It’s COLAB Time!

In 2008, I participated in the inaugural COLAB internship program. It was an incredible six weeks full of collaboration with some really wonderful, forward thinking, tech-savvy, inspiring people.

Plus you get to spend the summer in Portland, which is perhaps one of the loveliest cities, especially during the summer months.  

COLAB alumn were  asked us to create a video talking about our experience with the program. Here’s mine! (:

Process, Learning, Music

When I first started taking private violin lessons way back when, my teacher, Mr. Nelson, had me read a book before I began: The Inner Game of Tennis.

“WTF? I am here for violin lessons, not tennis tips” I thought to myself.

However, I read the book and honestly, the ideas in the book have really changed my way of thinking. My brief summary will do no justice to this book; however, to give you a brief background, the book is basically about this:

In every human endeavor there are two arenas of engagement: the outer and the inner. The outer game is played on an external arena to overcome external obstacles to reach an external goal. The inner game takes place within the mind of the player and is played against such obstacles as fear, self-doubt, lapses in focus, and limiting concepts or assumptions. The inner game is played to overcome the self-imposed obstacles that prevent an individual or team from accessing their full potential.

So basically, it’s about the psychology of learning. And how we all have a ‘self 1’ and a ‘self 2’. Self 1 is the name that is given to the conscious ego-mind which likes the tell Self 2, you and your potential, how to hit the ball and play the game. (or how to play the music in my case…). According to the Inner Game theory, to achieve peak performance, the key is to resolve any lack of harmony between the two selves, as it is the contrary thinking of Self 1 which causes interference with the natural abilities of Self 2. This requires the learning of several inner skills, such as the art of letting go of self-judgements, letting Self 2 do the hitting, recognizing and trusting the natural learning process.

Pretty wild, right? For me this was a huge learning lesson because I realized how much my “self 1” was affecting my playing. I always caught myself thinking, ‘oh shoot, you are going to be flat on this note’ or, ‘wow, your intonation and pitch is really off today’. When the reality of playing an instrument is this: it’s all about muscle memory and hearing the sound you want to hear before playing it.

I remember in orchestra, we’d always do these exercises where we’d put down our instruments and Mr. Nelson would take out a ball and throw it to us and we’d have to catch without looking. He said: you should never miss the ball because you know how to catch a ball. You know how to anticipate where it is going to land based on the speed and distance for which it was thrown. It’s all very systematic actually. There’s no excuse for missing catching the ball because nothing changes the process. The only thing that changes is ‘self 1’ telling ‘self 2’ that you are going to miss the ball.

Pretty crazy how psychological success can be sometimes, right?

So that indirectly segues into the following videos. There are a few different ways to learn music. One is by ear – many young children use a method called the Suzuki method to learn an instrument, which is basically learning by playing by ear rather than reading music. My opinion is that this is used on many of the children who are started on instruments at a very young age, where their small motor / reading skills aren’t developed enough to read music. The other way to music is by reading the map, i.e. the music.  I personally don’t think one method is better than the other and personally think a balance between the two is ideal.

Now here’s the problem with learning w the first method: these musicians can’t read music. However, because they aren’t buried in the music and aren’t READING notes, they are rather HEARING the notes, which in my opinion is far more organic sounding. It’s like the different between learning Spanish from a book, rather than from a native speaker. The end result is that the spoke Spanish sounds WAY different. Well, it’s the same for musicians.

Here’s the problem w learning from the 2nd method: musicians are great at reading music, but tend to lack a musicality within their playing as their sound is very mechanical.

So this leads me to me. (= I would say I mainly learned to play (violin) with the second method. I did a bit of Suzuki; however, I mainly learned music from reading rather than hearing the music. So at this point in my life, I have a few goals in music. For violin, I am trying to put the music aside and learn more by ear, as I can read music well, but have found myself forgetting to learn by listening, which affects the end result. On piano…I’m doing the opposite. I can mess around on the piano without music; however, I really could use some practice with following the map and learning to just pick up any piece of piano music and going to town. (= I need to learn improv. too, but that’ll come in time.

So…it almost pains me to post the following videos because I am a perfectionist and clearly the songs I’m playing are nowhere near perfection. However, for me, I am all about process (moreso than end result)…I am a planner / strategist after all, so the creative process for me is more interesting than the final product. (=

Last year in Deb’s class, she assigned us to create something (ANYTHING – digital, movie, book, song, interpretive dance, puzzle, WHATEVER, didn’t matter!) that defined us. After much contemplation, I decided to make a book about how I learned process + strategy from music. I can honestly say that 95% of everything I’ve learned in life, it’s come from music…that’s pretty huge, so being able to explain that really helps me to explain my thought process.

Waiting For Deb Idea Book

At the beginning of winter term, Max and I really bonded over sitting outside Deb’s office, waiting for a few minutes to chat…along with every other J. school Ad. kid in Allen.

We discovered we both always brought our idea books to pass time during the wait, so we decided to make a project out of it – The Waiting for Deb Idea Book.  We Velcroed a small blank notebook under the chair outside of Deb’s office.


Over the course of the next 2 terms, any student waiting for Deb could contribute to our collaborative book.  Deb, of course, had no idea this was in the works. (=  A week or so before school concluded, we presented Deb with the book during Ad. Night:


– I’m pretty sure it was a hit (= Between us all, the pages were almost all filled and…you can check it out for yourself, but I think there are some pretty fun insights within: (=

thinking about agency models, my future, collaboration + orchestras

Part A:  I suspect I am joining a number of soon-to-be college grads in my quest to figure out what the heck I will be / desire to be doing with my future.

Part B: The recent trip I just took to New York with the ad. program for the one show helped me reach a number of conclusions regarding my future career.  At least for now – I’m sure plans / ideas / mentalities will change with time.

Part C:  Both my high school orchestra and choir recently won their respective state competitions. best of the northwest. the overall program won a grammy signature school title. again. freaking awesome.

So, adding all these parts together, I’ve been thinking of where I want to end up post-school and why I want to be there.

The wonderful thing about choir/orchestra, was that we were all there around a common idea: music. Not competition, but making music because that was our passion. Coincidentally…or I’m fairly confident, not so coincidentally at all, the reason the Sprague music program is so strong is because it’s not based around winning, it’s based around a community and a passion for the “work” aka, creating music.

Reading all the articles in the paper of the recent successes, it’s interesting to note the quotations of the students – this is a huge window into the core structure of the program:

“He [Mr. C, choir director] told us this morning to make it our goal not to impress but to inspire.”

“”Mr. C’s” advice: “Make the audience feel something.”

Possible one of my favorite cheesy (or maybe “feel good” is a better term?) Mr. C quotations – but honestly so entirely true – not just for music, but for life: “The voice is located halfway between the brain and the heart. Use them both.”

Of course the Sprague music program is competitive; however, competition was never and appears to still not be the primary motive of what they’re doing.  Mr. C and Mr. Nelson always said – we’re not in this to compete, and if that’s the case, we’re doing this for the wrong reasons. HOWEVER, if we are in this competition – we’re going to compete to win.

Huge. Huge. Huge. Doing things for the right reasons. Having a purpose. Common goal. Camaraderie. This stuff can’t be found in many places.

…so…transferring this to my current life…the struggle I have with working in an agency is that it’s very competitive…but not necessarily around that common core point like I spoke of above (categorizing all agencies together, I know there are a million various agency models, I know agencies w this structure exist).

Not to say this is bad. Just maybe not for me, at least at this point. I want to collaborate with a team around a common shared goal/idea/passion…such as in an orchestra or choir.  Of course there are commonalities in agencies…clearly.  But it’s not the same. Clients/accounts are consistently changing…I’m not sure I could work for an agency on an account I wasn’t passionate about.

And maybe this means I need to look into client side work…or maybe I really need to join an orchestra for awhile. Or maybe this is all just food for thought.

…while I’m lauding my past high school’s music program, check out this year’s Camerata at State:

A new approach to social media? We call it Ecology.

Twitter prompts “What are you doing?” Facebook asks “What’s on your mind?” Should we be surprised that people produce a stream of self-absorbed updates?

We are more connected than ever, but are we really connecting?  What if we could organize people around ideas, rather than a stream of personal updates?

We call it Ecology.  Ecology transforms the current concept of social media from a one-way model of personal projection and shallow conversation into a two-way platform of idea generation and worthwhile conversation.  The Ecology model uses a tree metaphor to demonstrate a more effective social media structure that is more organic, visual, and organized.

This is a work in progress Ashly, Michael and I have been developing this past year.  What do you think? Feedback? Ideas?

Here’s a link to our Ecology book.

Here’s the video:

NYC takeway: it is JUST. ADVERTISING.

This post originally began as a reply to Megan’s comment…but it’s something I’ve been really thinking about these past few months.  Enjoy:

Yup, I’m right there with you. I think this was a really great learning experience for us all.

Something I’ve noticed about our group is that we’re work-a-holics…which is good, but in moderation. It’s really easy to get caught up in working, producing, meeting, networking, etc., but at the end of the day, is it worth it?

I have the same feeling as you – these past few terms, I’ve been reflecting on my college experience, and I certainly know I have worked alot more than I’ve had fun and I really do regret it. There have been some great experiences as a result of the hard work, but when all is said and done, I’m not sure it’s worth it. Especially in our industry, it’s just as important to experience life, maintain relationships and not stress out about trivial things.

At the end of the day, it is just advertising – and with that said – we have an amazing opportunity to influence, but it’s not worth 80 hour weeks (consistently), missing time with family/friends or experiencing the world around us.

New York was a great experience to see what was out there…and to realize the great opportunities we have as students from a journalism/communication program that quite possibly do not directly involve the advertising industry…

Strategy and Music

This past week in Deb’s class, we were told to create a piece that defines us…

I have a hard time explaining two things:

#1. What planning/strategy is.

#2. How hugely orchestra/violin has influenced my overall process of thought and perspective.

With that said – I made this book to explain my cross-pollinationed thought process between strategic brand and orchestral planning.  I used a piece by Tchaik. that I played with my orchestra a few years back.

Check it out:


7 Eleven

It’s janky, late-night, rough around the edges and always there for you. It’s about munchies, boredom, hot dog selection and slurpies. It’s big gulps, scratch-its, beer pong balls and drunk kids. It has bums, frat guys, hot chicks, tech nerds, light night studiers, gamers, old creeps, any just about everyone has been in one at some point in life. It’s 7 Eleven.

This is a brief. It’s not on paper. We didn’t write it down. We collaborated and made you a multimedia piece. Introducing…. 7 Eleven. Enjoy! (and get to work… you have until Sunday. Let’s go.)

“This is HUGE!”

Film by Kim Karalekas 
Photos by Gabe Toth-Fejel
Production by Ashly Stewart

The Project 100

100 authors – branding/marketing enthusiasts.

400 words each.

1 collaborative book: ‘Connect! Marketing in the Social Media Era’

100% proceeds support the Susan G. Komen cancer research foundation.

I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the 100 authors and I am quite excited to see what the power of collaborative ideas/book writing can bring.

April 6th,2009 is the release day, we’re getting close!!

You’re majoring in…advertising?


I think it’s fair to say a career in advertising is frequently misunderstood and quite possibly impossible to explain.  When I speak of my degree in advertising, I am frequently told that anyone can “make a commercial” or “design something.”  

If only it was that simple.  

Breaking it down and explaining project managing, account planning, account managing, coordinating, research, ethnography,media buying, media planning, art directing, creative directing, designing, brand strategy, copywriting (or idea writing as we now like to call it)…and then putting all those pieces back together…and somehow explaining the process in a clear and succinct manner…

I am most inspired by the handful of work I aspire to create – I love this work because it’s smart.  The strategy is extremely clear and thoroughly planned – The Tap Project, Apple, Obama, Starbucks, Nike – I hate to use standard brands such as these, but there is a reason for the success of these brands – they each have an identity that’s black and white.  

I have said this before, but as part of the communications industry, there is an incredible amount of power to influence – which if done in a smart and responsible manner – can have some pretty amazing results.


I’m in the process of working on a citizenship campaign, the purpose being to raise awareness of citizenship, what it means to be a good citizen, what we can do to be good citizens, etc.

On the recommendating of Ashly (our campaign “founder”), I just watched the following TED talk – love it.  Absolutely not for religious purposes; however, for the overall message.  It relates to the exact basis of this campaign – we say and do things without thinking of our “world view,” or our holistic responsibility in our role as citizens…

Personal Manifesto

Our most recent assignment in Deb’s class was to write a personal manifesto – more or less describing the purpose behind everything we are doing and why we have chosen to enter this industry.  My manifesto in progress:

Goals:  To create smart work.  To incorporate substance in the work I produce.  To finish each day knowing I have done something meaningful.  To have a healthy balance between work, family/friends and play.  To travel and incorporate international experience, ethnography and participant observation in my work.

Philosophy:  Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.  I honestly would prefer to not be famous and I don’t need to have the spotlight.  I don’t want to have to sell myself or be a sell out in order to A. get a job or B. maintain my job.  I want to solidify my expectations (career, lifestyle, etc.) and if I’m lucky, find a job that aligns with these characteristics.  

Reasons: This industry has an incredible power to shape the way people think, live, interact, etc.  At this point, it seems that much of the mentality in this industry is to create irrational advertising/branding/communications etc. because we live in a (frequently) irrational society. I hope to use this power to encourage rational, logical and forward thinking.  In my work, I want to take everything one step further and dig a little deeper in order to encourage people to see beyond the small bubble they live in (political views, cultural rituals, stereotypical opinions, religious, purchasing, relationship decisions, etc.).

Ideas: I have noticed that we are creatures of habit and seem to follow the heard mentality.  Because of this, although many things don’t make sense, are no longer relevant or have never made sense, we continue in our practices. I have always believed that anything we do, create, think, etc. should be better than the last – this is the reason I want to be a part of the “idea industry.”