You have skills

You have skills that you have used so long and so casually that you and everyone around you started taking them for granted. Moreover, you have come to assume that anyone can do what you do and these skills are no big deal.

Until they are.

I was reminded recently of the graphic arts skills I have when I asked a colleague to take a photo for a blog post. It was a conference give-away she had shipped to her office. “No big deal,” I thought, “I’ll send her a sample of a photo layout I had done in the past. She’ll line up the item, snap a photo and I can slap on the blog post.”

She sent me this photo, with the following message:


Sorry for the blurry photo… I’m traveling and I asked my spouse to snap a photo. Will it work?

Not ideal, but maybe I could add some artistic blur and noise to the photo. Maybe I could peek it out from underneath another promo graphic to “tease” the audience. In the end, I decided it just was not going to work. Could she send me another cleaner photo?

A few days went by and she sent me this second photo. Will this work better?


Better, but not yet there. I breathed deeply while contemplating whether or not I should go back and ask her to try one more time. I decided I would not, that this was the artwork I had been given and I was going to have to make do.

After an hour or so clipping, layering, adjusting and cajoling, I was able to produce this final artwork for the blog post. It was not the quality of print nor was it the accurate metal color of the actual product but it was infinitely better than the original blurry photo. I decided it would work for online promo and social media.


I posted the final on the blog post, published it, distributed to the social media channels and called it a day. (I was going for something like this, but updated for 2016.)

But then I got to thinking about how much skill it took to get from a blurry photo to the final artwork. I counted the steps in my head and wondered why, in the age of unlimited technology, it was so hard to get a simple photo of a coin to slap onto a blog post? As it turns out, while the tech tools exist for us to produce a volume of creative work much more rapidly than ever before, the differentiator is the skills we have to process the material to create the content social media experts say is critically important to our success.

When someone tries to devalue your skills by saying, “it’s just for internal use,” “it will only take a few minutes,” “just snap a picture” or “it’s just twitter/snapchat/some other social media channel” push back! Chances are it is something you know how to do that they do not, so they have dismissed it as unimportant, unskilled, something anyone can do.

They are wrong. You have skills.

Don’t work with people who don’t value, or worse, actively belittle your skills.

*This article was published with permission from the person who sent me the original coin who unabashedly and without hesitation admits she had no graphic arts skills whatsoever and admires my ability to take a crappy photo and make it look like a coin everyone wants. In fairness, she has skills to manage an event with a million moving parts — mostly angry coaches yelling at her — while remaining entirely unflappable. It’s really awe-inspiring to watch her in action. This was written to inspire you to seek out your skills, not embarrass anyone. Please use it wisely.

Practical podcasting with phone calls

Buy this: JK Audio Inline Patch Telephone Audio Recorder Interface
And this, because it’s fun.

If you have one, plug the JK box into a power line that your board and computer is not plugged into. If you don’t have a separate line, you may need to plug in a noise filter in first. Also, phone lines… might want to make sure the JK box is the only and first device on the line.

Set up the phone lines in. The knob settings for balance and from line is what works best for my phone, but play with it. Also, a copper-line landline works best and then VOIP if that is your only option. Turn off ALL call-waiting and turn on call-forwarding so there is no interruption during the phone call.

I make calls using the keypad on the phone. I usually call the interviewee instead of them calling as I obviously have call-forwarding on… also, ask the interviewee to use a landline if they can. Sometimes, all they have is a cell phone, so make do. But the highest quality is a landline.

The XLR cables out on the back.

The cable in on the board from the INPUTS cable from the JK box. I used an XLR-1/4″ because that was what in the cabinet, but probably an XLR-XLR is best.. I’m just too lazy to test that 🙂

The cable in from the OUTPUTS cable from the JK box

Play with the levels on the board to minimize background noise and amplify the incoming call to make balancing in post easier. This setup will allow you to use the mic and headphones as a phone while recording.

Holler if you want to test your set up! I’ll podcast with you. Also, if you want a setup to use an iPhone, I have cabling for that. You might be able to use the jacks on the back of the JK box, but I’ve got stuff going directly into the board on separate channels mostly for convenience. But a smaller Behringer might work better directly into the JK box.

Leadership thoughts

I believe leadership has three primary guidelines. Calling them “rules” makes them feel too inflexible. 

  1. Learn how to be a good lieutenant.
  2. Change happens. Don’t hold anyone back from being who they are because you are comfortable with who they’ve been. 
  3. Life is about paying it forward. Always. 

I believe anyone can be a leader and that it is a choice. To many, leadership looks a lot like the guy who rides astride the lead horse, with his sword outstretched in front of him, yelling, “follow me, boys!”

But a true leader learns the three basic guidelines above and sticks to then, even as they bring heartache, disappointment and sometimes resentment. Paying it forward and supporting the dreams of others means it may not pay out for you, but the reward always has to be the satisfaction of generosity. The bonus is the “pay out” if it happens. 

The arc of fulfillment is very wide and sometimes it is hard to see how your actions today will rest on the other side. 


Mårup Kirke is a small church outside of the town of Lønstrup on the far northwest coast of Denmark overlooking the North Sea. Since 1250 until 2008, it sat silently weathering the winds of northern Denmark and defying the erosion of the North Sea.

In 1808, a British frigate on its way from England to Gothenburg, Sweden sank in the North Sea off the coast of Denmark. The people of the parish buried the dead in a common grave next to Mårup Kirke.

Today, you can stand on the edge of the graveyard overlooking the North Sea — which used to be its center — lean over the edge, look at the face of the cliff and see bones sticking out.

I was last at Mårup Kirke in July 2007 with my good friend Peter. It would be my last opportunity to visit the church before the kommune started dismantling it and putting it in storage. Like any good American, I remarked that it was sad that the cliffs were eroding, the church would not be there for future generations and the stories of the men buried there would just be washed out to sea.

And like any good Dane, he just shrugged and said, “Well, the coast is eroding here on the west, but it’s building up in the east. Pretty soon, we’ll be able to walk to Sweden.”

On the mend

After some strange neuropathy a few years ago put my banjo-playing on an indefinite hold, I tuned and attempted a roll today. It wasn’t that good, but it’s a start.

Interview: Saxon Henry

I was interviewed by Saxon Henry for Adroyt.

Saxon Henry helped me structure the book through her blog-to-book strategy, one of her services. It was an extremely rewarding process she wanted to have me share so that others who might be struggling to publish a collection of works might be inspired to take the leap.

You should check it out; good stuff. The questions are better than the answers, but then you won’t know if I’m making that up unless you read the interview and judge for yourself.


Today I discovered entirely by accident that I had deeply affected someone else’s life. It was not my intention to do so; I was merely living my own. Fortunately, the affect was a positive one.

It is intimately humbling and terrifying to think another human being would make life choices based on something I said or did.

Rejection letter reply

Hey guys,

Thank you for actually sending me a rejection letter. In a world where the default is just to do nothing, you have already risen up to the 1% of desirable companies to work for. I get why you may have rejected my application in that you are able to attract a large number of qualified people who are begging to work for you and you can have your pick. You deserve that privilege; it appears you are earning it daily.

If you have gone as far as sending me a rejection letter, I’m hoping I can convince you to take just one more step and let me know generally (or as specifically as your HR policy allows) what skills or attributes about me did not qualify for the open position. I understand from my friends and family that I may have some qualities that they endearingly call “quirky.” You may have seen these in my cover letter, résumé or online presence. I’m not for everyone, but as I only apply to open positions where I believe I am a match, the dissonance is a bit puzzling to me. Will you help me understand me better?

Thank you for the time you have given me already by reading and responding to my application and reading this response. I do hope I have convinced you that just a little more time in a reply is worth your time.