What will be said about you when you die?

147Richard was stupidly optimistic, inappropriately honest, and the best procrastinator the world has witnessed. He started some amazing projects but never finished one. His passion for life and incredible energy, whilst positive and captivating, landed him in more trouble than anything else.

…Is that it? Is that the best you can come up with? It’s me you’re talking about here!

At the time of writing this blog Madiba is on life support. Sadly, his life hangs in the balance.  A life that has had a powerful and very significant effect on my life, despite the fact that I have never had the privilege to meet him.

Every newsroom in South Africa, and I would guess throughout most of the world, has the enviable task of crafting an obituary for arguably the world’s most loved man.

I say enviable because it’s not a very difficult obituary to write. His life has been so well documented that it almost writes itself. He has touched countless lives in the most constructive way and the hardest part is probably deciding what to leave out of a fitting tribute.

But what about yours? What if I had to write a testament to you tomorrow? Would I find enough evidence to construct a positive, honest and fitting credit to your years on this planet? How would your friends and family celebrate your life and the joy that you brought to those around you, how would they choose to remember you?

More importantly would you be satisfied with the words I read out should you be able to hear me?

467758143_1ce21b96c8_zThe last time I wrote my own eulogy was three years ago. It was part of an exercise I designed with my sales team, and I made them all write their own. They laughed at first and thought I was a little morbid and strange. But soon it dawned on them that what they were writing were authentic goals.

Suddenly the laughter subsided and one or two who were brave and honest enough murmured, “I know what I would like them to say, but I don’t know if anyone will.” More than one person replied, “There’s still so much I want to do.”

It’s a very sobering thought, and the reality is that we don’t always know what people really think about us. That shouldn’t matter though because yours is the most critical voice, and the eyes that look back at you in the mirror know the full story.

You get to decide how you will turn your aspirations into reality and what is truly important for you.

Call it a personal challenge if you will, writing your own eulogy, because there is no better way to challenge yourself than to write it down, read it often, and measure yourself against what you have written.

They say that the measure of a life is how many people measure their own lives by that life. If the only people who look upon my life, who feel proud of whom I was as a person, and who hope that they can be like me in some ways are my two daughters; I will have lived a good life.

I get to define that outcome I strive for each and every day. Some days I think that I have succeeded, others not.

Nelson Mandela Arrives At The InterContinental HotelWhat got me thinking about this blog are all the things I admire about Madiba, and although I know he’s by no means perfect there is a lot I choose to measure myself against.

I greatly admire the humility of the man, and I want to emulate his kindness. I want to strive to see the best in people despite what they might have done to me. I want to learn to build bridges. I need to learn forgiveness.

What mark will you leave on this world, and what do YOU want people to say about your life?

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The biggest marketing fail.

I looked through the window to see three suited men standing at my gate armed with books and small suitcases. In the speed of light I was on the floor, and had leopard-crawled behind the nguni ottoman. The comrades trained by the Russians in the days of the struggle would have learned a thing or two about stealth right there.

The intercom buzzed annoyingly, three more times. Had they spotted me? My car in the driveway was a dead giveaway.
I peeked out of the corner of the window, hoping that the sun’s glare on the glass would prevent detection from the men intent on persuading me politely that I was wrong and that they were right. Yes, the witnesses of Jehovah.

072I looked around, my eyes settling on the petulant lovebird. For a brief moment I imagined her dive-bombing them mercilessly at the gate. She has been known to draw blood and even I am scared of her. But she whistled angrily back at me, pausing only briefly in her assault on my chocolate brownie.

Next I looked down at my Saturday best; woolly gown over my sleep shorts and tee. My white scaly winter legs disappearing into thick socks and rugged crocs. My black rimmed coke-bottle-bottom glasses perched on my nose. Perhaps I should go down to the gate like this, OMG, I looked a sight!

I felt uncomfortable in my own home, feeling guilty for avoiding confrontation, or at the very least, interaction. My chilled Saturday morning had been reduced to a re-run of The Cosby Show; a tired old comedy with a punchline we’ve all heard before. There is a special place in hell…

Before I go any further please let me set the record straight. This isn’t a blog about religion, not in the least. I do not judge a Jehovah’s Witness on their particular brand of faith. There is a lot I admire, pugnacious tenacity and persistence in the face of extreme rejection is right up there.

No, the only thing I judge is their marketing strategy.

“What right do you have to judge at all”, I hear you say. Violate my private space repeatedly and thrust your religion, faith, doctrine, koeksusters, belief, brooms, ideology or green mielies down my throat, and I will judge. Trust me, I will judge. No matter who you are or what you are selling.

The objective behind any marketing campaign is to broaden the support base of the relevant brand. Any half decent marketing guru will be quick to point out that doing anything that is highly likely to dissuade people from your brand is a futile exercise. Actually, futile is kind.

beware of the dog

Beware of the dog

This is where the Jehovah’s Witness campaign loses me. I am not alone in saying that I’d rather Veet my privates than engage in vigorous religious debate with a stranger in my home on a Saturday. And debating is a pastime I am particularly partial to.

As a result of these sales tactics the religion is the target of more judgement and more jokes than any other. It’s probably the religion I am sadly the least interested in learning about.

I am sure that there are reasons behind the strategy, perhaps ideology and a higher instruction. But I couldn’t care less. Please don’t bother to explain.
You lost me the minute you arrived at my gate hoping to convert me to your way of thinking. And you rang the intercom 4 times, what are YOU thinking?

For gods sakes stop committing marketing suicide – there are no celestial virgins waiting.

Have you ever been in one of those relationships with a woman (Maybe some men do this too…) who insists on making things as bad as she possibly can? Plumbing the depths of relationship hell. And the psychology behind the strategy is that if you still want to be with her, despite the dreadfulness of her behaviour, then you REALLY must love her. It’s a test of your love.

You know where I’m going with this don’t you. That one convert, the one out of 237 642, has to be a real believer. Put them off as much as you can, and then…then…if they STILL convert…

img1This blog would be nothing more than a rant if I didn’t at the very least offer an alternative. I believe that there are powerful lessons contained here for anybody who markets a product or a brand.

My suggestion is a massive worldwide campaign; billboards, TV ads, print media – no scrap that, print is dead – online ads, anything and everything else telling the world that the Saturday knocking sales pitches have stopped, the divine number has been attained.

At the same time thanking those who heeded the divine call. The good news to be shared is that the Big J has filled his – or is it her? – quota of converts and that there is no more space on the river boat to the afterlife.

Lastly a sincere wish of good luck to those who have not heeded the call, but regrettably the boat is full. Bye bye, take care now and thanks for not coming.

See what we’ve done? Created a fear of loss.
And that my friends, is marketing 101.

If you do not have my product, your life is over.

Make them come to you… or become the butt of someone’s joke…

What does Hannibal Lecter call a Jehovah’s Witness?

Free delivery.

How can I love you if you don’t remember me?

imagesI’ve never been to one of those hotels that offer a bed-mate for the night, so I can’t vouch specifically for those establishments, but to get me to go back over and over again to a relatively decent hotel isn’t hard. No really, it isn’t. I am a pretty simple bloke and all I want is a good bed, an awesome shower and a chocolate on my pillow.

Over the past two years I’ve spent a third of my nights in hotel beds all over South and Southern Africa. Forget a blog…I could write a book. I have had some strange and interesting experiences.  It’s important to note that I’m not a high flying big spender; I’m just the average hotel guest paying a corporate rate.

I don’t utilize hotel spas, but that’s another story. I don’t need the gym facilities, choosing instead to brave the traffic and the odd rabies-infected squirrel on my runs in the great outdoors. I hardly ever order room service, and phone the desk to request things even more infrequently.

In desperation I once phoned the front desk to request a pair of jocks because my packing assistant had let me down again.

When the person who answered the phone suggested that they could look for a pair in lost property I momentarily thought of mentioning my fetish for women’s underwear but quickly stopped myself. Not everybody can find their cheek with their tongue.

I travel with my own cappuccino sachets because the coffee made available in hotel rooms generally tastes like the ‘coffee’ they serve on South African Airways flights.

And a minibar is not a necessity for me unless the chocolate is kept there.  A note to all hotels – I prefer my chocolate at room temperature.

So it would seem that I am a pretty easy guest to please, a guest that hundreds of hotels could accommodate. Yet there are few hotels that see me returning by choice time and time again.

face a smileThe reason is a simple one. I want to be recognized when I return. I want to be remembered. If I have checked in on a previous occasion I don’t want to have to fill in those arduous forms again, and I certainly want the front desk to welcome me back with a big smile.

My two favourites are The Parkwood Guest Lodge in Johannesburg (their job is easier because they are a sixteen room guesthouse) and The Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town.

It’s The Vineyard staff who has urged me to put fingers to the keyboard. The moment I arrive my car keys are whisked out of my hand, my luggage and car are taken care of and I am greeted by name. Yes, by name. “Welcome back Mr Wright, so good to see you.”

I have no doubt that one of the front desk employees is going to do the Fosbury Flop over the counter, run across the foyer, throw their arms around me, and give me a big welcoming kiss.  I am sure that the day is imminent, and it’s indicative of the warmth I receive, like a friend returning after a time away.

A while ago I found myself back at The Vineyard after a 5 month gap. Occupancy was high over the Cape Town summer and as such the corporate rates hadn’t applied. From the moment I arrived back I was inundated by the “where have you been?” question.

Upon leaving my room on the second morning of my stay I walked past one of the many housekeepers. “Good morning” I said.

“I knew it was you!” She beamed. “I cleaned the room yesterday and I recognized your things.” “You haven’t been here for ages.”

vineyardFor a member of staff in a hotel that size to remember me is a feat in itself. To remember what the room looks like when I stay there is another entirely – I choose to believe that it is because I am habitual in making any hotel room feel like my space and not because of the women’s underwear 😉

I am lucky enough to stay at many hotels of a similar calibre so it isn’t that it’s the best hotel (although it is pretty amazing.) I’ve stayed at some that will give The Vineyard a run for its money. It’s the people. It’s the way they make me feel.

I am recognized by the doormen, the housekeepers, the waitrons and barmen. They all smile, they know my name, they engage with me. I get a hug from Denise the maître d of the restaurant every morning. And that is why I will always go back. It feels like a small intimate guesthouse and not a large hotel.

I am aware that a lot of it is who I am. I always try to engage with everybody no matter their station or position in life. Whether I run past a woman walking to work on my run, a fellow guest leaving their room, or my neighbour’s gardener, I will greet and smile. I’m that guy who looks you in the eyes and says hello when we are in a lift together.

032But I guess that is why the staff at The Vineyard stand out the way they do, it’s because I am the same with everybody no matter what. And they just give it back so much better than anywhere else I’ve ever been.

I am made to feel important.

If your aim is to be successful at what you do, no matter your line of work, take the time to remember the people who are important to your business and make them feel special.
We all want to be remembered, and you will be loved by your clientele as a result.

I’m a victim

ImageThe easiest decisions in life are often the ones that enable you be claim to be a victim. Most times you think you didn’t make the choice either. Life just handed you that deal. And let’s be honest, sometimes it might well have.

But it’s always a choice to either accept your fate or decide to change it, and its often incredibly hard to stand up for yourself and make yourself the priority. The consequences sometimes seem so harsh and the road so tough. Somehow, its just easier to give in and moan about how bad things are.

If that’s where you find yourself, be strong. And make a choice for you. Or, at the very least, make a conscious decision not be to a victim. Its ultimately about taking responsibility for yourself.

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If you know whats important to you, really important, you know deep down inside which battles are worth fighting. Fear is what stops you, but

YOU are always worth the fight.