Monthly Archives: April 2016

Community Is What You Make It

Community is a word that is thrown around a lot.

Supporting the community, engaging with the community, etc. To us, that seems kind of vague. What does it mean to support a community? Why does that only sound weirdly financial? How do you engage with a community? It’s not like they’re all standing there, and you can walk up to the community as an entity and just start talking to it. There’s something else going on here, and we’re interested in dissecting that idea.

Tardis Pinewood Car Community

We started thinking about it more this weekend, after the Pinewood Classic event at Short Leash Hot Dogs. The Pinewood Classic is an annual, adults-only pinewood derby tournament (though there is a separate kids event). It has a huge turn out every year, where people have crazy costumes and amazing cars. It is not a design specific event; it’s for everyone.

This is an event that engages the community. It’s not a conference. It’s not a lecture or a networking event. It’s a pinewood derby, and it’s really, really fun (see: our super awesome Tardis car above).

“I’m wary of the word ‘community’ because it sounds very organized. I think there’s a value in surrounding yourself with people who stimulate and challenge you, who don’t just agree with you all the time. But I think the most important thing is to feel safe, seen, and understood by the people around you. I believe it was Bill Nye who said this—everyone in your life knows something you don’t. And I believe it’s important to live in that unknown and to welcome and celebrate it. That can only happen when you actually come into contact with people and not in superficial ways, but when you deeply connect with them.” — Maria Popova, The Great Discontent

Community doesn’t have to be organized or overtly professional. Sometimes words like “networking” get tossed around with community as if there is some sort of professional diamond in the rough to be found. The truth is, community is about building relationships. That’s it. Community is what you put into it. It is your time, your energy, your compassion, your humility.

“If I talk to a hundred different designers, each one will say, ‘I wish we had more of a design community in New York.’ This is a funny statement. Everybody believes that there either is a community and they’re not part of it or that there should be one and it doesn’t exist. But what we’re seeing now is that people have broken up into individual communities where there is a single person in the center of each—and this isn’t just happening in design. Part of me wants to get people really talking and interacting with each other. The other part thinks maybe there is value in the tribes, but asks how we can discover new ideas. If you’re in your own echo chamber, it’s difficult to grow as a person.” — Juliette Cezzar, The Great Discontent 

Pinewood Classic Community Event

With The Pinewood Classic on our minds, we talked to Doug Penick, the founder of the event and a local designer, about what he thinks of community:

What inspired you to come up with the Pinewood Classic event?

After having helped plan and organize several events here in Phoenix, including the ever popular Pedal Craft, I caught the bug. I love getting people together in Phoenix and watching a community grow and create together.

I grew up building pinewood derby cars with my dad as a cub scout, but during a visit home a few years ago he had fully geeked out on the secrets of winning and building the fastest car scientifically possible. I came home wishing that I had a way to participate in a pinewood derby race. I told my friend Brad Moore (half of the husband and wife team who own Short Leash Hot Dogs) about the idea, and no sooner than the words had come out of my mouth, I had an event partner and a venue. Brad and Kat have championed this event and truly helped this idea turn into a 3 year strong tradition.

How have you seen it evolve over the years?

The thing about The Pinewood Classic is that it’s based 100% in nostalgia. Most of those who are participating have a long history with pinewood derby racing. It’s a special event. Our first year we sold out to participants in 3 days. From year one, we’ve seen more thoughtful design concepts, tighter competition, and a swelling sense of excitement from the racers and spectators alike. More sponsors are now partnering to ensure the future viability of this event, and we’ve seen widespread support from local leaders and influencers.

How do you define being active in your community?

I think it ultimately comes down to giving more than you take. Phoenix is a great city, and our downtown community has an incredibly supportive culture. We love our neighborhoods because we love our neighbors, we celebrate when cool things are happening, we throw our entire support behind local business owners. This is a place where, if you have an idea worth pursuing, you will easily receive the support of your friends and neighbors. I really believe that if we can foster that culture of celebrating good people and great ideas that Phoenix will be an inimitable city. I actually believe we’re well on our way there already.

How would you encourage people to get involved in their communities?

Pay attention to people. Go outside and take a walk. If you have a good idea, share it. Find a new restaurant. Give someone a hug and a high five. Forget about Netflix, just chill. Start building your car for the fourth annual Pinewood Classic next April.

 



An Interview with Cali Pitchel

“I Live by My Wits,” an Interview with Cali Pitchel

Cali Pitchel interview illustration

Cali Pitchel is the Director of Marketing at Analytics Pros, a digital analytics consultancy in Seattle, WA. She studied history as an undergrad, wrote a Master’s thesis on Rachael Ray and the sociology of nostalgia, and dropped out of a PhD program to channel her inner Peggy Olsen. Although not technically a Phoenix native, she spent over 20 years in Gilbert, and has a real fondness for blue skies, cacti, cattle, and Liberty Market.

Monomyth Studio: Could you tell us about your background?

Cali Pitchel: In kindergarten I changed my name to Sarah Dunlevy-Michaelson. This was a hybrid of sorts, the first and last names of classmates and friends. Upon changing my identity, I told my teachers and fellow kindergarteners that my parents were dead, and I proudly announced (inspired by my favorite storybook at the time, Charlotte’s Web): “I live by my wits.”

Storytelling comes naturally, and it’s a clear through line in my life. A few years ago I made what might look like an awkward transition from academia to marketing, but at their essence, both are about telling stories. I really hate how marketers co-opted “storytelling,” because we have a tendency to chew things up and spit them out. But the power of story is undeniable, whether you’re selling products or reconstructing history. And my belief in that really informs where I’ve been, where I’m at, and where I’m going.

How did you get into copywriting and content strategy? What interested you in content strategy as a career?

I spent most of the last 10 years thinking I wanted to be a history professor. After two years of coursework in a PhD program in urban history, I took a one-semester leave for a much-needed mental break. I (miraculously) landed at Moses Anshell, and that was my first exposure to advertising outside of AMC’s Mad Men. My one-semester leave turned into an indefinite leave when I realized just how well my history education prepared me for a career in copywriting and content strategy.     

How has a degree in the humanities given you an advantage in your career?

In so many ways! But it took me a long time to articulate that advantage. I let momentum, and in some ways the expectations of others, keep me from seeing the possibilities available to me as a humanities student. I bought into the narrative that the most acceptable place for a history major (or any other humanities student for that matter) was the classroom, the library, or the archives.

But I had sharpened very important skills as a history student, ones that applied outside the classroom. I could read. I could research. I could write. I could tell stories — stories marked by empathy and stories that accounted for context. In essence, I had the most practical education possible: I could listen to, interpret, and understand other people. And these weren’t just any people, they were people from the past. They didn’t look like me, think like me, or act like me — but my discipline required that I learn to understand them.

Studying the past was essentially a proving ground for how to relate to everyone around me, not just historical actors. From the back-of-house in a restaurant to the boardroom or corner office, empathy and an ability to communicate clearly are requirements for any job.

I’m personally curious, what does the discovery process for your writing look like? How do you go from idea to fully structured article/post/etc?

I have two things to say about this. First, I love this video of John Cleese talking about creativity. He contrasts two modes: open and closed. The closed mode is hostile to creativity. The open mode, however, is where we are more creative. In the open mode, we’re relaxed, contemplative, and my favorite, less purposeful. We’re curious, but only for the sake of being curious. When we are open, we are playful—and play allows our natural creativity to surface.

Cleese talks about the five things you need to get into the open mode: Space, Time, Time, Confidence, and Humor. The gist is this: you have to play deliberately, but also spontaneously; you have to get comfortable with the time and tension of the process; and you must be open to anything that may happen. In other words, nothing is wrong in creativity.

When you are intentional about getting into open mode and you do the hard work of truly pondering, you’ll be rewarded—but not necessarily in front of the whiteboard during a brainstorming session with your team. I often get my best ideas in the shower, riding the bus, or walking to the coffee shop. 

Second, and I think this stems a bit from Cleese’s ideas on creativity, I’m not afraid to start ugly. I very rarely sit down and write an article or blog post in its entirety. Writing, for me, is always iterative. I usually start with stream of consciousness—just get everything onto the page without any real care for flow or organization. Ann Handley calls this The Ugly First Draft (TUFD). She says, “Much of writing paralysis is the result of expecting too much of ourselves the first time out.” After I step away from my TUFD for a day or two, I take another pass. I copy and paste here, drag a paragraph there, delete a sentence or three. On my second or third go-round, I pay closer attention to the structure of my post. This is when it helps to read out loud. It’s an easy way to catch mistakes, bring more clarity to my argument, or remove anything repetitive.

But the truth is I’m never fully satisfied with anything I push out the door. I think that’s part of the process as well. I take a lot of pride in my work, but I can’t be too attached to the outcome. There’s a difference between doing the Best Work Ever, and doing the best work for the job within the particular constraints. I strive for the former, but accept the reality of the latter.     

What is the most significant thing you learned working in a creative agency?

I risk sounding trite, but the value of collaboration. Creativity truly is collective, and you increase a campaign’s depth and distance when you bring a degree of humility to your work and acknowledge that the creative process is built on the efforts of an entire team. But there’s a hard truth in there as well: it’s really, really difficult to subordinate yourself to the team, especially when you are prized for your personal creativity. And it’s even harder (and humbling) to acknowledge your own creative narcissism—to admit that you do want the accolades and the praise. And at the same time, it’s terrifying, but necessary, to make yourself vulnerable in front of your colleagues! But in my own experience, I gain more than I lose. The struggle refines, hones, and sharpens. My best work always comes from collaboration. I can’t point to one single occasion when my work has gone out the door untouched, so it’s never completely my own, and it’s always been better for the critique.

Could you tell us a bit about what you’re doing now?

I’m currently the Director of Marketing at Analytics Pros, a digital analytics consultancy based in Seattle, Washington. I lead our brand and marketing efforts—things like social media, training programs, lead gen, and email marketing—and I support our Sales and Client Services teams. It’s been an interesting transition, moving from an agency to in-house, especially going from mostly B2C to all B2B work. Some people say there is no difference between the two. We’re all people after all, right? But I spent a lot of time studying consumer behavior, and the reality is that consumers and enterprises don’t think or act the same. The enterprise has a fiscal year and a procurement department; the consumer has wants and needs. Right now I’m trying to navigate this new world of marketing, and I’m thankful to do it in a setting that allows for freedom and flexibility. It’s like getting paid to learn!

What are the most common misconceptions people have about what you do?

A lot of people are intimidated by data analysis, but the reality is we’ve been collecting and interpreting data since the beginning of time. Analytics Pros’ icon, Thales, was a Greek philosopher. He used mathematics to calculate the distance between a boat and the shore. Thales represents the human element of data collection.

What interests you about data analysis?

I see a lot of similarities between data analysis and the study of history. A historian requires a posture of curiosity, an open mindset, and also a strong sense of humility. You have to arrive at the text without all the answers. The sources can (and almost always will) challenge your assumptions.

Is this not true for data? All too often we see data as a capital T truth—hard numbers, fact, science. But even data is meaningless without interpretation, and because so much depends on that interpretation, data analysis demands the same integrity required of a historian.

I recently asked a college professor of mine, Dr. John Fea, about truth, data, and analysis. He suggested that, “Data means nothing until it becomes part of the story that the analyst wants to tell. This does not mean that the facts are not important. If the story that the analyst tells is not based on evidence, it will be a bad story and irresponsible analysis.”

In the discipline of history, you’d be hard pressed to find a historian who believes in an objective interpretation of the past. It’s impossible to capture a historical event or actor and call it truth. Data is much the same. There is indeed an objective truth in data, as there are certain objective truths in history. “But [a] historical fact is only useful when we explore what it means. And it is possible that two different historians might come up with two different, even contradictory, stories about what this fact means.” We have to keep this in mind when we look at the analysis of data. I think our industry will be better for it.

Outside of writing, what are you passionate about?

I’m easily excitable, so I have this proclivity to get passionate about everything that is interesting. But I’m consistently passionate about reading and french fries. I can’t get enough of fiction and nonfiction alike. My favorite books of all time are Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence (is there really a more tragic love story?) and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (equally tragic, but in very, very different ways). My goal this year is to read two books a month, which sounds easier than it is. My April picks are Slouching Toward Bethlehem and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And as for french fries, I consider myself a connoisseur. If there are french fries on the menu, it’s basically a requirement that I order them—for the sake of research, as I’m on a quest to find The Best French Fries in the World.

What has been your experience living in Seattle?

I think I could be an ambassador for the City of Seattle. Phoenix will always be my home. It’s familiar, it’s where I grew up, and my family is there. But I love this city so much. There aren’t many other places where you can have such close proximity to lakes, the ocean, hiking trails, ski slopes and all that a city has to offer, like museums, live music, and great restaurants. I’ve also found this to be a very creative place for me—partly a product of this moment in my life, and partly because there is inspiration everywhere.



What Eisenhower Knew About Productivity

In 1954 President Eisenhower made a speech at the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches during which he said many insightful things, but the most important thing he said, the only remembered thing, was a one-off comment about productivity.

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.

This is now known as the Eisenhower Decision Principle.

It is not new information, but it’s good information. It’s helpful for us at least. Eisenhower managed to prioritize himself into becoming the President of the United States. So, it’s worth a shot.

Eisenhower Decision Principle Productivity

Important and Urgent:

Do these things now. This category can be eliminated with proper planning, but when you have items here, you need to get them done.

This is when you have a huge deadline. You’ve approached the due date and you’re not done. This is all-nighters, coming in on weekends. You have to do it, but you have to ask yourself: could this stress have been avoided?

Sometimes this is unplanned. A flaming pile of work gets dropped in your lap and there’s not much you can do but put it out. The reality is, in that situation, there’s not much you could have done to prevent it, and you just have to trudge through.

Important and Not Urgent:

This is our most focused area. These are the long term goals and projects. This is the behemoth project looming in the distance, the research and learning we can do to aid ourselves in the future, or the relationship building that will benefit us someday.

None of these tasks need to be completed now, or even soon, but the longer you leave it alone, the more urgent it gets. Challenge yourself to designate time out of every day to work on these projects. For example, put off reading your email an hour every morning and work on this task for your first hour. Put your most caffeinated energy and focus onto this category every morning, and by the time it starts to cross into that urgent category, it’s either already done, or it’s close.

Eisenhower Decision Principle Productivity Matrix

Urgent and Not Important:

This is the area that gives you that false productivity feeling. You did a whole bunch of things, but didn’t actually get anything done. This is when you spend all day responding to emails, sitting in on meetings, doing favors for coworkers, and your own work gets nowhere.

Some of this is necessary. You can’t stop checking your email forever. But it’s good to be aware of when something is just killing your time.

Not Important and not Urgent:

This is Facebook, Snapchat, mindlessly surfing the web, playing Neko Atsume obsessively. We all need a break sometimes, but these are the things that can consume more of your time than you might realize.

When we’re feeling easily distracted, we use the Pomodoro app. It divides your work time into 25 minute sections, with short breaks in between. And after your 25 minutes of focused work, you get a cute tomato on your screen! You get to check Snapchat for a few minutes, or whatever your current not important/not urgent obsession is, and then you’re back to focused work.

Try it out. Start your morning with a list of all your tasks, everything from needs to get done today to someday I’d like to do this. Break them up into categories of importance and urgency, then get started.



Brand Update: Mulletmyth Studio

With all the growth we’ve experienced in the last year, we felt it was time to update our studio brand to reflect that shift. We took a long, honest look at ourselves, and came away with what we believe is a strong new direction for our young agency. 

And so, we’re immensely proud to introduce to you the newest incarnation of Monomyth:

mullet_blog_01

But why mullets, you ask? The answer is quite simple. 

Branding is about impressions, about real and memorable experiences, and few things in this wide world make such an impression as a perfectly sculpted mullet. 

In the age of the Millennial takeover, we need to keep in mind that businesses succeed when they are true to themselves, when their values are in line with the beliefs of their consumers. We believe our current and future clients value the personality we put into the work we do, the fun-loving relationships we’ve built, and the fact that, when it’s necessary, we can let our hair loose and still get down to business. Thats why we’re convinced the mullet is the hairstyle of true creative professional.

mullet_blog_03

Mullets are all about excess – louder, bigger, braver. We wanted our new logo to be all of that. And more. So we made it with more. It has more letters. More rule breaks. More guides. More angles. More inconsistencies.

mullet_blog_02

The mullet has always been the haircut of rebels. Bowie. Swayze. MacGyver. Norris. These names evoke the true nature of power and original thinking. They represent revolutionary shifts in culture. 

Mullets fight convention, drive individuality, give people the opportunity to find their true self. This is what we do for our clients—we create the opportunity for them to express themselves. To discover their inner mullet. 

At Mulletmyth, you’re the business. We’re the party.

Check out our kickin’ new website here.