Friday, January 31, 2014

Failure Coach XIX

St. Louis – Regrouping

Tony and Alan decided to meet at the Ritz Carlton in Clayton on Tuesday afternoon so they could recap the mini tour so far. Tony was anxious to get back to New York but he knew he needed to make sure Alan was comfortable with how things were going with the Ambrosia agency. He and Alan flew back from Detroit together. Alan managed to schedule flights in and out of Detroit on Monday. Tony spent Sunday night in Cleveland and managed to catch up with Alan in Detroit. After the Rock and Roll and Football Hall of Fame events, the local library talk and bookstore book signings seemed pretty light duty. There were live remote broadcasts on some public ration station and some interviews. The folks at Ambrosia had hoped to get an audience at General Motors but that deal fell through. The executives at GM were not fully convinced the message behind You can’t give 110% would resonate with their monthly managers meeting.

So here in Tony’s hotel suite at the Ritz the two had coffee and discussed the state of the union. “Alan, I know working with an agency like ours is a new experience for you and you have some concerns about expenses. While I’m not fully prepared to give you a full accounting of our expenses in Cleveland, Canton and Detroit I can tell you we seem to be well within our estimated expenses. I have been talking to Julie Chase who is pulling together an update, and will do so in a timely manner through the entire run of 30 days. I gotta tell you though, we really made a splash with these first three stops. We reached more than 500 people with live presentations. We managed to get placements on local TV and Radio that would have cost more than $100,000 to buy in those markets. And the Ambrosia team is generating significant social media engagement too. The only unexpected expenses are the overages in Cleveland. I’ll be the first to admit we went a little overboard staffing-wise. But don’t worry, we’re going to eat some of that and chalk it up to start up costs.”

Alan enjoyed Tony’s company. It was a very relaxed meeting as the two men were taking advantage of the hotel WiFi internet access and room service. The TV was on CNN and adjusted to a low volume almost as background noise. “You know I am not getting much from the publisher to promote this book. You know my end game has always been to get plugged into the speaker circuit as a keynoter where you can pick up fees of $20,000-$50,000 a shot. I ain’t there yet.”

“I know, I know Alan but the venues you are starting to get and the audiences you’ve been able to play too while smaller crowds are proof positive that you have the right stuff for big conference centers and ballrooms. The video we have from the last book launch, especially the Orlando and the meetings in New Orleans with the more recent stuff allows us to really package you as someone to feature.”

“Okay, let’s look at Cleveland and Canton. Humor me will you? We got about 125 people at the Rock and Roll Hall event but fewer than 100 were paying customers. And almost no-one bought a ticket to the open bar and appetizers at Canton. Both were a blast. I will be the first to admit it. But where is the return on these expenses. No sponsors. Damn few books sold. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discouraged, yet.”

“Again, we are within our budget plus or minus 15% so far.”

“Dammit Tony the budget is a made up number and has nothing to do with return on investment and I’m footing the bill.”

“I hear ya Alan . Let’s try to stay the course as we fortify your fan base with social media fueled by SEO and will get our team thinking more about revenue like keynote opportunities. Don’t forget, this mini tour was never about getting keynote gigs. It was always about getting you some momentum.”

The phone rings and Tony picks up. “Yes, a taxi to the airport in an hour should be fine. No, I won’t need any help with my bags.” He covers the receiver a moment and asks Alan “Do you want anything from room service? No, we’re fine. Thanks.”       

Failure Coach XVIII

On to Canton

Tony Blank’s full size rental car came in handy on Saturday when he agreed to shuttle Alan to Canton along with Julie Chase and Grace the PR manager. The four of them were able to bond a bit, having lived through the mini tour kick off at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They laughed about the red carpet and search lights. The rest of the Ambrosia folks were back in their respective offices in New York City. Grace was on her smart phone trying to line up interviews with Crain’s Cleveland Business and a sports writer in Pittsburgh. She artfully finessed the pitch for each. She was hoping the business writer would be interested in the angle of Alan Edgewater webinars and growing popularity of his failure philosophy. Whereas, she hoped, the Pittsburgh sportswriter would be interested in the Hall of Famers who demonstrated the importance of failure in their lives either before or after their inductions. A fair number of athletes were among the growing number of failure fans online via twitter. She also pitched the Failure First Scholarship to be presented later in the month in St. Louis but that wasn’t news until someone was officially awarded the prize.   

Again, Alan was struck by the names of inductees to the Hall of Fame, this time for football greats. He knew as he scanned names of players from those recognized inductees from every generation of gridiron heroes that there were stories of sacrifice, setbacks and defeat more so than victory. He knew in his heart that a meticulous statistical review would show the scales tipping toward failure over triumph. These are the guys that are the legends of the game. Coaches like Vince Lombardi and Paul Brown and Players: Jim Thorpe, Otto Graham, Marion Motley, Y.A. Tittle, Jimmy Brown, Lou Groza, Dante Lavelli, Bart Starr, Frank Gifford, Jim Otto, Bob Lilly, George Blanda, Merlin Olsen, Sam Huff, Roger Staubach, O. J. Simpson, Joe Namath, Doak Walker, Joe Greene, Len Dawson, Larry Csonka, Terry Bradshaw, Bob Griese, Walter Payton, Leroy Kelly, Tony Dorsett, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Montana, Howie Long, Nick Buoniconti, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Michael Irvin, Bob Hayes, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Cortez Kennedy, WarrenSapp. And on and on.

Coach Siena felt he had died and gone to heaven. He loved football and was at the Hall of Fame as soon as it opened and took time to read plaques and view videos and admire the enshrined uniforms from the early days of the game. “I’ll tell you what,” he said to himself, “these players, coaches, assistants made this game great. The never gave up.” He was mumbling an impromptu locker room pep talk. A part of him missed coaching. It seemed like a long time since he’d worried about the Xs and Os of the game plan for the next opponent. He realized what he missed wasn’t the competition as much as the feeling of belonging to a team. His fondest memories were not about big plays but a thousand little things. Things like running the team three-quarter speed the last practice before Friday night, the smell of fresh cut grass on the field, and sounds of parents rooting from the stands. He admired Lombardi, sure, but he knew in his own heart that winning was not everything. Not by a long shot. 

The Football Hall of Fame function went as planned. The coach was inspired. He was stirring in his remarks. Alan was first rate too. Julie made sure all the little things were in order in the event space under the tent-pavilion. It was football weather as on a mild Fall Saturday evening. Grace crossed her fingers, hoping the contacts she made and her notes on the local color of both Hall of Fame evenings would pay dividends in media placements in print, broadcast, social media and blogs she was cultivating.

It was safe to say the Cleveland and Canton events were productive for Ambrosia. Alan Edgewater, however was looking forward to some quiet time on Sunday before the circus moved to Detroit on Monday.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Failure Coach XVII

Confluence of Coaches 

“So why did you go to Miami? Was it business or pleasure?” Alan finally managed to get this question into the conversation with Coach Siena over coffee in the hotel lobby at the Doubletree Lakeside in Cleveland. The Coach was the same disarming self at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame event on Wednesday afternoon and the Ambrosia team managed to wrangle him into a few quotable quotes about the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund. Siena was not willing to share anything about this year’s winner of that award, however.  

“Well I’ll tell you what, that trip was too short but a nice break. 72 degrees and sunny. Not too hot. It was short and sweet. It was mostly pleasure but I did manage a little business too. I wanted to get some insights from a colleague in Miami about the market success they’ve had with Sazerac Rye Whiskey distribution. I was hoping to catch up with Johnny Appleseed at the U too. And so I did. We met for breakfast at the Bagel Emporium on U.S. 1, the South Dixie Highway, practically across the street from campus in Coral Gables. That boy is a gem I tell you.”

“Did you happen to bump into Bluestone? He was in Miami too. “

“No. I did get a phone message and a text from him but we never managed to connect. Where is he anyway? I thought he was going to be here.”

“Bluestone was invited but he decided to stay away. He wasn’t able to work out an arrangement with Ambrosia to be an adviser on this mini tour so he decided to keep his distance initially. We might do some things on a contract basis. In fact, he was going to try to get some information on Johnny Appleseed at the University of Miami. So far, nothing.”

“Well I can tell you Johnny Appleseed is doing just fine. He’s still undecided but he’s looking at majoring in Art or English. I think that is fine. A four-year liberal arts degree will serve him well. It will make him into a well-rounded adult. I offered to pay his way if he wanted to fly into Cleveland Hopkins Airport and go to the Football Hall of Fame event in Canton as my guest. He said he was tempted but the timing was not good with his school schedule.”

Alan with a refill on his coffee ripped open a Sweet 'N Low packet and stirred it in. Black coffee with Sweet 'N Low. “ Coach, I’m going to walk over to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to get another look as I didn’t get around much yesterday with all the activity. Wanna join me?”.

“Well I guess I don’t mind if I do."

Alan read from his laptop. “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum exists to collect, preserve and interpret the impact rock has made on our world. The evolving story of rock can be found on the Rock Hall's blog and feature pages, in addition to videos and galleries that capture the moments that matter in Rock and Roll. Here you'll find rock and roll news, artist interviews, performance notes, the latest event and exhibit happenings, and more. Consider this your backstage pass. - See more at:” Alan did a quick scan of inductees by year beginning in 1986 with the pride of St. Louis, Chuck Berry. Elvis Presley, Bo Didley, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Supremes, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Ike and Tina Turner, The Jim Hendrix Experience, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Elton John, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd, Bee Gees, Billy Joel, Eric Clapton, Aerosmith, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, AC/DC, Prince, U2, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Van Halen, Dave Clark Five, Metallica, ABBA, Neil Diamond, Alice Cooper, Guns & Roses, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Cat Stevens, Nirvana… A lot of stories in this group right Coach?”

“You bet. A lot of stories indeed.”   

"And the list goes on an on... Note to self: Rock and Roll Hall of Famers rate of failure...Hmmmm. What if you applied statistical analysis to inductees like Tom Peters did to companies in Good to Great or Gladstone's analysis of Outliers?"

Failure Coach XVI

Nectar of the Gods with Ambrosia in Cleveland

Alan is surprised by the number of people from Ambrosia who feel compelled to join him in Cleveland. It could be that being a new account warrants special attention. It could be the draw of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Or maybe just the idea of visiting Cleveland in the Springtime. Whatever the reasons, Alan is still trying to figure out why there are eight people from Ambrosia in town to ostensibly support the Failure Coach in the kick off of his mini tour of the Middle West. He doesn’t even know all of their names. With the exception of Tony Blank the account director he has only interfaced with these people once in person (the NYC meeting) and at a handful web-based virtual meetings on Skype, Google Hang Outs and Webinars.

They are staying at the Doubletree Hotel because the museum event planning staff encouraged them to do so.  Lower Level capacity is 125 at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Ambrosia anticipates at least a dozen media types in this audience for a Wednesday event that starts at 5:00 p.m.  Guests will arrive to the red carpet treatment and settle in with breathtaking views of Lake Erie. Alan’s entourage is another dozen folks with the balance being failure fans lucky enough to sign up early for tickets or win them via some media promotion. Tables set up in rounds of 8 with Failure Coach center-pieces and flyers at each place setting reinforce Alan Edgewater’s brand and book offers. Alan is trying to calculate the expenses in his head: $40 a person for food, $1500 for space rental, maybe $1200 for hotel rooms…he figures this little soirĂ©e will be $7,500 - $8,000 of which only a small part will be recovered from paid admission. The event tickets were generously delivered to media partners as a way to promote the event. Alan is not convinced the revenue will offset sunk-costs. Similarly, the event in Canton, while more like a reception with appetizers and open bar in their Plaza Tent space at Canton Hall of Fame with seating for about 150. That will be another $7,500 he can only assume. Tony Blank will staying around for that event as he has been charged with keeping Alan Edgewater happy.

“Tony, thanks for picking me up at the airport. I was going to take the Rapid Transit which would have been fine.”  Tony has a full size rental car and this is his second airport run off the day. “ Julie Chase is a project manager and is taking care of event details for these first two events. If she is arriving on time from Newark airport. If her flight is on time, I hope you don’t mind if I pick her up as well. “Sure, that’s fine.” Alan clenches his jaw a bit as he wonders to himself about the expenses of airfare from NYC and Tony’s rental car. He tries to calm himself with the knowledge that he did sign off on a ballpark-estimate the agency provided for these first two events in Cleveland and Canton. He knew $25,000 was budgeted with a plus or minus 15% of which he knew could only mean plus 15%.

“Oh my God, what a travel nightmare. Newark was a circus. Fortunately we made up time in the air. Alan it is so good to see you again. These first two events are really going to set the tone for this mini tour. Grace is excited about the media contacts she’s been able to interest. I’ll let her tell you about them later. If you want you can join us for a drink in the lobby bar at the Doubletree before we head over to the Hall. Tony, you’ll be joining us right?”

Alan is amused and concerned at the same time. He is hoping the advance team from Ambrosia has already managed the details for the event. (Sound, A/V, center-pieces, banner-stand signage etc.)  He secretly hopes Julie Chase is a project manager for this event and not the project manager. He shares some of his anxiety with Tony Blank as he checks in and lets him know he will not be stopping by the lobby bar before heading over to the Hall on foot on a beautiful Spring day in Cleveland. He knows Grace to be a capable writer but he isn’t comforted to know that she and Julie will be meeting for a little pre-game.”

Thursday morning, Alan is happy to have the Rock and Roll event behind him. He is feeling better about the details as the event went smoothly. His presentation was a hit by all accounts. Alan relied on material from his first book. Much of what he delivered was tried and true down to pauses for audience laughter. Cleveland Rocks! The view of the lake and the inside of the I. M. Pei designed structure were a treat as was the peak at artifacts on display (which Alan planned to return to see more fully on Friday).  

The Ambrosia team had been buttoned-up and working the room from every angle. Grace was at a table with a writer from and a non-writer friend from The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Julie Chase never sat down during the proceedings. Tony Blank managed the Ambrosia staffers with a kind of subtlety. The event was a success. Before the night was through, Ambrosia had plenty of video, quotes and images that would be raw material for starting what they hoped would be good social media buzz. Alan noticed the flurry of activity being generated on twitter which could see began with posts even before the evening festivities began and took full advantage of the red carpet atmosphere.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Failure Coach XV

Tour Schedule Review

Tepid black coffee and rye toast in his study, Alan looks over the schedule which was just e-mailed to him by an account manager at Ambrosia. He is worried. Initially he was thrilled by what he thought would be a pretty busy 30 days but now he’s studying the gaps. Indeed it is a good schedule but Alan needs to map out travel and activity between events. For starters, it looks like he’ll stay in Cleveland through Saturday evening working out a shuttle to and from Canton.  Do-able. He’ll fly to Detroit for one night and head back to St. Louis for 10 days. Hmm. From STL: Fly to Columbus and back. Cincy and back. Indy and back. Short flights. Easy enough.. Missouri Athletic Club in STL. Fly or drive Kansas City?  Maybe he’ll drive. That way he can drive to Bentonville on the Wednesday. On his yellow pad he scribbles notes that fill two pages:    

Tour First Half- Cleve-Canton-Detroit - 15 Days

Tuesday – Fly to Cleveland
Wed - Cleveland at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – visit RnR HoF
Thursday – book signing? Donius’ publisher meeting?
Friday – Theater, Museums?
Saturday - Canton (Football Hall of Fame). Make time for HoF exhibits.
Sun – Fly to Detroit - Is there a government/leaders group I might contact in Detroit?
Monday – Detroit. Late flight to STL?
Tuesday – devote time to Negative Space  

Tour Second Half: Columbus-Cincy-Indy-STL-KC-Bentonville
Friday - Columbus (Ohio State University) – Where is kid (The Beast) fromYoungstown?
Monday – Cincinnati
Wednesday - Indianapolis
Friday - St. Louis
Monday – Drive to KC (4 ½  hours)  
Tuesday - Kansas City
Wednesday – Drive to Bentonville (3 ½ hours)
Thursday -Bentonville, Arkansas (Walmart corporate headquarters)

Total - 30 days

The last sip of coffee from his mug causes him to make a bitter face and put the mug on a side table. He speed dials Ambrosia. It rings once and he disconnects. He speed dials Bob Caster’s law firm. It rings once and he disconnects. His phone rings. His caller I.D. says it’s Coach Robert Siena but when he answers it’s not the coach but a young sounding female voice. “Coach wanted me to call you to see if he can confirm Cleveland and Canton. He’s kinda pumped about Rock n Roll and NFL Hall of Fame visits back to back. If you need a copy of his presentation, we’ll be happy to send it on over. As you know the coach likes to speak somewhat extemporaneously so his speech is more like an outline. I’m sure he’ll be great though.”     

“Thanks. But please tell the coach we are still working on logistics and content. Is he gonna be able to join us in Detroit or not, by the way?”

“Well Coach Siena and I are gonna finalize a lot of details when he gets back from Miami. Can I call you back in a couple of days?”

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Failure Coach XIV

Bluestone MIA - Saint Louis

Alan was trapped in a box and in total darkness. Yet somehow he was able to stay somewhat calm and not panic. He could hear a faint bit of music being played. It was the popular hit Carry On by the music group Fun: 'Cause here we are. We are shining stars. We are invincible. We are who we are. On our darkest day. When we’re miles away. Sun will come. We will find our way home. He tried to knock but the box was soundproofed by a drapery and lining inside. He paused: If you're lost and alone. Or you're sinking like a stone. Carry on. May your past be the sound, of your feet upon the ground. Carry on. Oooh. Oooh. Oooh. Oooh.

Maybe it was his overall feeling of anxiety as he digested all that was set in place after the Ambrosia meetings in NY. Perhaps he was affected by the stage production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman off-off Broadway the Ambrosia NYU kids took him to while in the city. (Their former classmates from acting and film classes were involved in the show somehow.)  Feeling confined and closed in felt real and startling. He wolk up in a sweat. It was just a dream. He was home and alone.  

By the time he started his day with a cup of coffee and settled in on his laptop to respond to a variety of e-mails, twitter news and blog comments he was back in the swing of things. Still that strange dream made him wonder. He was spending a lot of money over and above the help the publisher had pledged to promote the next book. He felt isolated and unsure of himself. In spite of his success. He started to think the only time he really felt alive was when he was in front of an audience. Crossing his fingers, he studied the schedule for the tour and said a prayer. His cell phone rang. It rang again.


“Hello Alan. This is no joke. I cannot find Bluestone and it is starting to worry me.” It was Jan. She did not normally worry about the comings and goings of the mercurial Daniel Bluestone but they argued about going to New York City at the same time as Alan. Dan suggested that they might be able to work something out with Ambrosia and/or Alan Edgewater to stay a part of the overall marketing planning and execution. Jan understood the Ambrosia team was not interested in any such arrangement. Alan agreed to track Dan down and call her back.         

Bluestone did head out of town but not to NYC. He was on his way to Miami. Alan knew this because he agreed to have Dan touch base with the Failure First Scholarship winner at the University of Miami. Bluestone had friends in South Florida. His plan was to fly whatever cheap fare he could find on Southwest or whatever. Once there, he called Alan with some ideas involving Johnny Appleseed. Alan figured a photo of the scholar and maybe a few quotes would be useful. He knew Dan would be able to get him to sign an appropriate release too. Dan and Alan had an understanding. Alan knew an invoice would come eventually, but it would only cover hours at what Dan called his “blended rate” for services ($250 per hour).

Alan did not think any of this was out of character. It was part of Dan Bluestone’s M.O. to chase opportunities around the country. Alan assumed he was trying to keep pace with his former life as an executive creative director. Dan had produced TV spots in Florida when going to L.A. was too expensive (due to talent, union and travel expenses). South Beach, Miami and Fort Lauderdale were pretty good places to connect with creative people. He had a handful of freelancers, former employees and associates living or visiting South Florida at almost any given time. Instead of following Alan to NYC,  he changed his plans and checked into the Raleigh Hotel on Collins Avenue on Miami Beach where he would meet with a couple of friends for a dirty martini. Over drinks poolside, Alan shared stories of Failure Coach LLC, marketing Sazerac Rye Whiskey and old times. Tomorrow he would see about tracking down Johnny Appleseed at the “U”…

Dan Bluestone woke up on a chaise lounge. It was 72 degrees with a slight breeze when he woke up and made his way to his room at the Raleigh Hotel.    

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Failure Coach XIII

Cleveland, OSU and The Lou

Not surprisingly, the Midwest has a high brand development index (BDI) for the first book. It looks like the failure fans are entrenched in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Missouri and were among the first to buy the second book too. The regional pockets where the blue collar work ethic exists and thrives seems the best place to market Alan Edgewater Failure Coach LLC. So far that hasn’t meant bringing the seminars to places like Cleveland and Detroit but Alan was starting to listen to the social media strategists, brand gurus and others from Ambrosia, who were strongly in favor of a more aggressive fan engagement. Alan Edgewater spent an intense couple of days listening to Ambrosia staffers present ideas for video, webinar, search engine optimization (SEO) and retail products. Alan was impressed by the activity but he missed the relaxed atmosphere and camaraderie of Dan Bluestone and the narrow pragmatism of Jan Abbeshire. He told himself that the Ambrosia people would bring more to the party but he was kind of underwhelmed by the actual content. He wondered if any of these kids even read his books. He also wondered how fully his publisher would support his marketing plans for book number three.

Still, Alan was convinced that kicking off a conference tour in the Midwest beginning with Cleveland at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would be a pretty cool thing to do. The Ambrosia team prepared to roll-out starting in Cleveland, moving on to Canton (Football Hall of Fame), Detroit, Columbus (Ohio State University), Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City and Bentonville, Arkansas (Walmart corporate headquarters) in 30 days from October to early November.

Coach Siena would formally present the second Alan Edgewater Failure First four year scholarship with the first recipient Johnny Appleseed in attendance at a the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis. The award had already been presented to Andrew Valentine and his family in Arlington, Ohio. Andrew was another kid with “a lot of heart” who played high school football. He was recruited by a number of D-III colleges expressing interest in him prior to the family decision with their doctor not to risk further head trauma at the next level. Andy Valentine had suffered a series of concussions forcing him to give up the game in the middle of his senior year. While sidelined, Andrew Valentine’s story was featured on the PBS program Frontline. The program included case studies from all levels of the game from Pop Warner, high school, college and the NFL. The entire program was sent to Coach Bob Siena c/o Sazerac on a DVD with a carefully written letter from Andy’s mom. Coach Siena was moved by the letter but it was the phone interview with Andrew that convinced him that this was his guy.

“Andrew, I understand you are a pretty talented athlete. A friend of mine at Ballwin Wallace tells me that you are the kind of kid who could do well there. That is a fine school - a private, liberal arts college located in Berea, a residential community just 20 minutes from Cleveland.”

“Coach, I have accepted the fact that I’m not going to play football in college. My playin’ days are done. We are, however, looking at colleges. Ohio State is awesome but….to tell you the truth I’ve been thinking about places like Whittenberg University, Kenyon College, Oberlin and I did look at Ballwin Wallace…”

“Ohio State University is a great school but it is a factory. All of the schools you are considering are worthy places to get a liberal arts education. I’ll tell you what…If you go to school and learn about what it is to be a good, solid well-rounded citizen, that’s more than half the battle. “

“Thanks Coach. People always ask what I want to do. Like I should have my life and career all mapped out. I might want to teach. I don’t know.”

“Hang in there kid.”

“Thanks again coach. Even if I’m not the guy you give the scholarship too, I really appreciate your taking the time to talk with me. It has been very helpful.”

It only took a couple of weeks for Ambrosia to finalize the 30 day crash-n-burn Midwest tour dates. Alan was ready with ample ammo from It not easy being anybody and You can’t give 110% with a few segue hints about Negative Space, he thought. Let the show begin. Rock and Roll!.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Failure Coach XII


“We want connect our brand with failure fans and to make sure they are using the brand in the best possible way. That necessitates a whole new range of services. It’s not only strategic thinking and creative; it is also technology. So, it is the alchemy of good thinking, the intelligence, the brain, creativity (which is coming from the heart), science and technology. When you have that alchemy, you arrive at something that is quite unique and which is giving you the winning brand.”

One of the greatest talents possessed by Alan Edgewater was an ability to distill information quickly and make it his own. This latest patter seemed to come to him almost by osmosis, having had the opportunity to meet some pretty high level executives from Omnicom and Publicis who were recently engaged in merger discussions. A merger of these advertising giants would create a behemoth that would certainly experience account conflicts and tangled agency-client relationships around the world. The merger would also result in newly formed strategic business units to accommodate clients who are sorting through a completely new rhetoric in the ad biz. Ambrosia, principally owned by Omnicom, was formed as a sort of test. All the confusion in the marketplace would have the net effect of closing the gap between genuine expertise and the quick-study Alan’s ability to sound like an expert.

“I hate to tell you this but I have made a tough decision regarding marketing effective immediately. I’m so grateful for everything you guys have done to help me get this far but I have to listen to my publisher when it comes to marketing my next book. I have also gotten some advice from others who suggest that I don’t have the right kind of firepower behind Negative Space. You know there is no guarantee this third book is going to be as well received in the marketplace as the first book and sales of the second are a little off projections. I hope Dan Bluestone and Jan Abbeshire will stay on as advisers but if that is not possible, I understand. We have signed a contract with Ambrosia. They are an exciting new agency formed by digital marketing stars from Fleishman-Hillard and some NYU kids. They are a young and fresh group that has been purchased by Omnicom. Ambrosia comes highly recommended by our publisher. They have unique understanding of the publishing business… ”

Jan and Dan were stunned by this announcement. Laurie never understood any of the marketing expenses but shrugged off the decision as nothing really that extraordinary. Bob got a sense of this decision but wasn’t passionate about saving the Dan and Jan circus, of which he was kind of getting tired anyway. Now Jan and Dan both wished they had a more cohesive strategy for saving the business. The consequences will be Jan cutting back on contract work for her staff of PR specialists and Dan will have to lay low when his freelancers came sniffing around. For each, the Alan Edgewater Failure Coach LLC business was a feather in their respective caps. In fact they will both still include AE success stories in their new business portfolio tool kits. Jan shows several positive reviews: The Detroit Free Press, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and a more recent review and interview in the New York Times. Dan had the Lincoln/Failures Poster, the 110% book cover design and seminars literature. Both recognize the reality. The Alan Edgewater account was never really profitable but it gave them something to talk about that was current and interesting, if not immediately relevant, to their respective prospects.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Failure Coach XI

Positive and Negative Spaces
Bluestone and Abbeshire don’t get together without AE often, but on this day they are trying to get a few things straight between them before another flurry of activity happens around the second book. Both feel they’ve learned a thing or two around the first launch: Dan, based on what he saw happening in Orlando and New Orleans. Jan, based on conversations she has had with a variety of editors and writers. Jan and Dan are both astounded by the remarkable response the failure coach has received. Both have, however, assessed the situation differently. Dan believes it is a function of pure creativity by which the initial book was marketed and how AE seized the day. Jan is convinced that the reality is more calculated and that AE is the recipient of triumph because of the publisher’s prioritization. She believes the book and emerging philosophy therein are well timed. Jan and Dan agree on one thing: the success is remarkable and has propelled Alan Edgewater Failure Coach into popular culture even beyond business press. Jan is more fearful and cautious than Dan who looks at the good fortune as a wonderful ride. Both want to plan the next critical steps very carefully.
Together they view a video someone sent Alan. Alan wants to know if there is a place he might use something like this in one of his seminars. It’s about famous people who failed big and achieved great things in spite of it all. “ I get it, I get it,” says Jan. “Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan,  Albert Einstein, Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney, Eminem, Dr. Seuss all experienced setbacks. So what?” Jan is playing Devil’s Advocate to Dan’s enthusiasm. “We’ve heard this before. Alan Edgewater can leverage these facts in creative ways to set the stage for a seminar and maybe even sell a few books, sure. What we need to be thinking about, though is: What makes Alan Edgewater unique? What is the appeal?”

Dan is quick to respond, “Jan, you should see what happens in a room full of people at one of the Failure Coach seminars. Alan has a kind of magic, not unlike a revival meeting or some other kind of spiritual experience. It comes without judgment. You don’t have to be saved or buy anything. Hell you don’t even have to buy a book. I know how you are Jan. You want tangible evidence. You want a hook for editors. Never mind the guy is a best-selling author. How about the crazy social media numbers we are just now starting to understand. Over a million views of the Orlando video! AEIOU and #epicfail blowing up on twitter! We don’t even know how many people have seen our Abe Lincoln poster but we do know #FailureCoach is driving traffic to the website we don’t even know what to do with… ”

Jan makes a time-out signal tapping her right hand on the fingertips of her left hand. Her diamond ring and the gesture get Dan’s attention. “Look, you are describing stuff we can’t control going forward. I’m all for taking chances with innovative uses of type, design, graphics, videos and social media cluster-f*#k but at the end of the day we have to be accountable…”
So it goes with Jan and Dan, the Abbeshire and Bluestone Show. Jan is linear and left brain and Dan is all about breakthrough creative. Jan wants metrics. Dan wants something cool that will get friends, shares, hits, views and/or drive traffic. Throw in an accountant and a lawyer and Bluestone feels as though he is pissing in the wind however. It isn't easy being Dan Bluestone. He has to accept all the common sense reasoning and he knows it. But he can see that Alan Edgewater, Coach Siena, Johnny Appleseed, Bob Fontenot and a whole lot of failure fans believe in the power of breakthrough ideas. Ideas that can come from looking at the world creatively.
“Come on Jan, humor me, will ya? When we meet with Alan, let’s see if we can go in as a unified team. I’ll continue to support the retainer and the editorial focus of PR  if you endorse the video and graphics for the failure fans…We’ll give Laurie a proposed budget of $250,000 for a one year program…That’s gonna work out to like 60/40 budget split between us.”   
“Dan, I love ya, but my 60 is fully accountable and your 40 is totally not. I like to think we are creative in what we do as we measure hours, output and placements weekly. You are kind of well known for going over budget on everything…”
“Okay, so it will be up to Alan to decide how he wants to fail: by a slow and painful bleeding or from a blunt force head trauma. Fading into the sunset or going down in a blaze of glory…”

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Failure Coach X

Negative Space

Alan has been thinking a lot about negative space. It started when he got a phone call from Bill Donius, the former Bank CEO who wrote a book called Thought Revolution:Unlock your Inner Genius. Bill was talking to him about the right brain/left brain thing. The two met on a flight back from Cleveland quite by chance. Alan was in Cleveland on a media tour and Bill was in meeting with Changing Lives Press (which happens to be located at 50 Public Square).  

That led Alan to his checking out Drawing on the Right Hand Side of the Brain Betty Edwards from the HQ branch of the West County library. He was struck by her  discussion of negative space using the cartoon image of Bugs Bunny speeding along and running through a door. What you’ll see in the cartoon, she says, is a door with a bunny shaped hole in it. Negative space, is the space around the object, in this case Bugs Bunny.

Negative space is a compositional tool used by artists. It is the space where other things are not present. Leonardo's The Last Supper for example. The negative space between Jesus (in the middle of the painting) and the person immediately to his right is causing a V-shaped negative space. (Some speculate that space is hiding secrets.) M.C. Escher, Bridget Riley, Victor Vasserely and Op artists often use negative space in intriguing ways in which we are left wondering what, exactly, is negative and what is positive. Incidentally, negative space is no "negative" connotation. It's actually a wonderful, if often neglected, design element. Properly used, as with Henry Moore's sculptures, or Zen brush paintings, or even your basic Rorschach test ink blots, it is just as important as what is there.

Aha! Thinks Alan. An aha moment. This negative space concept is a good thing.  A failure orientation, is similarly, about focusing on those things outside of your own control. Donius wants me to buy into the inner genius idea but I need people to see their negative space as the opportunity. Once you understand what surrounds you, you begin to understand what must change. In some ways this is a more painful process since it focuses outwardly instead of so much focus on trying to change oneself. You can’t give 110%. What you can do is change things in your environment. You can get the right people on the bus and make sure they are sitting in the right friggin’ seats if you are working your negative space. That is it! Aha!

Alan Edgewater is feverishly writing notes about the negative space thing on a yellow legal pad. (Even as he wonders for just a moment why lawyers need 14” as he’s never seen a lawyer write anything the full length of such a sheet. That includes his pal Caster.)

Negative space. Get an artist to demonstrate this with sculpture from clay or block of ice or painting. Get examples of good use of negative space. Op artists, M.C. Escher, Victor Vasserely, Zen, Rorschach, Japanese Gardens, Matisse cut outs…  

Alan goes on to fill several pages of stream of consciousness thinking. It’s late and he puts the pad aside with a plan to review it in the morning. He feels good about the direction, even wondering if his next book could be Negative Space.

Would a book about negative space be nontraditional in its design? Ask Bluestone what he thinks. Would the cover be one of those images that tricks your eye into seeing a vase at first glance and facial profiles at another look? Does such a book read left to right? Front to back? Die cuts? Orgami. Cut Paper? Is there anything in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers that help illustrate this negative space?    

Failure Coach IX

OMG AE IOU #FailureCoach

Failure Fans are alive on the web again. Alan is still astounded by the phenomenon that started with YouTube videos going viral from the Orlando conference showing Alan Edgewater at his very best and most colorful. In hindsight, it was a damn good thing Bluestone thought about this tactic as a member of the enthusiastic audience in Orlando. Failure Fans all over started to pick up on his rants. The clips, especially, became popular attachments on Twitter. They became a sort of shorthand like LMFAO or LOL (instead of or in addition to). Alan was almost afraid the activity was unique to his first book and that successful launch. He could not be certain analytics would show a flurry of the same magnitude but it did look like #110% #epicfail #AEIOU activity was alive and well.

AEIOU became a kind of battle cry for people and organizations that wanted to publicly thank Alan Edgewater (AE) for helping them accept one defeat or another (IOU).

A poster designed by one of Bluestone’s freelancers became popular as a graphic online (more so than the limited distribution of the poster itself. The design was homage to Push Pin Studio’s Milton Glaser Bob Dylan poster from 1967 with a stylized Abe Lincoln profile. The poster includes the words:

Abraham Lincoln suffered a multitude of failure in his life which he did not let get in his way as he finally won the presidency and changed the course of history.  L

Lost job in 1832.
Defeated for state legislature in 1832.
Failed in business in 1833.
Elected to state legislature in 1834.
Sweetheart died in 1835.
Had nervous breakdown in 1836.
Defeated for Speaker in 1838.
Defeated for nomination for Congress in 1843.
Elected to Congress in 1846.
Lost renomination in 1848.
Rejected for land officer in 1849.
Defeated for U.S. Senate in 1854.
Defeated for nomination for Vice President in 1856.
Again defeated for U.S. Senate in 1858.
Elected President in 1860.

AE IOU #FailureCoach

The success of viral video and this graphic energized Daniel Bluestone. The poster was reproduced in the new book as an exhibit. The validation of the value of his efforts triggered a flurry of activity focusing on guerilla and digital tactics for Alan Edgewater. The success was helping him get in the door at InBev Anheuser Busch, Enterprise Rent a Car and Sazerac. Each were hopeful this kind of awareness might be generated for their brands. Daniel too, was getting a bit of attention as he was invited to be a guest lecturer at the University of Missouri – St. Louis and mentor the student ad club AD CORE.

Note: Milton Glaser's Dylan poster (above) was inspired by Marcel Duchamp's 1957 self-portrait. It was included in an album of greatest hits released in 1967.         

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Failure Coach VIII

September book release

The quarterly meeting is at the Chamber conference room for old time sake. Lunch is from Russo’s. The caterer is setting up hot soup, salad and a variety of finger sandwiches.  “Wow nice spread, Russo’s is great. I saw the van out front and realized it’s been a while. I used to eat there at least once a month when I had a client near Russo’s Page Road restaurant outlet.” Bob is animated and seems genuinely enthusiastic about the lunch fare. (A decidedly upgraded offering from the usual for a typical AE meeting.)

“Hang on Bob-O, they just got here. Grab a soda, coffee or tea and sit down. We’ll break in about 30 minutes.”

The Chamber office is buzzing. The receptionist, pr coordinator and a couple of volunteers are busy answering questions about a golf outing and already making plans for the fourth quarter holiday event. The added activity of the AE meeting is something they take in stride. Alan is a member and has been generous with his time as speaker. 

Already assembled in the conference room: Laurie is ready with her dashboard spreadsheet of key financial indicators: Jan has an updated status report and Dan is sketching on a pad of layout paper from Art Mart.The meeting business kicks off with Bob’s arrival. Alan sets the stage with an overview and an agenda hand out. 
“The 110% book is ready to launch and my publisher seems to think it will do well enough. They sure aren’t acting like it though. There is just about 18 months between releases and I'm not sure the failure fans will stay with us. That first book had a lot going for it. The prelaunch reviews for It’s not easy being anybody got a lot of traction and triggered bulk orders: group and corporate sales. I’m just not going to sweat this. I’ve already raked in incredible notoriety, if not profits over the last year. The royalty checks add up to six figures and that gave me a little room to pursue the marketing stuff for Alan Edgewater Failure Coach LLC.” Alan is in an unusually reflective mood as he addresses his go-to advisers.”I’ve always tried to be transparent with the fab four. I am so grateful for this group.”

And at Mahoney Hall on the campus of the University of Miami, Johnny Appleseed is smoking pot with his roommate Steve. “No shit man, you got a full ride to the U from something called the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund that was started with money your high school football coach won in a lottery. That is so righteous.”

Meanwhile in Red Bud, Illinois, Coach Siena is in his home office looking at some Sazerac regional sales numbers on his desktop computer screen. He can see that things look pretty good in most segments versus a year ago (YAG) when his phone rings. It is a land line with a loud bell ring. It isn’t a rotary dial, but if it was it would not seem out of place on the Coach’s big and cluttered desk. His wife, Irene, is forbidden to touch anything in his office. This is the policy left over from his coaching days. Every scrap is valuable and might have an unstoppable play diagram or scouting nugget that will provide an edge. Now, that same system is part of how he deals with his network of distributors and key account sales people. Every niche is important. The smaller liquor stores are better margins than national accounts like Costco. That is where he has a better opportunity to have an impact anyway so that is where he places his focus. His deal with Fontenot is as an independent contractor anyhow and he has a straight, albeit dotted line to Fontenot.

And at the bar at Tavern on the Park in New Orleans, “In addition to award-winning bourbons, our distilleries produce some of the highest quality rye whiskies. Our Rye Whiskies have garnered numerous awards. Sazerac is proud to offer these unique, award-winning rye whiskies that help spearhead the current revival of Rye Whiskey. Our American blended whiskies are distilled, aged and bottled to create high quality whiskies for value conscious consumers.” Fontenot is polishing his pitch to another out-of-towner who found his favorite bar. Chances are this guy from Cleveland will be a Sazerac convert, especially if he takes the Robert Siena business card and follows up on an opportunity to get a product sample pack sent to his home. “Make sure you tell him you met with Fontenot in N.O. and I know he’ll take care of you. Hey, have you heard of Failure Coach Alan Edgewater? That dude is amazing…”

And at that very moment, at 50 Public Square in Cleveland the first books are making their way to local bookstores in the arcade mall adjacent to the Terminal Tower. A cut-out of Alan Edgewater in a business suit is smiling as he holds a copy of You can’t give 110%! next to pull out quotes from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Columbus Dispatch and the Detroit Free Press.      

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Failure Coach VII

Failure First Webinar - August

Johnny Appleseed is in his dorm room at Mahoney Hall at the University of Miami and is looking at a graphic on his laptop computer. Johnny is bored with school and instead of attending his first scheduled class with a couple hundred of his closest friends in the Learning Resource Center he opts to check out the webinar Coach Siena told him might help him sort out some of the issues he has about where he wants his life to go. The Coach is proud of his former student-athlete and touches base with him periodically via e-mail.   
Stage One: Resistance. In this stage, one attempt to prevent failure, to hold it together, to cover it over, to pretend that whatever “it” is, “it” didn’t happen. There is embarrassment at this stage and generally a desire to fix “it” before anyone notices.
Stage Two: Acceptance. In this stage, there is surrender to what is and an acceptance of what is unfolding. One might ask for help at this stage. There is vulnerability, connection and relationship.
Stage Three: I’m not sure what to call this stage. Time? Healing? I just know that, especially for really big failures some time needs to pass before one is ready to look at learning. This is the pause, the breath,  the place of being.
Stage Four: Learning. After some time has passed (sometimes a little, sometimes a lot) it’s time for debrief and learning. What didn’t work? Where was I blind? What’s the new information to incorporate?
Stage Five: Transformation. As the new information is integrated, transformation occurs.
 “The information is from a blog Karen Kimsey-House who with her husband Henry and Laura Whitworth founded The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) in 1992 with Laura Whitworth and Henry Kimsey-House. I won’t editorialize on anyone else’s approach or advertise CTI life coaches. What I want people to recognize is the value in failure and I like what Karen is presenting here. I know this is an eye-chart. It is included in our seminar materials and also presented in some depth in my book You can’t give 110%”.Karen is an entrepreneur. In addition to CTI, she founded the Learning Annex adult education program in San Francisco in 1986. It grew it into one of the most admired programs under the national Learning Annex brand. Karen received her MFA in Communications and Theater from Temple University in Philadelphia. CTI has trained more than 30,000 life coaches…”

This Alan Edgewater webinar is live and in progress. It allows participants to ask questions in real time, some of which he will address during the session. A recording of the session is also available to those who paid for the webinar. Johnny types in his question.


“Alan” interrupts a woman’s voice at what seems a fair enough point to break into Edgewater’s description of the slide as it remains on the screen. “JA, a college student in Miami wants to know how to avoid failure.”
“Well there is one in every crowd. With all due respect to JA, I’ve sold a lot of books and attracted thousands to seminars and conferences. If I have one clear message it is this: DON’T TRY to AVOID FAILURE. Instead, embrace and celebrate failure. This is really hard for students to grasp especially. Students are taught to focus on goals and get on a path to acquiring the knowledge it takes to achieve those goals. It’s a flawed way of looking at the world. Here’s why: You will fail – maybe not right away but soon enough. How you respond to that failure will do more to define you than anything else…”
The slide graphic changes on the screen. Alan moves on to describe a few of his favorite case studies. Each one has a graphic treatment that looks like a folder with color photo and typewriter font describing the case file. Alan has clearly made a part of his patter. Each is an illustration.

“Maybe JA and others with similar questions will understand The Alan Edgewater Failure Coach philosophy better when they see what the approach has done for:

A. Sally Smith-Jones works a Wal-Mart cash register in a suburb of Chicago. Her kids resent her. She is finally at peace. She’s stopped beating herself up about those things that just didn’t go right with her kids and ex-husband.

B. Jill Beane is a school teacher in Cleveland. She lost her job after she allegedly left some student unsupervised on a field trip to the zoo. The kids thought it would be funny to spray paint polar bears.  

C. Sherman Ringling in Tampa is an actor and a wanna-be stand up comedian. To make ends meet he’s working the pro-shop at golf course at McDill Air Force base.

The point, while maybe not chrystal clear is that each of these people were deeply depressed because they were not even close to living the lives of which they had once dreamed. They are among the thousands of folks providing feedback to Alan Edgewater Failure Coach LLC”.

Johnny Appleseed types in his next comment. JA: THESE PEOPLE ARE NOTHING LIKE ME.

This time the note is left in the queue without response and Alan Edgewater continues with a sort of commercial for his first two books and a mention of the Alan Edgewater Failure Coach website. The webinar ends with the familiar line: “It’s not easy being you…but no-one is better at being you.”