Storytelling, Productivity And Business Lessons Learned At Gunpoint

Storytelling, Productivity And Business Lessons Learned At Gunpoint

Our First Episode of 2016!

Yes, we took a longer hiatus than expected but we’re back, we’re caffeinated and we’ve got lots to talk about.

This is part after-hours and part business so grab a cup of your favorite Simpson & Vail tea and join us as we talk about meditation, the whirlwind and lessons learned from having a gun pointed in our faces.

Why Are We Here?

Since it’s been a while we decided to reintroduce the purpose of our podcast, especially as we look forward to a new year ahead. Since the beginning of our podcast we’ve talked mostly about marketing but toward the last half of 2015 we shifted to talk more about business. And that’s what we want to continue doing in 2016.

We want to focus on business because as an entrepreneur your business is part of your life. It intertwines with your family, your health, your lifestyle. It affects how you think and how you feel and the decisions you make. So ultimately our podcast is about taking on the challenges of having a business and a whole life.

Here’s what we don’t want to do: give you the same stuff you can hear anywhere. How to get more Twitter followers. What to do about Pinterest or Facebook or growing your email list. We want to dig deep into what makes a business run and challenge common assumptions that can lead you down a dead end or keep you stuck in neutral.

We look at this podcast as part of the journey. We don’t know everything. But we keep learning and growing and that’s what we want to do with you. We want you to be part of our journey, and we want to be part of yours. Think of this podcast as a conversation between entrepreneurs. We’re glad you’re listening and we’re here to listen if you want to share your questions or stories or challenges, too.

Email, Skype, text, send smoke signals… let us know what your journey is like. Together we can learn and grow together.

Need To Decompress? Listen To The Mystic Show

Before we get started on today’s topics, we want to shout out to our friend Chris Curran who hosts the ever-popular Social Media Unscrambled podcast, and who also has another podcast called The Mystic Show. It’s all about getting out of the whirlwind of your life and business, taking a moment to pause, eliminate the distractions and be calm and tranquil.

Take it from someone whose brain is constantly in a spin – that show is soothing and worth a listen. From the music to Chris’s voice to the topics of conversation, it gives you a little haven in a stormy day.

And Now, Caffeine

There’s no question that caffeine – specifically in the form of coffee – is pretty much central to most business people’s existence.

But what Ralph has found after switching from coffee to tea is that he doesn’t quite need that caffeine jolt anymore to get through a day. He suggests that for many people coffee has become a substitute for sleep.

Is caffeine leading to more people being in the whirlwind? Do you sometimes grab a cup of coffee and find yourself on the go-go-go?

We wonder if feeling amped up is just creating the illusion that we’re getting things done. Remember, busy does not equal productive! “Doing stuff” and feeling wide awake doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being effective.

Letting go of caffeine is hard. It can kind of feel like a detox. You’ll probably think something is wrong because you’re so used to being caffeinated that “normal” will feel like an oddity.

Same thing with sugar. You know how you grab a donut or a handful of M&Ms and you’re ready to go, but a little while later…. YAWN! So you get another candy bar or Danish and you’re energetic again… until the next crash.

Before I ditched sugar a few months ago I was constantly tired. I’d feel great after my chocolate chip pancakes but a few hours later I’d need a nap in the worst way. There’s no doubt that taking better care of myself has completely changed my energy levels and productivity.

Both Ralph and I have also added meditation to our daily routine – fifteen or twenty minutes a day of sitting. Just sitting. Not making notes or washing dishes. Not planning for tomorrow or running dinner menus over in our heads. And that has led to better sleep, which also contributes to feeling better and being better.

Just the same way you can get into a downward spiral of less energy, less motivation and less productivity, you can also get into an upward spiral. The better you are to yourself, the better you are, period.


What do you do to relax? Maybe more to the point, how do you define relaxing?

Sometimes you’ve just got to “waste time.” The kind where you sit on the couch and channel surf for hours. In my case, I spend hours playing Freecell on my phone.

But sometimes you can relax by doing things other than work – anything, really, even if it’s “productive”. The point is to take your mind (and body) away from work and its stresses and do something else.

I actually find cleaning my house relaxing. When I’m completely stressed out the first thing I do is start cleaning. It’s kind of habitual. In fact, one of my most favorite Christmas gifts this year was a new vacuum. Yeah, I’m at that age.

But seriously, running my new, fabulous vacuum over the floor and experiencing that satisfaction of a clean house is very relaxing for me. So as you think about how to spend your “relaxing” time, don’t be afraid to do nothing – or something!

Ralph And Carol Lynn Go To The Movies

We’ve seen a bunch of movies recently – well, to be honest, we see a bunch of movies all the time! But a couple we’ve seen specifically got us thinking about what makes for good storytelling.

First up is The Martian. We both read and loved the book. We had a split decision on the movie – Ralph loved it but I thought it was a drab retelling of a great book.

Next is The Hateful Eight. We both really enjoyed that one. We’re huge Quentin Tarantino fans.

Third is In The Heart Of The Sea. Ralph loved every page of the book. I haven’t read it yet. But we both hated the movie.

Finally, Star Wars. We both very much enjoyed the latest movie and agree that we very much didn’t enjoy the prequels.

So what made the difference between a great story and one we wanted to walk out on?

The answer turns out to be pretty simple. The best stories were a collaborative effort between the director, screenwriter, actors and others on the team. The ones that failed were missing that element.

With Star Wars especially, it’s easy to pick out which films were a collaboration and which ones George Lucas went off to tell on his own. (Hint: the generally agreed-to-be-best movie, Empire Strikes Back, was collaborative. The prequels were not.)

The takeaway? You may not, in fact, be the best person to tell your own story! Does that fly in the face of everything you’ve been told? The thing is, you need to be part of the story and you need to be part of the telling. But if you work on the telling with someone else, you may find that your story becomes stronger.

Collaborating with someone – whether you’ve hired that person or they’re a friend, colleague or someone inside your business – can bring a brand new perspective. Another person can ask questions that bring out new angles and help you see and share your story in a whole new way.

We also recently saw The Revenant. Ralph loved it but I was bored to death. Yet we both agree that it was a visually beautiful movie and well told. Our takeaway? Not all storytelling methods will appeal to everyone. Ralph enjoyed the visual storytelling. I didn’t. So as a business owner you may need to tell your story in different ways to appeal to different people.

Your First Seriously Social Moment Of 2016

Do tools solve your problems? Ian Anderson Gray wants to know!

But he says that before you start looking at tools you need to figure out what you want to accomplish. Make a list of what tasks you want to automate or get help with. Then make a short list of the tools that can help you with your top priorities. Chances are no one tool will fit the bill so you’ll probably find yourself using a selection of tools. But remember, it’s not about the tool – it’s about what the tool can help you do.

Social Gaming…

We’ve recently become addicted? Obsessed? With a game called Ingress. It is an “augmented-reality massively multiplayer online location-based game”, or MMO for short. And since that’s a heck of a mouthful, the easiest way to think of it is as an online, social and worldwide game of Capture the Flag.

The premise is that “exotic matter”, aka XM, is leaking into the world at various portals. The portals are imaginary but they are located at real places, including businesses, markers and places of historical significance.

As a result, humanity has been divided into two factions – the Resistance and the Enlightened. Your job is to visit the portals and take them over for your faction. Once you take over a portal, you can then link portals together to create fields. Whatever geographic area is under your field is then controlled by your faction and that gets you points.

There’s no winning and losing – it’s just a matter of who has more portals and fields and points.

What makes this game unique is that it is truly social. You can’t play it from your computer or your desk. You can only interact with a portal by going to its physical location.

And you can’t be effective at the game by yourself. You will never have the power or resources that you need unless you collaborate with other people.

So it’s been a lot of fun playing and meeting people along the way. By the way, if you want to give the game a shot, ask us for an invitation! You don’t need one, but if you join via our invitation we get in-game rewards (yah!) And in case you were wondering, we play on the side of the Enlightened.

We’ve learned a couple of things as a result of playing the game, not least of which is how to navigate our own town. After years of relying on the GPS to tell us when to turn left or right, we’re finally figuring out where things are and how to get there on our own.

We’re also picking up a lot of history. For example, we learned that our town of Holmdel used to be called Hornet’s Nest.

Funny thing about that history lesson, though. We learned it at gunpoint.

…And Lessons Learned At Gunpoint

After blowing a tire out while playing the game last weekend, we had an even more intense adventure this weekend as we searched for a landmark called the Hornet’s Nest. It was dark, and we were traveling down a rather suburban, narrow and winding road into the middle of nowhere. We could see on the in-game GPS that we were right near the portal we were looking for, but couldn’t quite access it.

So we turned down another even narrower and more winding road that dropped off on one side into a ravine below. A car was coming slowly in the other direction, with barely enough room to pass, so we rolled down our window to ask if it was a one way street.

The woman in the car looked at us and said, “No. It’s my driveway. This is my house.”


She told us to back out and then left. But it was dark and the driveway was narrow, and remember that part about one side plunging into a ravine? So instead of backing out we drove to the top, turned around at the garage and drove out. By then we were completely lost so we pulled over in front of the driveway to get our bearings, when we saw a man jogging down the driveway towards us.

So Ralph rolled down his window and the man proceeded to snap a photo of us, snap a photo of the front of the car, snap a photo of the rear of the car and then pulled out a gun and pointed it at us through the window.

Since we’re still alive to tell the tale, you might guess it worked out in the end but there were a few tense moments as we tried to explain that no, we were not casing his house and were actually playing a game and looking for a portal called the Hornet’s Nest. Which sounds kind of ridiculous when you say it out loud.

Ralph defused the situation by apologizing profusely and agreeing that we shouldn’t have been in the driveway. Ultimately we all sort of chuckled over it and the man asked us for a ride back to his house.

Just to give you an idea of how long this driveway was, we got a whole history lesson on the Revolutionary War and the naming of the town on the way up.

Perhaps the most notable thing about this story is that even as we were staring down the wrong end of the gun, both Ralph and I had the same thought: we totally understood why this guy was pointing it at us. Neither of us thought he was wrong about it or crazy. We knew he was a guy scared by some people hanging out in his driveway who had freaked his wife out only a few minutes ago.

So what does that mean in the grander scheme of things…

Actually, a lot. Plenty of days we find ourselves staring down the metaphorical barrel of a gun. It could be an annoying client. Or a difficult situation. Or a disagreement with a friend or business partner.

And we can choose to escalate, to be confrontational and risk something worse. Or we can put ourselves in the position of the other person, empathize and disarm them.

The next time you find yourself butting heads with someone, try understanding. Try being humble and admitting when you’re wrong. Try an apology. Most importantly, try kindness. It’s one of your most powerful weapons and can disarm even the most savage beast if you try hard enough. Just pretend there’s a gun in your face.

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Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn is a content creator and marketer who has been in the business of digital marketing since 1999. Along with her husband and business partner Ralph, she owns and operates both {Web.Search.Social}, a consulting and marketing services business, and Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio. On any given day Carol Lynn will wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. Her true passion is writing, whether it’s web content, a blog post, email campaign or social status update. When she's not writing for customers, {Web.Search.Social}, or her own blog, she's planning her early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera
  • Your gun in the face description, especially delivered so calmly, was quite the story! I’d like to say you found what I’ll call “the Canadian way”…kill ’em with kindness. Or in buddhist terms, finding the middle way.

    And Carol Lynn: I couldn’t agree more. Try as I might to have liked “The Revenant”, I was, quite simply, bored. Don’t get me wrong: the scenery was magnificent, shot up here in Calgary, Canada. And I’m sure Leonardo will win an Oscar for his performance which, I suppose, is deserved, even if based on his spending ten months in the frigid Canadian weather. So although lovingly filmed, it was a meh for me.

    • Kaarina, I heard the book was even more “meh”.

      • Then that’s not a book for me :)

        • I’ll skip the book! I love a beautiful movie but for me it;s more about the characters than anything. I can forgive bad filmmaking, crummy plot lines and a lot of things if the characters are enjoyable.

          • For me, it was just one long slog. The scenery was beautiful, but just not a movie for me. Now give me “The Jane Austen Book Club” (which I watch at least once a year if not more), “Rear Window”, “Top Gun” (oh yes, I love it), “Breakfast at Tiffanys”…oh, stop me:)

  • The guy holding the gun was a really brave soul but, in my opinion, not the sharpest tool in the shed. He was taking his chances approaching a vehicle whose occupants were unknown to him. Any number of things could have happened during that exchange. Some of which are too scary to fathom (Live in Los Angeles for 30 years and you don’t need an imagination to know what I’m talking about.) More than relieved to learn this story had a happy ending. Whew!! Close call.

    • Yeah, I think maybe if this was in NY it might have been a different story, too. Probably more like shoot first, ask questions later. Or is that stereotyping :)

      It was weirdly scary and yet understandable. But hey, it makes for a good podcast headline!

  • May I please get an invitation to join the Enlightened Ones? Oh, and a gun in your face is something I’ve also experienced. In the middle of the day at an ATM machine. SO GLAD to hear you and Ralph got home safely.

    • OOOOO I would love to send one! My first official recruit :) Shoot me an email with the email address you want to use. If you want to join the chats at some point they happen on Google hangouts so you have to connect your Google profile to do that. Yah for green!

      Also, I think being held up at an ATM is a lot scarier. You know that person has some type of malicious intent. Our guy was probably just as scared of us. What did you end up doing?

  • Daniel Ndukwu

    Well Damn! way to brave the storm and make it through a life threatening situation. You even gave him a ride back to the house.

    Awesome awesome stuff. I’m completely loving it.

    You’ll be seeing me around.



    PS I’m a tea drinker too. a Cup of green tea every morning with some natural honey to round it out works wonders for my schedule. That with a little meditation and I’m good for the whole day.

    • So glad to hear you enjoyed the story! It’s always a good day when you get to live through it :) And in the end it turned out pretty good.

      We’re on the same page about tea – though my preference is for black, I love a good honey. And Ralph and I drink it and meditate in the evenings.

      Looking forward to hearing your input in the future. Let us know if you have any thoughts you’d like us to share or ideas to tackle!