a great year for vinyl digging. I brought back gems from most of my trips. This provided great fodder for my annual “Very Vinyl Xmas” mixes. If you want this CD set (2014 releases and vintage finds) hit me up. I’ll post the liner notes for both CDs on this blog in the near future. 

It was a great year for my family and marriage. We took a 2 week trip out west in late July that really bonded us in new ways. My marriage feels very rock solid right now and I am grateful every day for my wife and 3 girls. Each of my girls is growing in unique ways and I get so much joy from them. 

On to some of the challenging stuff. 

SmallBox had a challenging year. After a strong 2013 we came out of the gate expecting strong growth in 2014. But for most of the year it was elusive. It wasn’t until the past few months that sales really kicked in. We have gone from famine to feast and it is a real head scratcher- what did we do wrong , what are we doing right? One factor at play was that our competition- local and national- raised its game over the last year or so and we found ourselves losing projects we most likely would have won before. It was a good kick in the ass but it hurt. I won’t forget the week we lost 3 major projects in a row. That was rough. One of our core values is Persistence. We have been tested in that area this year. I’m really proud of how the SmallBox team has come together and faced this challenge. In 2015 we will face the challenge of capacity. A different but more welcome challenge. Lesson learned, and to quote my biz buddy Angel Morales- “sales before scale”.  We should have hired a business development person a year earlier than we did.

I struggled with some health issues this year. Over the summer, while traveling to multiple business events, I had a really bad flare up of a chronic digestive issue. I won’t get too specific but you can Google “diverticulitis” if you are curious. I soldered on for a couple months with pretty intense pain (especially at night) until I opted for the antibiotics that always take care of it. I just hate taking antibiotics. I want my body to gain the strength to fight things off. But in this case I should have gone to them sooner. It was a rough couple months.

Many of my close friends and business associates had a tough year. Stress was high and money was tight. I saw this over and over again. As an entrepreneur it really saddened me to see so many people struggling this year. Although there were some real highs to the year with this group I was reminded how hard it is to start and run a business. It is a very stressful experience and not for everyone. I'm really proud of all of y'all- you know who you are.

I was overcommitted this year and it showed. I really saw how I had spread myself too thin, saying yes to too many things. This stunted growth across some of the organizations I am involved with. I am now re-auditing what I spend time on and going towards what feeds me and away from what drains me. Also, I have come to see alignment between what feeds me and where I provide real value. 

Looking forward to 2015. 

I’m excited about next year. I see strong growth for SmallBox and my other endeavors. I see many of my friends that have struggled this year having a much better 2015. I am looking forward to taking off the month of July for a mini-sabbatical to reflect on my life, work, past and future. I look forward to writing more. I look forward to playing more music. I look forward to being healthy. I look forward to being with my family.

You know, 2014 was a good year on the whole but I want to look back on 2015 and think “2014 was something of a dress rehearsal for what came next.” 

I sincerely wish all of you- friend, family, acquaintance, stranger- an amazing 2015.


this post is part of the SmallBox December blogging project Think Kit. Inspired by today's prompt below. More info at Join anytime in December! Follow on Twitter and/or on .

Just Can't Wait. The calendar still says 2014, but let's push forward. What are you looking forward to in 2015? Is there an event, special occasion, or reunion that you're counting down the days until? Planning a trip? A life change? A move? Or maybe it's the simple pleasures – the release of a movie, something or someone hitting a stage near you. 

My First (and best) Scar #thinkkit

Public Service Announcement: this is a warm-up post for SmallBox's annual Think Kit project every December where anyone who wants to blog can sign up for a daily prompt and write as many or as few posts as they want during the month. You can join now or anytime via!

Here is my first scar from when I was 5 or 6 years old:

Isn't skin weird? Anyway, here's how I got that little beauty. I was doing normal kid stuff, collecting bugs and spiders, and decided I needed a home for them to live. So I found a glass jar with a metal lid. I knew enough to know that my new pets would need some air to live so I grabbed a steak knife and proceeded to begin punching holes in the metal lid- something I had done before so I didn't think much of it. I got a few holes in...

...and then I missed, the knife went into my hand and I pulled out the knife and ran out of the kitchen screaming and crying. You can see from the depth of the cut that the knife went pretty far in. My mother was outside working in the garden and quickly stopped the bleeding and got me patched up. I was moving the lawn by the afternoon so I guess I wasn't too traumatized.

This first scar remains my favorite because it reminds me of my happy, free range childhood- something I have tried to preserve and bring to my children.