Adam Yauch – Leaving a Legacy

11 05 2012

Flying down the highway, windows open, stereo on blast, Beastie Boys bumping – my teenage version of freedom.  The joy of good friends, weird adventures, and great music as the soundtrack to our youthful escapades.  If you were not in high school or college in the 80’s or 90’s then the Beastie Boys might not mean much to you, but you had your soundtrack too.  Yours might have been Springsteen or Elvis or the Beatles, but in my generation, we had the King Ad Rock, Mike D, and MCA.  The Beastie Boys meant rebellion, non-conformity, and pure unadulterated fun.

Last week I was saddened at the early passing of Adam (MCA) Yauch.  Always a shame when a life ends too soon, but in a moment of reflection my sadness quickly faded as I thought about that roadtrip, that party, that concert, those times in college – all those formative moments in my life colored by the sounds of Paul Revere, Sabatoge, Sure Shot, and Root Down.  I still know every single word of the album “Licensed to Ill” – a lot of people reading this do too.

So in that moment of sadness I found myself smiling.  I thought of a quote I’ve heard before:  “People will not remember what you said or what you did – they will remember how you make them feel.”  And that’s exactly what happens when you do something great, something risky, something that has a positive effect on other people’s lives.  You make them feel something – and that feeling never fades.

In that moment I began to reflect on my own life.  How will I be remembered?  How will you?  And beyond that, what did Adam Yauch do that was so special that his actions and his life impacted a generation?  What can we learn from MCA?

Speak your mind, don’t speak to everyone.  The music of the Beastie Boys is not for everyone – if it was, then it wouldn’t be genuine.  It had to be gritty, foul, raucous, and rebellious for certain people to relate to it.  If you speak softly to everyone then you speak powerfully to no one.

Find an uphill battle and start climbing.  How many times did the Beastie Boys hear “white guys can’t rap” or “rappers can’t play instruments” or “rap music won’t last”?  If you’ve got fans, you’ve got critics.  In his own words:  “They got a committee to get me off the block ‘cause I say my rhymes loud and I say ’em nonstop.”  In the path to greatness you will be met with naysayers, doubters, and skeptics.  Use it as fuel for your fire to accomplish something difficult.

Be true to yourself.  Early in their career, the Beasties might have been characterized as rude, crass, and juvenile.  In time, they used those rebellious attitudes to make statements for freedom and equality.  In either case, they pissed people off.  You don’t want to hear about kids partying and causing trouble?  Don’t listen.  You don’t want a rockstar to use their platform for pushing their beliefs?  Don’t follow.  It is the “do what I want” approach that turned these boys to men.  Be bold, be authentic, and celebrate it.

Party.  Speaking of celebration, I know we all are focused and driven and relentless and so on, but dammit, every now and then you gotta break the monotony and appreciate the fruits of your labors.  Sometimes you gotta turn it up and party like your parents are out of town to remind yourself why you work so hard.

Collaborate.  Not only were the Beastie Boys a group of guys that came together to make music – they literally finished each other’s sentences.  Their group approach to trading rhymes branded their style, gave them a unique sound, and changed the game.  Want to be successful?  Get some homies to help you achieve your vision.


I watched the Beastie Boys on stage at Lollapalooza when I was in college.  I could not believe the way they moved the crowd.  I had never experienced thousands of people rapping in unison along with the artists on stage.  I had never heard bass that loud.  I remember what I was wearing, I remember what I drank, I remember the vibrations in the ground, I remember the friends who took that crazy journey with me.  And I will always, always remember how I felt.  Shout out to the Beasties for that feeling.  Shout out for the lifelong memories.  Shout out to MCA for the reminder to achieve something great.


Hero Found

7 10 2011

In follow-up to the story I posted about the fire that affected our home in Austin, Texas, I am thrilled to report that I found the man that saved our house – or rather, he found me.  As I was standing in the front yard watering the grass at night, a Lake County Sheriff’s car pulled alongside the curb.  He stopped and rolled down his window.  Concerned that I might be in trouble for the extra watering during drought conditions, I said, “Hey there.  I’m just watering to keep the grass moist – part of it burned during the fire.”

“I know,” he said, “I put it out.”

“You what????” I asked, jaw-dropped.

“I put out the fire in your yard,” he replied calmly.  “I came around the corner in my car and I saw the flames, so I parked, got out, and stomped it out with my feet.”

“Are you serious?!?!” I asked, not believing that I was standing there talking to my family’s hero.

“Yeah,” he replied in a very “no big deal – just part of the job” kind of way.

We talked for a while and I thanked him profusely.  I told him that I had written an article and given his credit to the Fire Department.  He was quick to point out that although he put out the fire in my yard, the Fire Department saved the neighborhood – mentioning how impressed he was by their teamwork and speed.  Nonetheless, I wanted to express my immeasurable gratitude.

“You write a blog?” he asked.  “You should check out my website.”

It turns out that Senior Deputy Sheriff Greg Lawson is also an author.  He wrote a fictional book about zombies and the rights of zombies if they actually existed.  I’m not making this up – take a look:

He didn’t seem to want much praise for his heroic act, so I can at least give his website and his book some free press.  Go check it out – just in time for Halloween!

Thank you Mr. Lawson, not only for putting out the fire, but for providing us with an example of bravery and humility – and for reminding us that for all that is wrong in the world, there are still reasons to be optimistic.

Moment of Silence / Something Happens

12 11 2010

In honor of the brave men and women that protect this country, I am observing a moment of silence.  Although I greatly respect the honorable contribution of those that have given their lives and service to the military, I am not one of them.  I can show appreciation but do not speak from experience.  Therefore, instead of my weekly blog, I would like to share the thoughts of a man that actually served – my mentor, Mr. Dan Collins.

Something Happens

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” – Cynthia Ozick

Something important happens when I meet a combat veteran.  Something that’s hard to explain.  There’s a recognition, a respect, a salute and… a sadness that embraces me.  It’s simple, silent and sincere.  It’s a shared appreciation.  It’s different than the love that I have for my child.  It’s different than the respect I have for role models.  It’s different than the salute I give to accomplishments.  It’s different and yet it’s the same.  It’s a strange bond that transcends country, color, race and religion.  It’s older than age and younger than youth. It’s about sacrifice and sincere substance.  It’s grave and it’s gravitas.  It’s hard to explain the warm smile and the chilling sadness that I feel when I think of the value and values of a veteran.  It’s hard to explain but…

Something important happens.

Dan Collins

Read Dan’s Blog here:

Charley Johnson – Paying It Forward

5 11 2010

When you ask most people “What is your goal?” they might say they would like to increase their business, lose some weight, or buy a new car – not Charley Johnson – Charley is going to “change the world.”  When you talk to Charley you realize he is serious, and you realize that he has the passion, drive, and confidence to actually achieve that goal.

In 2006, driving on the freeway, Charley Johnson had a vision, and that vision has turned into a movement.  The idea was inspired by the movie Pay It Forward written by Catherine Ryan Hyde, and the foundation that it spawned.  Millions of people saw that movie and thought, “great idea” but Charley Johnson took action to spread the word – with a simple bracelet.

The “Pay It Forward” mission is this:  You, your company, your community, your family & friends can make the world a better place.  It could be a small act like opening a door, buying a stranger a cup of coffee, or giving your time to a cause.  Donate blood, open a door for someone, work at a soup kitchen, assist your neighbor with their yardwork, give someone your spot in line – there is no wrong way to participate, as long as you are doing something to make another person’s life better.

Charley’s contribution to the cause is a white rubber PAY IT FORWARD bracelet.  You CANNOT buy them – just contact Charley and he will send you a bunch of bracelets for free.  Wear your bracelet to remind yourself to do something nice.  Pass the bracelet on to remind someone else to keep it moving forward.  Thus far, Charley has put over 800,000 bracelets into 58 countries around the world, and he’s only getting started.  The goal is 1 billion (with a “B”) bracelets in circulation – 1 billion reminders to do something nice.  Schools are involving the concept in their programs about citizenship and responsibility.  Communities are using the concept to improve their surroundings and help their neighbors.  Companies are using the concept to increase teamwork and boost employee morale.

Charley & Stacey-Marie Hansen

Speaking to Charley this week was as surprising as it was inspiring.  I tried to get him to talk about himself, take some credit, and soak up a little well-deserved spotlight for making a difference.  You might expect a guy with over 4,000 Facebook friends to self-promote when given the chance.  Not even close.  “This movement is not about me,” he said with a matter-of-fact frankness that is his trademark whether he knows it or not, “this is about creating your own movement.  This gives everyone a chance to participate – the bracelet tells you what to do, but not how to do it.”

The Promotional Products Industry, where Charley earns his living, is throwing it’s weight behind the cause.  Saturday, November 6th, is Promotional Professionals Pay It Forward Day, and we encourage everyone to participate.  Do something nice for someone else.  Follow Charley’s example and make the world a better place.

Great job Charley. I know you don’t want the credit, but you deserve it.

Get Naughty

1 10 2010

So I’m headed to Vegas this weekend.  Just a short while ago that would have meant all kinds of craziness.  When I tell people about my upcoming Vegas trip, they say, “Oooh, what are you going to do???” with that certain hopeful and devilish tone that implies they want to hear about gaming, clubbing, and debauchery.  But alas, the times, they are a-changin.

Instead of cocktails on the plane, it will be DVD’s in the minivan.  Oh yes, on the weekends it’s the minivan for me.  Believe it.  My son is 5, my daughter is 3.  We like three rows of seats so they can sit separately – hence less eye-poking, scratching, and pinching.  They are good kids, but they act like hockey players inside a car.

Instead of a suite at the Hard Rock, we will be shacking up at my brother’s house.  Yes, people actually live in Vegas – and the houses are huge.  When we wake up in the morning we won’t hear slot machines and smell like smoke.  My daughter will wake me singing, “Daaaaaddyyyyy wake uuuuuup” at 6:30 instead of a housekeeper banging on the door at noon.

Instead of lounging (passing out) by the pool, we will swim together in my brother’s back yard.  I will throw my son as high as I can and he will splash grandpa in the face.  There will be no cocktail waitresses bringing us Mai Tai’s in bikinis – unless I do something really nice for my wife and she volunteers (does driving a minivan count as something nice?).

As I slip pleasantly into middle-age, businesses are constantly rebranding themselves as sexy, sleek, and young.  Why?  Well, I suppose minivans are not sexy.

Consider Volvo.  They have established a brand known for safety and sensibility.  And here they are, jumping into the sport-sedan class with all four tires.  We printed these “I Got Naughty In A Volvo” t-shirts to promote the new S60.  They were given to test drivers.  Apparently you can get naughty in a Volvo and you don’t have to wait til your parents are out of town.  Oh yes, the times, they are a-changin.


Have a great weekend everyone.  If it’s still warm in your town, here is a great drink:


1 Can of concentrated frozen lemonade

Pour concentrate into pitcher

Add 3 cans of water

1 can of Vodka

1 full Beer – preferably Amber or Mexican beer

Stir and pour over ice


When I say “WOLF”

10 09 2010

Why is it so easy to love college football?

– Community pride
– Marching band plays throughout the game
– Fewer commercials than the NFL
– Tailgate parties
– Raw emotion

The emotional pull of college football is huge.  The players are not being paid, they are playing for scholarships and desire.  Most of them will never play professionally.  This is probably the pinnacle of their athletic career, their fame, and their shot at glory.  These are not mega-million-dollar celebrity athletes, these are your classmates and friends, your neighbors and co-workers, your sons and brothers – representatives of your town or alma-mater.  It is pretty easy to get fired up rooting for these guys.

The loyalty of a fan is strong and it is for life.  Fans get emotional.  “Fan” is short for “fanatic” and we constantly display why.  We paint our faces.  We go shirtless in cold weather.  We rush the field.  We talk like we’re on the team:  “We had a tough week, but our defense is sweet and no one can beat us!”

We even dress like we’re on the team.  A lot of people are jersey-wearers, but it doesn’t end there.  People literally wear equipment to the games.  I saw a fan at a San Diego State game last weekend wearing not only a jersey, but pants, helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, and eyeblack.  It seemed like he thought the team might give him a chance if they ran short on players.  I was almost hoping for an injury just to see if they would actually do it.

The rest of us probably prefer the team T-shirt as our method of showing school pride.  There are simple designs with the school letters, colorful shirts with slogans, or big prints of the mascot.  You’re happy to pay for those shirts, but it’s also nice to get them for free.  Many businesses will sponsor a t-shirt giveaway with the company logo printed somewhere on the shirt.  I’ve produced a ton of those, and you’ve gotten them for free at a game.  You wear it because that’s your team, you don’t mind doing a little advertising for the company that gave it to you.  On a small level it’s a business contract – and one that is agreeable to both parties.

I went to Nevada – the Wolf Pack.  Not one wolf, but the whole pack, a team.  “Wolves, running around the desert together” The Hangover.   “When I say WOLF, you say PACK!  ‘WOLF!’ (PACK!) ‘WOLF!’  (PACK!)….”  And so on.  If you want to know why the Pack is awesome, read about the Pistol Offense or email me and I will go on a ridiculous rant.

There is a college football team near you.  Be a fan, show your loyalty – go to the games, wear the t-shirt, watch on TV, throw a party, streak the quad!!

College Football season is here, and all is right in the world.


In The Posse

9 07 2010

The Doggfather

How does it feel to be included?  When someone makes the special effort to make sure you know that you are part of the team, a member of the inner circle – feels good right?

Snoop Dogg is a hip-hop legend, an icon, a master marketer, and a shrewd businessman.  In 2009, Snoop was named the new Creative Chairman of Priority Records – the label that gave us Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, EPMD, Jay-Z, Ice Cube, Master P, and other legendary rappers.  After folding in 2004, Priority was recently revived with “S-N-Double-O-P” as the face of the brand and the man running the show.

While preparing his new business venture and building his team, Snoop took the time to make sure his guys knew that they were still his guys.  He gave them a custom Priority Records t-shirt so they could flaunt the new old name.


I got the call to print these shirts for Snoop and his posse.  It was a small order for me, because there are only a few dudes that are close enough to matter to Snoop.  Actually it wasn’t a “small” order – all these shirts were 3XLT, 4XLT, 5XLT.  These were some of the biggest shirts I’ve ever seen.  I could fit into them twice.  When I printed a size Large for myself, it looked ridiculous compared to the others.

I’ve never been in Snoop’s posse, but I’m guessing it’s pretty sweet.  Somebody drives, somebody is head of security, somebody keeps groupies in line and somebody rolls blunts.  Everybody has a job and they are all part of Team Snoop, the inner circle.  How must that feel?

Okay, you’re not a celebrity, but you have people in your inner circle, your posse – how do you make them feel?  Do they know they are important?  How do you show it?


Oh, and don’t worry – he didn’t forget to show love to his fans.


It’s a Team Sport

25 06 2010

Congratulations to the US World Cup Soccer Team – nice job advancing to the next round!  I’ll admit I’m not the biggest soccer fan in the world, but I am all about cheering for Team USA.  For me it’s kind of like a lot of the sports in the Olympics – I don’t completely understand the rules or the strategy, but I really want us to win – USA!  USA!  USA!

Pardon me for the patriotism, but teamwork is what made this country.  You’ll see teamwork everywhere if you pay attention, and not just in sports:

  • Strangers pushing a stranded driver’s car through an intersection
  • A family cooking a meal together
  • A charity accomplishing a goal

And what of teamwork in business?  What about the success of good teams in the workplace?  Would you rather have “co-workers” and “clients,” or “teammates” and “fans”?

“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product and profits.  Unless you’ve got a good team, you can’t do much with the other two.”  Lee Iacocca

My company is a great team – and it is easy for us to help other companies and groups celebrate their team.  I have always liked when we design shirts to look like sports jerseys.  Whether they conjure visions of a European soccer or a Big League ballclub – this style promotes the identity of a group, the relationship between co-workers and partners, a competitive spirit, and the concept of winning.


The Home Team

Got a favorite team?  Feel free to comment and tell us why they rule.

If your organization is a great team, give them a free plug.

If your charity accomplished a goal, tell us about it.

If your favorite sports team is destined to kick butt this year, let’s hear it.

If you’re talkin’ smack, bring it.

Go team!

  • __________________________________________________________________________________________

True Blood, So Good

11 06 2010

I have been trying so hard not to write about the True Blood shirts we produced a couple months ago.  Aware that the new season is set to begin June 13, I have remained as patient as possible – but the time is now, and I couldn’t be more excited.

If you’ve never watched it, the short version is that True Blood is a vampire series on HBO.  If you have watched it you know how cool it is, and you also know what these shirts are all about.

As an avid viewer, I could go on and on about why True Blood is great, but you will have to judge for yourself.  As a guy that makes a living producing t-shirts for marketing, I am a fan of these shirts for different reasons:

  • No obvious advertising message
  • Specific styling to create unique looks
  • Simple prints with subtle design elements

So what does that do?  It makes people want to wear them.  Nowhere on the shirt does it say, “True Blood, HBO, Sunday at 9:00.”  If it did then I would not have worn mine to a Memorial Day party – but I did.

Someone said to me, “What’s ‘Good Times’ Football?”

Just a small town girl with a vampire boyfriend

“Very clever” I replied, “you speak French?”

“No, but I know what ‘Bon Temps’ means.”

“No you don’t – it’s the city in True Blood.”

“The show on HBO?” he inquired.

“Yep, I love it, and I can’t wait for it to start again in two more weeks!”

I described the show for him – sex, violence, creatures, action, humor, mystery, and drama – dripping with attitude, cool from the opening song to the final scene.  This conversation and my personal endorsement, all because of a cool shirt.  There have been other times I wore it in public and someone who watches the show has smiled at me or done a double take or given me the “Right on, man.”

True Blood asks a lot from the viewer.  It asks you to completely suspend disbelief, bury your cynicism for an hour, and let it suck you in.  If you do, then you will understand what all the fuss is about.  You will also understand why HBO can charge for their promotional t-shirts and not give them away.

My company compressed these shirts into the shape of a DVD case, so when they were sold in stores, the buyer couldn’t help but consider purchasing the series as well.  Smart HBO, bloody smart – no wonder they can charge for their channel while the rest of them are free.

I feel lucky to have been a part of this promotion, and am so excited to have anything to do with this show on any level.  As a marketing professional, I am so happy to see companies using promotional products with such thought and purpose.  As a dude who likes to wear cool t-shirts, I am so glad to own this one.  As a completely impatient person, is it Sunday yet?

Cool After 40?

4 06 2010

The word is “Classic”

Next week my brother turns 40.  He has climbed completely out of the advertiser’s coveted 18 to 35 demographic, but his money is still good to those companies targeting the oldie-but-goodie customer.

So how can a company create shirts that the over 40 crowd will wear?  If a shirt is too cool, too trendy, or something that your teenage son would wear, then it’s probably not going to work for the older demographic.

Have hope brother!   You can still be cool over 40, and there are shirts you can feel comfortable wearing.

I am frequently asked for advice by my clients when designing a promotional shirt for this crowd.


  • Simple
  • Nostalgic
  • Artistic


  • Form-fitting shirts
  • Enormous imprints
  • Big ad messages


Happy birthday Brian, I love you.  You still look cool – even if you are a fossil.


Be Like Jack

21 05 2010

It’s over.

You know you love a TV show if you’re upset when each episode ends.  That’s how I feel every week after 24.  And now, not just the end of an episode – the end of a series – the final chapter.

Jack Bauer will kick your butt.  He always escapes and he never quits.  He doesn’t do what he’s told – he does what’s right.  In twenty-four hours Jack Bauer makes more tough decisions than most of us do in a lifetime.  He’s the good guy and the bad guy.  He’s reckless, he’s tough, he’s a rebel – and we all wish we were a little more like him.

Yeah, so I love 24, and I’m not alone.  Millions of us have tuned-in twenty-four times a year to hear that unmistakable “tick-TICK, tick-TICK” which means it’s time for another episode.  Jack Bauer is part of our culture.  Ever see a list of Jack Bauer facts?  If someone said “David Palmer”, “Tony Almeida”, or “CTU” – would you know exactly what they were talking about?

Now that the show is over I’m going to get DVD’s of each of the seasons.  I will probably watch 2 or 3 episodes at a time.  Ahhh – no commercials!  With the release of Season 5, Fox Studios gave away a free t-shirt when you bought the DVD.  I was lucky enough to make those shirts.  What an honor to produce a project for my favorite TV show of all-time.

Don’t mess with me today.

The shirt is exactly as it should be – Gunmetal gray, with a big “CTU” logo that only a fan would understand, printed distressed to look like you’ve had it since Jack first started beating bad guys.  When I wear mine, I feel like I can make quick decisions, use a firearm, and probably escape if I had to.  That’s a feeling that doesn’t stop when the show is over.  They can end the series – they can’t kill Jack Bauer.


Classic Jack Quotes:

  • “I have killed two people since midnight.  I haven’t slept in over 24 hours.  So maybe you should be a little more afraid of me than you are now.”
  • “If I’d wanted to kill you, I’d have come in shooting!”
  • “You can look the other way once, and it’s no big deal, except it makes it easier for you to compromise the next time.”
  • “You either do as I say and you live, or you don’t and you die for nothing.”
  • “The only reason you’re still conscious is because I don’t want to carry you.”

And from the man himself:

  • “There are two things that Jack Bauer never does. Show mercy, and go to the bathroom.”  Kiefer Sutherland


Partner Power

11 05 2010

Sorry Ozzy, I am Iron Man

Iron Man 2 did over $130 million at the box office in the first weekend – shocker.  So why did it do so well?

1. Robert Downey Jr. is a gold mine.

2. Superhero movies capture the older crowd that remembers the original AND the young crowd that doesn’t care, as long as the effects are sweet.

3. Every summer needs a blockbuster movie.

Ah yes, the summer blockbuster.  Personally, I’m a “wait for video” guy because I can’t sit still for two hours, but I’ll probably make an exception for Iron Man – I love superhero movies.  You do too.  You know who else loves them?  Advertisers.

My company produced Iron Man 2 t-shirts with Norton (Symantec) as a sponsor.  They tied it to their “Allow/Deny” campaign because “Tony Stark’s identity is at risk.”  Symantec understands that aligning your brand with the proper character or concept speaks louder than words.  They’ve done it before with Dokken:  Chicken vs. Dokken and with Kimbo Slice:  Caterpillar vs. Kimbo

Shirt back

But when you partner with a franchise and an icon like Iron Man, you are pulling out the big guns.

I brought one home for my son (to whom I am the Santa Claus of t-shirts), and he wants to wear it every day.  And when he does, he brings Norton’s ad message with him – to the park, the ballgame, to school, etc.  Does he care?  Heck no – they gave him his favorite shirt for free.

Vroom vroom daddy

5 05 2010

People are a little surprised to see me in a NASCAR shirt.  I drive a European car, comb my hair, and live in Southern California.  But I’m loving the reaction I’m getting today.  “Dad that’s a sweet shirt!” my son said, “Vroom, vroom” my daughter said.  When’s the last time I heard that walking out the door to go to work?  “Seriously??” said a co-worker.  Oh yes, seriously.  Collared-shirt guy inspired by a cool t-shirt and willing to wear it into the world.

I’m not the hugest NASCAR fan on the planet – but I do love cars, racing, and sporting events.  As with any sport you gotta pick a favorite and my favorite driver is Greg Biffle.  Could be the way he drives, could be that I wore number 16 when I played baseball – doesn’t matter – you choose a favorite and you stick with it.  So I was excited when we produced Greg Biffle shirts.

My company has produced literally millions of shirts for NASCAR and their drivers.  It’s a supply and demand thing – and there’s a hell of a lot of demand for NASCAR.  The designs change, the drivers are different, the shirt styles shift to keep up with the pace of racing fashion – but they are always cool to the NASCAR crowd.  And sometimes they grab the casual fan like myself for whatever reason.  The shirts are worn and go walking into the world. And the big 3M logo?  I don’t mind being their billboard – after all they paid for this shirt and gave it to me for free.

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