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How To Write

Now that I’m a published author, people often ask me how to become a writer, how to write, what tools I use to write, how to get published, and so on.

Quickly, this is what you need to know about writing:

1.) Write poorly. 

2.) Feel great shame about your crappy writing. 

3.) Visit that writing the next day and fix it. The next day really works! 

4.) Feel better.

Happywork TV Episode 30: Give Veterans a Chance!

In Episode 30 of Happywork TV, I present the next commitment in The Happywork Agreement, the work code of conduct I’ve written to help bring happiness to the sorriest workplaces.

It’s a followup to Episode 29, in which I asked employers to never discriminate against others when hiring. I mentioned veterans in that commitment, but wanted to pull this issue out and give it its own commitment. It goes like this: “I have something extra to say about veterans. I will give veterans the same chance I give every job applicant. The fact that they ‘saw some crazy stuff’ when serving their country in battle has nothing to do with anything. In fact, their ability to manipulate multi-million dollar equipment under extreme circumstances would seemingly make them very worthy candidates.”

So it’s easy enough to tell your HR department, “Stop discriminating against minorities when you’re hiring for a position.” That alone may not work. This book and its Happywork Agreement might not work! But we have to try.

Racism and discrimination makes no sense to me. It’s not based on anything except taught prejudice, AND it’s inefficient to hate on others. Your company is losing money if you don’t hire the best people!

I decided to pull this veteran issue out and make it a separate commitment, because this REALLY doesn’t make sense to me. As I’m writing from the United States, I’ll speak about us. We send people of every sex, ethnicity, income level – we send EVERYBODY into battle. Every capable body, no matter which tribe you come from, goes to war for us. This melting pot of people comes home, and now they’re “Veterans.” I cannot think of a good reason why their unemployment rate should be so much higher than average. Can you?

This just doesn’t compute for me. I want to change the parts of the world that make no sense to me.

I’ve shared this previously, but this book of mine was borne out of my childhood. My mother didn’t like her job, but kept going to it to support my brother and me. Good reason, I suppose, but my adolescent brain couldn’t square the circle. WHY would she work a job she didn’t like? My passion for happiness in the workplace came out of that failed computation. And this veteran issue is another one that simply doesn’t add up.

They’re good people, with a unique set of skills. Their unemployment rate should not be statistically different than the national average.

Give veterans the same chance you’d give any applicant!

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Watch Episode 29 here!

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Download chapters 1-3 of my book for free!

Happywork is available for pre-order on Amazon – HERE!

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Happywork TV Episode 9: Listen to the Ideas of Your Employees

In Episode 9 of Happywork TV, I introduce the 7th of 46 commitments in my upcoming book “Happywork.”

Here it is: “I will listen to the ideas of my employees.” And there was more, but this is all you need to know.

Why not listen to the ideas of your employees? They’re out on the front lines, dealing with issues hands-on. It is highly probable that they’re going to have a better solution to the problems they’re dealing with each and every day.

I can think of one reason why an employer or manager wouldn’t listen – ego. If someone else solves the problem you’re supposedly smart enough to solve, that’s not always going to feel good. Never mind that the company is better off because the problem is solved. If YOU didn’t solve it, bummer dude.

Another reason? Front line workers don’t have the big picture, and don’t write the checks, so their solutions are short-sighted and unrealistic. Of course this is sometimes true.

But why not listen to them? At the very least, an employee who feels listened to is going to be happier and more engaged in their job. At best, they may provide an idea that’s awesome! Working together is better than working individually.

Listen to your employees! They’ll surprise you sometimes.

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Watch Episode 8 here!

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Happywork is available for pre-order on Amazon – HERE!

Please SUBSCRIBE to my email newsletter! Pretty please – you’ll get these blog posts delivered to you automatically. Merci!

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R.I.P. Rizzo Tees (2008 – 2014)

I Hate Pants Forever

Hi everyone. This is going to be a weird blog post, perhaps too little too late, but I’ll do my best to make it interesting, understandable, and fun.

Today, October 30, 2014, on the 6th anniversary of the birth of Rizzo Tees, I announce its death. Happy 6th birthday, old friend, and I hope you don’t mind being shut down! Today is your official last day.

This is not meant to be dramatic, and at this point, how could it be? To anyone observing, it has been readily apparent for at least two years that the business was no longer getting my attention. I haven’t debuted a new tee design in years. There are probably some steps I should have taken earlier to make something great happen with the business – either ramp it up, or sell it. I got so busy with transitioning to a new career, with trying to learn to be a great ad agency salesman, with trying to write a book, with finding a publisher, with actually writing a book, and now with trying to sell a book … there was no time for Rizzo Tees.

And really no desire either. For the first few years, I loved concepting tee designs, working with amazing tee designers to bring them to life, and I loved debuting the designs. Some sold amazingly well. Some barely sold. I quickly learned what success and failure felt like. But that list of stuff I mentioned in the last paragraph – especially the book – captured my imagination and didn’t let go.

I’ve had several people ask me if I wanted to sell Rizzo Tees. I don’t know … whatchoo got? I sheepishly told several interested parties that I don’t even have time to sell it right now. All of my energy is going into my current job, and my book marketing efforts. I have no cranial capacity to think about selling the business. I don’t feel like dickering over price, and don’t want to be told it’s not worth what I think it is, or whatever.

Anyway, the death of this business is OK with me. Even with a mixed record, I can say I accomplished everything I wanted to with it. I learned so much, met all of you, and left my old CPA career. Knowing that a career change was the goal from day one, I say “Mission Accomplished.” For any of you who have known me since 2007-2008, you know that’s what I wanted to see happen. I even made this video outlining my dream of leaving accounting by July 1, 2011. I beat that date big time, and I’m proud of that.

And now a new mission has begun. This book of mine, Happywork, seems infinitely more important than the tee biz ever did. I know that’s not true, that my feelings are being temporally affected. But yes, let’s just run with it – the message of this book is important to me now, and now is now, so it’s the most important thing going on in my life. I think my message of happiness at work is going to be my number one priority for years to come. We’ll see where life takes me.

Gary Vaynerchuk Props to my TweepsEpic Meal Time

To all the people who bought shirts, especially the bacon ones – after all, I was once known as the Baron of Bacon (TY Shelley Niemeier for that moniker) – THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. It was a joy to make you fun shirts. It was a thrill to see the Epic Meal Time guys and Gary Vaynerchuk wear them in their videos. Mostly, it was just fun making things. There is glory in making stuff (and I draw a direct distinction between this and being a “social media guru”). When I talk to my two young daughters about their future, I tell them to never shy away from making things. Making food (chef), making living spaces (interior designer), making coffee (barista), making art (artist), making clothing (fashion designer), making buildings (architect), or making stories (author). Whatever you do, I tell them, please make something for the world. I’m happy that I did that with Rizzo Tees, and I think the greatest chapter to come will be written by my first and hopefully not last book.

Thank you everyone for being a friend of mine. In 2015 and beyond, let’s make great things happen.



This sort of thing makes it fun to be in business. I mean, how cool is this?

Loving Soccer is Unamerican, According to Mark Reardon

Mark Reardon thinks soccer is Communist, and of course he’s crazy. But at least he let me plug my book. I always love going on KMOX radio – thanks so much Mark for having me in.

Let it be known – soccer is an awesome spectator sport!

—–> LISTEN HERE <-----

Big Announcement – I’m Headed to Kaldi’s Coffee

I am elated to announce that I have joined Kaldi’s Coffee as their new Marketing Director. This is a newly created position that will have me creating and implementing marketing strategies, monitoring and posting on social media, and finding ways to sell more coffee (especially online). I’m thrilled to join the organization, while having mixed feelings about leaving Falk Harrison (see the end of the post for an explanation on that).

I’ve previously shared information regarding my move from the accounting world to the marketing world, and people seemed interested in the details. So I thought I’d share some information this time, as well. Why did I make this move? Here are three reasons:

1. I want to get my hands dirty with the work. My responsibilities will have me plotting and implementing strategy almost 100% of the time. I’m a student of new media and still have much to learn (and always will). If I come up with an interesting idea I want to try, I won’t have to find a company willing to let me implement it. As long as it’s not too crazy, Kaldi’s will let me try it. This means I won’t be spending time convincing companies that doing social media and new media is a good idea.

2. The people – I’ve known folks from Kaldi’s for several years and have made many friends. I predict we’re going to get along quite well. In talking with Josh Ferguson, he stressed the importance of family – the family we work with, and the family we have at home. With a wife and two young daughters, I want to be able to be there for them. I want to make it to the recitals, pick them up from school every once in awhile. Kaldi’s made it clear that I’d be able to do so, in exchange for getting the work done.

3. The subject matter – I love coffee. I’m a 365-days-a-year coffee drinker. I’m a hot mess without coffee. It’s terrible, but it’s so awesome because coffee in the morning is a pleasure. It’s going to be easy to wake up every day and be excited about my work, and I should be able to find the inspiration to tell the Kaldis’ story. During my agency life, when a client would express concern to me that no one would care about what they were saying on social media due to their staid or boring product, I’d say, “Look, we’re not selling tombstones here.” That jarring example usually got them back in the right mindset. Well, same thing here – I won’t have to gin myself up to talk about or search for a story angle on coffee. I’m a big fan of coffee – I think this is going to make a difference.

So those are some of my reasons for joining Kaldi’s. I can say that none of this speaks negatively towards Falk Harrison. In fact, we’ve decided that I may still be able to help out. So we came to an arrangement where I’ll be able to help Falk Harrison clients with some social media consulting. I had mixed emotions about leaving our great clients, and now I’ll get a chance to continue to help out here and there. Jon Falk was easy to work with as we constructed this arrangement, and I look forward to helping out.

At Kaldi’s, we announced my hiring on Wednesday, May 14, 2014, and a huge outpouring of support had me sitting at the computer all day. So many tweets and Facebook posts and messages and … I just want all of you to know that I appreciate your support and encouragement. And yes, self-motivation is a great thing to have, but so are friends like Micah:

It’s time to get to work!

Full disclosure: if you’re thirsty for coffee, go here immediately! Operators are standing by, so to speak. ($2.95 flat rate shipping up to $50, free shipping after that).

My 3 Words for 2013

Wow, it’s 2013. Happy New Year to all! Glad we’re together here instead of being mired in some sort of Jerry Bruckheimer-ish Mayan catastrophe. That was certainly a nail-biter, wasn’t it?

Now, what are we going to do with this 365-day clean slate? Resolutions are usually in order, except that I don’t normally make them. I have resolved to get in better shape ever since the age when that resolution starts making sense (age 24? 25?). Also, I’ve never enjoyed the arbitrary nature of starting really cool initiatives on January 1. If it’s worth doing better, then start doing that thing right now!

In lieu of making New Year’s resolutions, author Chris Brogan chooses three words with which he aims to shape his year. He’s been doing this since 2006. This year, I see people like Mark Schaefer, Jason Konopinski, Justin Levy, Christopher Penn, Mitch Joel and C.C. Chapman choosing their three words, so I decided to give it a try.

Write – This one kicks everything off for me. I am writing a book. Besides getting married and having children, this is probably my life’s most important work. A few months ago I did a Facebook post announcing I had submitted a book proposal to a publisher. It was an exciting post to make, an exciting time for me, and …. I still haven’t heard anything from the publisher. This is something I had better get used to. I’m just going to have to keep plugging away on the deal, but I should not forget that, regardless of whether I get a book deal or not, I have a book to write. I can always self-publish it if every publisher tells me no. Out of 45,000 to 60,000 potential words, I have about 15,000 written. This year, I must write, write, write.

Ship – Part of my problem with writing is that I’m a former CPA. I didn’t gravitate towards a math-laden profession because I’m an awesome writer. Sometimes, the words flow. At other times, great prose escapes my pen, a sort of brain constipation. Seth Godin talks about shipping creativity – watch this David Siteman Garland interview and zero in on the 12:30 mark. Everyone can be creative; everyone has thoughts and great ideas. The trick is to ship that idea – to release it for public consumption and ridicule. Most people do not like to be ridiculed, and because of that, they won’t execute on their best ideas – they won’t deliver. They won’t ship it. I have this really cool book premise (no, it’s not a social media book). I believe very strongly in the idea of civility and happiness in the workplace (and our lives) and want to dedicate a book to it. I’m afraid. I must get over the crippling fear that none of you are going to like it. I must get over the idea that the people I look up to, like the authors I linked to above, are going to laugh at the book’s premise. Truth be told, some will laugh and scoff – that’s just the world we live in. I have to plow ahead and worry about writing the very best book I can, while simultaneously not worrying about what the very worst book review is going to sound like. My creative bent is this book called The Impossible Contract; I must ship this idea.

Bacon – Wait, trust me, it’s not what you think. After 100,000+ tweets and 5 or so bacon-themed t-shirts on my website, I am now known far and wide as a lover of bacon, as the preeminent authority on bacon, as the guy that needs to know when anything bacon-related is going on in the world. Without even really trying, I branded myself as Mr. Bacon, or the Baron of Bacon as Shelley Satke Niemeier donned me. I know the bacon t-shirts helped this self-branding take place. But I had no concerted strategy to be known as the Baron of Bacon. I don’t think I even tweeted about bacon all that often. Again, and I’ve publicly admitted this before, I will sometimes go weeks without consuming bacon. And yet, all of a sudden, people are tweeting me pictures of their bacon Trapper Keepers, bacon toothpaste, bacon cigarettes, bacon shaving cream, and hundreds of other bacony products.

I sometimes question how the hell this happened. It might have been preferable had this been a plan, because I would be able to definitively say it was a smashing success. Go read this article and pay special attention to no. 1. I want to better understand who I am and how people think of me. If I had a better grasp of that, it might allow me to get bigger things done. If I had grasped this bacon phenomenon sooner, I might have jettisoned every non-bacon t-shirt I have on my site and focused only on bacon products. In 2013, I want to better understand what I’m good at, and what I have to offer the world.

Please let me know what your 3 words are in the comments below, or link to a blog post of yours where you offer your three words. And let me know what you think of my choices, as well. Happy New Year.


What I’m Going to Figure Out in 2013 – The Continuum

It all started with David Siteman Garland’s recent interview of Seth Godin. About eight minutes in, David asks Seth about his blog and why he turned comments off. In a world of social media best practices, not accepting comments on your blog is practically a cardinal sin. Seth gives a very convincing reason why he turned them off, and why it has worked so well for him over the years (hit play below to hear the reason).

I was then interested in getting a steak. I saw an ad for the 1904 Steakhouse at River City Casino, which is actually closer to my house than I had ever imagined. I looked up their Yelp reviews and it was pretty mixed, and mixed in that mix were some reviews with biting, negative language. In fact, I wonder if Yelp encourages such prose, as you can rate individual reviews as “funny” or “cool.” The inner food critic is unleashed in all of us.

Well, I thought to myself, “This is a casino steakhouse; why are you surprised it might not be good?” So to reestablish a baseline of what a set of generally positive reviews might sound like, I went to Robust Wine Bar’s Yelp page. (full disclosure: yes, I’m a huge fan of Robust. You probably knew that already. I don’t own a part of Robust, nor do I work for them. I just love them). Their average score was indeed higher than the casino steakhouse, and yet there were still some negative reviews. This should not have been surprising to me, as it is impossible to please everyone. I know this – the people at Robust want to please everyone. They really do care. Those negative reviews may have been deserved – it’s entire plausible that great restaurants have off nights, or that particular servers have off nights. But those reviews bother Robust. Reading them makes it a lousy day for the owners. I hope they don’t mind me saying, but this should not be surprising to you: WE’RE HUMAN.

Which led me to consider a continuum of engagement. On the one extreme, you have Seth Godin, who rarely engages. Watch the entire interview with David – he really doesn’t use Twitter, doesn’t allow comments on his blog, and generally turns down all coffee/lunch/pick-your-brain invites. On the other side are heavy engagers that lay everything out on the line every day, engage directly with those that choose to disagree with them, and generally expose themselves for consumption by the general public (not that kind of expose, get your head out of the gutter.)

Where do I fall on this continuum? Where should I fall? Where should my clients fall? As I reveal in this podcast, when I “get into it” with someone online or off, it ends up pretty much ruining my day. Confrontation is not fun for me. And yet, I do allow comments on my blog, I do public speaking when time allows, I do debate when the topic is dear to me, I do go to networking events and have coffee with people. I do leave myself exposed to criticism (not in some heroic way – just sayin). Maybe I should be more like Seth. Maybe I would be less afraid to take chances, and more apt to get the important stuff done.

In 2013, I want to better understand this continuum and where I should be falling on it. Should I gravitate more towards the Seth-like cocoon?

What do you think? Please leave a comment below.


Which Steve Would You Rather Be?

This is NOT a trick question. Yes, one is unfortunately no longer with us – that’s not the crux of the question. Which Steve is best representing his brand? Dumbing it down even further, which Steve can you tolerate?

BILF T-shirt Always Wins

My understanding is that he ate a three pound sandwich here. So the t-shirt is a perfect eating partner in this case.

BILF t-shirt by Rizzo Tees

Photo by Jonathan Gayman - thank you!

I might have to give this Shack Pubgrub a looksee sometime. Thanks Corey for tweeting this to me!

T-shirt available for purchase here.