Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things Media

Category Archives: John

A Truly Special Father’s Day

Today, June 15, 2014, is Father’s Day. It’s the 1 day a year, we acknowledge Dad. Many ties and golf balls were purchased. Oh there will also be some grill tools, socks and of course a wide assortment of “Best Dad” items.

But, beyond Father’s Day, today is also my son, John’s, birthday. It was bound to happen; the calendars foretold we would one day, share this day. I never thought much of it, until this past week.

John Turns 5

In so many ways my journey to becoming a great dad is tied to my son. By all definitions of the word, “dad”, it was April 13, 2007 when I was finally bestowed that title. That was the day my daughter, Cora, was born. With Cora, everything was easy. She looked like her mom, buy she was me, 100%. This was the girl who talked early and fast. The girl who lacked fear; she climbed trees, road trikes and slid down slides. School came easy to her; so easy in fact, that she simply stopped doing homework…just like I did when I was her age. Understanding how to be Cora’s dad, was simple…it meant following the blue print for my father raised me.

  1. Set the bar high
  2. Nurture curiosity
  3. Be tough, but fair
  4. Introduce different points of view
  5. Make it clear, the one person you never lie to, is your dad

Understanding what would motivate, interest and inspire Cora was as easy as looking in the mirror. Like I said, she looks like her mother, but she’s wired like me. Frankly, in many respects, such similarities made being a father relatively easy.

John, however, is the perfect example that two kids, from the same DNA, can be completely different. Everything that Cora is, John is not. Cora is blonde and blue eyed, but John has brown hair and eyes. Cora is very black and white; perhaps it’s what makes her so successful in her STEM program. For her, there are only 2 outcomes; it’s binary. But, John sees the shades of grey in between Cora’s black and white bookends. John’s a natural born athlete, with Cora more of an artist. Where Cora lacks fear, John is more prudent…he evaluates a situation first, identifies the risk, determines if it’s worth taking and then maybe, takes action. This is not to say that one approach is better than the other, but John’s personality is definitely not the same as mine.

John’s uniqueness offers balance and for some time, challenge. If Cora is an ENTJ, like me, John’s something like a ESFP. Where Cora and I judge, John perceives. Where we think, he feels. And where we rely on intuition, John senses. Thankfully, we’re all extroverts!

I thought I had this whole fatherhood thing figured out. With Cora, it seemed that every button I pressed, was the right button. Trying to raise John in the same way I’d raised Cora lead to countless mistakes. Kids are unique and you can’t copy and paste the same approach. That was fatherhood lesson 1.

As I look back on it, I think it was John’s love of sports (specifically basketball and baseball) that helped me understand how to be a better father for him. He’s a natural; simple as that. As I’ve said many times before, he has more natural ability than I ever did; and I was very good. He likes to work at it. Nary a day goes by when he doesn’t ask “dad, wanna play catch?” And what father turns that down?

John At The Bat

Sports are more grey than they are black and white. They take time, patience and constant adapting. Watching him find joy in playing is such a fulfilling and rewarding experience.

I think when guys imagine having sons they imagine this “chip off the old block” who’s a spitting image of them. We yearn for a “Jr.” even if he’s not a Jr. in name. John may look like me, but he’s not wired like me. And that difference has made me a better person and father to both my children.

When John learned we would be sharing this day, he wanted to know who got to choose breakfast. I mean, it’s an important thing, right? I’m proud to write, I had no problem letting this be his day. After all, without him, I’d just be a dad and not a father.

The Pride Of A Father

I love my son. I love him for his goofiness. I love him for his smile and belly laugh. I love him for his love of grill cheese and mac and cheese. That he would eat them both every day at every meal is strange and yet wonderful. I love him for the pure heart he has (definitely got that from his mother). I love him even when he’s a pain in the ass; which he can be, on occasion.

You simply do not understand the concept of pure joy, until you watch your own child, do something they love. John, loves basketball. Simply loves it. I bought him his first indoor Nerf hoop at 2 and it was easily one of the best investments I’ve ever made.

He outgrew it, quickly, and last year for Christmas I picked him up a taller and larger indoor Nerf styled hoop. Additionally, the outdoor hoop was lowered and moved towards the back porch deck. That let’s John practice shooting real balls against a real backboard on a real hoop.

With all that practice, I guess I should have been surprised when at his first game, he scored 6 points, dished out 4 assists and was basically the best player on the court.

John Paul Kmiec - The Basketball Player

Cora does dance. She quite enjoys it and like any dad, I enjoy watching her recitals. Both of the kids played soccer this Fall and really took to the sport. Growing up I didn’t dance and I certainly didn’t play soccer. So, while I took an interest in both because the kids took an interest, I didn’t really emotionally connect with the activity.

Basketball, however, was something I played often. 2 years ago at Walgreens, I played in the employee league and we finished in 2nd place. I love playing basketball and I love watching it live. I connect with the sport and still geek out watching old Michael Jordan highlights.

Watching my son, turn his practice into action was exhilarating. As he scored, passed and defended with purpose, other parents commented to me about how good he was. I stayed humble, thanking them, but I was bursting on the inside. This was from the opening tip off:

Are you kidding me? He scored in the first 4 seconds.

I have no idea, if John will pursue and/or be great at basketball. I do know, that for one day, over one hour, I felt a pride that I’d never felt before and hope to feel again.

5 Things I’m Pondering Right Now

Changing Landscape

1 – A Changing Mobile Landscape

Wow. The pace of change in the mobile landscape is staggering. Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s mobile handset business was inevitable. Blackberry being purchased by private equity was less inevitable. I think many though Blackberry might be purchased by someone like Samsung or Apple. The private equity move is a bit of a head-scratcher. That’s some serious change. Add in Apple’s launch of the iPhone 5S and 5C, both with the added security feature of finger print verification. Frankly, this security measure was long overdue and it was only going to be implemented well by Apple. We’re on the cusp of some serious changes, but I’m not sure these changes will end up being great for consumers. Why do I say that? Well, as the mobile world shrinks, will we see a slow down in innovation? Google is being less open with Android. Samsung wants to create their own OS. Microsoft has never really been good with leveraging an asset they purchased (see Skype as an example). There’s just a lot going on. While this might not be good for the consumer from an innovation standpoint, this could be great for the market at large. Less players, less devices, less fragmentation should create better standardization and hopefully start accelerating the road map for mobile marketing and advertising.

2 – Career Advice?

Yesterday, I came across this post titled, “Career Advice to My Daughters.” With a title like that, you knew it was going to get a lot of play. It was shared several times in my Facebook and LinkedIn feeds. Friends, called it “thoughtful”, “poignant”, “important” and a “must read.” I disagree with all of those words, except “must read.” I have a daughter, Cora. She’s 6. I became more and more irritated as I made my way through the author’s post. A great friend of mine, captured my feelings better than even I could. She said, “Wow. So, that guy’s advice is to basically NOT have a career? I’m baffled.” Another friend, this one a guy, said, “This is the same type of garbage that drives me nuts about younger employees. They’re “owed” great jobs. Companies do not owe you a job. They certainly don’t owe you a great job or career. It is a financial transaction. Provide value and be compensated. Be awesome and you’ll get the better jobs. On the plus side, if Cora and his kid were in a pool, Cora finishes in the top 50%.” I couldn’t agree more. While, I don’t need, nor expect my kids (both of them) to become CEOs, I do expect them to have an understanding of how the world works and that those who like ambition, drive and a clear sense of direction, struggle.

So Hard To Keep Up

3 – It’s Tough To Stay Digitally Fit…Even For Digital People

Keeping up in digital is challenging. I read. I read more. I try. I try more. I joined Snapchat. I hate Snapchat. I keep trying Snapchat. In a very sobering study from Adobe (PDF), it was revealed that less than half of DIGITAL marketers feel they are highly proficient at digital marketing. On some level, this isn’t surprising. For years, we haven’t invested in making digital important…certainly not important enough to invest in making our digital talent better through formal training-like programs. When we talk about building the digital capability and increasing our level of digital fitness at The Campbell Soup Co., we don’t focus on non-“digital” talent. Everyone needs to get more fit. Even those that are considered the most knowledgeable about digital, can always be smarter, better and more fit. When I read a report like this I feel even better knowing my kids are embracing digital and technology at such a young age.

Real Time

4 – Real Time “Marketing” Fatigue?

I watched, as many marketers did, the “real time marketing” efforts by brands during the Emmy’s. Most brands seemed to sit it out; and I happen to think that’s a good thing that reflects a return back to basic marketing fundamentals. Now, it’s possible, many brands sat out the Emmy’s because the Emmy’s aren’t as big as the Oscar’s. However, I tend to think it’s because marketers are realizing that real time marketing is a fad. Yes, I said a fad. Let me be clear when I say a fad, it’s the idea that an Oreo Super Bowl moment is repeatable every day. What isn’t a fad, isn’t being prepared, actively listening and striking at the right moment with an authentic on brand message that your audience actually wants to hear. What we saw with this most recent Oscar’s, were brands forcing the conversation. They were trying hard to replicate a moment. The problem is, you can’t force a moment. Moments happen, what you need to do is be ready to take advantage of the moment. Now, of course, leaders in the space, took umbrage with people calling them out for forcing a conversation and ultimately delivering off brand and mediocre creative experiences. They would have you believe that “no one” has this figured out and this is part of the evolution of real time marketing and it’s about innovation and test and learn. I’m not buying that. At Campbell, we often talk about how social is 99% preparation and 1% execution. If you spend your time preparing, you’ll almost always be able to take advantage of that 1% moment. If we want social to be better than robo-calls, infomercials and overly aggressive mass market direct mail, we need to focus on the preparation, not on trying to make execution the 99%. Our new soup campaign features a character called called, The Wisest Kid. You won’t find any tweets from him during the Emmy’s. There were certainly some great oppotunities, but we passed on them. Why? Because, we’re staying true to the campaign and our audience…the Emmy’s started after The Wisest Kid’s bed time. To have tweeted during the Emmy’s, with the hopes of catching lightening in the bottle, would have meant we were prioritizing short term gains and the expense of long term growth. Know your brand. Know your audience. Connect with them in a natural way.

Spartan

5 – Does Your Digital Org Road Map Include Blowing It All Up?

Digital moves quick. Every day it seems like there’s something new to keep up on. When you’re building a digital organization or looking to transform an organization into a more digitally fit one, you have to have a plan. I know that sounds basic. I realize you’re thinking, well gosh Adam, tell me something I don’t know. Ok, now, think for a second; do you have a real 5 year road map for where you’re taking the organization? Does it have vision and strategy? Does it include how you’ll evaluate your progress? For some of you the answer is yes. That’s great. Now, let me ask you, does your plan include and account for blowing up your entire model at some point? I didn’t think so. Why is this important? Part of it is as simple as the old adage, what got you here, won’t get your there. The other part though is that the skills, staffing dynamics, focus, priorities, partners and economic environments change often. While your vision and strategy should be consistent, the road map to get to bright will need to evolve and ultimately, at some point, you’ll need to blow it up if you want to be successful 5 years out from the end of your 5 year road map. We’re 15 months into our journey to be the most digitally fit CPG in the world. It’s a marathon. But, a marathon that we need to run at a sprinter’s pace. The more I think about things though, it might be less marathon and more like a Spartan Challenge style race.  In Spartan Challenges, you need to adapt and adapt quickly and often. You have fire, mud, hills and other obstacles. Those obstacles force you to reassess your path quickly. You need to be nimble, but not sloppy, as you keep your eye on the end goal.

Some Thoughts On Being A Parent

Perhaps one of the great truths of being a parent is that you’ll get to offer your children advice…that they won’t take. I’m guilty of this truth. At 33, when I look back on the great advice offered by parents, more so my dad, that I didn’t listen to..well…it’s staggering. But, that’s life, right? As kids we think we know better and that our parents are out of touch. When we transition from advice takers to advice givers it’s a moment you remember.

John, Cora and Adam

My kids, Cora and John are nearly 6 and 4 respectively. They’re young. They’re still growing. Right now, I try to keep things simple. There’s really only 3 things I try to reinforce with them.

  1. Love each other, be nice to one another; you only have one brother and one sister.
  2. Speak the truth and be clear.
  3. Mind your manners and your studies.

Sometimes, I even think it sticks.

Looking forward though, to when they’re old enough to really ignore me, I hope the following sticks.

  • Life isn’t short. It’s long. People tell you it’s short. It’s not. You have more time thank you think. Don’t be in a rush. Choose carefully. Many of your decisions, you’ll live with forever.
  • Love fast. Love hard. You’re heart will be broken often. You’ll break the hearts of others. Don’t let the fear of a broken heart stop you from loving. But, never tolerate someone who doesn’t value the love you have in your heart. Remember, life is long.
  • Work an honest day. Earn your keep. Don’t compromise your values for a dollar. Don’t be ashamed to earn what you’re worth, even if it means your valued more than others. Money shouldn’t define you. It doesn’t make you a better person. But, it can be the fuel you need to experience the world.
  • Quality over quantity. Always.
  • Don’t lie to your father. I’m your biggest ally, your best friend and the one person you can always trust.

I’m still learning from my dad. He’s my best friend. He’s the 1st person I turn to for advice. He’s the first person to keep me humble. No dad’s perfect. I think I lucked out, though. I hope my kids feel the same way.

Test Photos From The New Nikon 35mm 1.4G

I love new “glass” – that’s what we photo junkies call lenses. For a while I’ve wanted Nikon’s 35mm 1.4 G. It’s a great focal length for nearly all occasions and you can’t beat the 1.4. I recently got a great deal from National Camera in Minneapolis and couldn’t pass it up. This past weekend I put the lens through its paces. These are all shot at 1.4. I can’t get over how sharp they are in the foreground and how beautiful the bokeh.

This first one is from an outside skating area. It’s the day after Cora lost 1 of her front teeth.
Cora Smiling Sans Tooth

Same location as the first photo. We’ve been teaching John how to skate. On the advice of someone else, I bought him a hockey stick and it’s made a huge difference in how well balanced he is on the ice.

John the Hockey Player

Picked Cora up some acrylic paint and canvas. This was her attempt at painting my portrait.

Getting My Portrait

Ordered this custom super hero cape from Etsy. He’s in love with it.

Super John

The Joy Of Christmas

John and Cora at the Christmas Tree

Having kids is a guaranteed recipe for incredible moments that you’ll remember for many years to come. This was intentionally shot out of focus and as a silhouette. John’s on the left. Cora’s on the right. Both are reaching at ornaments on the tree.

A wonderful Christmas to remember, full of food, fun, friends and family. You can’t ask for anything more, can you?

Shot with a Nikon D700 and a Nikon 50mm 1.4 D. Love the bokeh from the lens.

What’s In The Box Doesn’t Matter

One of the truly wonderful things about having kids and becoming a parent is the authenticity you get to experience when engaging with your kids.  Yes, kids lie, that’s true.  But, ask a child if she likes the dinner you’ve plated, that’s based on some new recipe, and you’ll know the truth.  Ask an adult the same question and you’ll be met with a very politically correct answer.  Well, unless of course, you ask me :)

Christmas is one of those occasions where we seem to always try and out do one another, keep up with the Jones’ and impress with labels. Labels, you ask? Yes, labels. We’re all guilty of it, even I am. Under the Kmiec tree this year, there was no Louis, Jimmy or Tory.  Nada on the Prada, MK and Hermes.  Sorry, not a single item from Armani, Versace or Gucci – yes, we avoided the holy trinity. No Christian, Coach or Coco. Also, I must confess, there was no Lexus under the tree either.

Now, mind you, this is no assault on the wealthy, chic or stylish.  Without the label segment, we wouldn’t have people to gawk at, velvet ropes to envy and of course nothing to lust for.  And this isn’t me being above such items or brands.  I’m the first person to encourage purchasing 1 quality purse over 50 cheap ones.  Ditto on shoes, watches and umbrellas (trust me on this one).

No, this is more about the observation that kids don’t care what’s in the box, what the label is on the gift or the logo they’ll be displaying. And with good reason…they couldn’t tell you the difference between Coach and and Couch.  If anything they care more about the wrapping paper…or rather the joy of unwrapping their present. They’re equally as satisfied with 1 gift as they are with 100.  Seriously. I’ve watched this up close for 4+ years now.  It’s a really amazing thing to witness.  Honestly, it leaves me wanting to be as genuinely label disinterested as they are.  But, alas, though I’ve witnessed this authenticity and I’m a marketer, even I fall prey to label love…but I’m getting better!

There wasn’t a single present under the tree for me.  That’s what happens when you become a dad!  The likelihood your 4 year old is going to hop in the car, visit the mall and pick you a present that she paid for with her credit card…is…well…unlikely.  But, what I did get this Christmas was something much better than any company could provide:

John, Cora and Dad

I got to see those smiles and feel the real Christmas magic that we yearn for after watching a movie like Love Actually. Besides, if they were wearing a label it would say my name anyhow :)

The Things We Do To Our Kids

The kids got to visit with Santa yesterday. The enjoyed chatting with the jolly fellow. But, honestly these moments are more for us as parents than they are for our kids. Looking at it that way is the only thing that explains why we dress our kids up and bring them kicking, screaming and crying (well, not my kids, but several others in front of us) to “Santa.”

A Magical Disney Adventure

I just got back from spending 6 days in Disney World with the kids and the ex-wife. You might be scratching your head about “ex-wife” so let me explain. Cheryl, my ex, and I get along great. Unlike most divorces, there’s no hate, animosity or awkwardness. We’re two people that are great friends and realized we shouldn’t be married. Believe me, I know I’m blessed. When we were getting divorced we agreed that Disney was something we wanted to do together with the kids. I you’ve ever been to Disney then you know how monumental of an event your first visit is. Visiting Disney isn’t so much a trip or a vacation, as it is an experience. From how you tell the kids they’re going to Disney, to the costumed characters, to the themed rides, to the parades and fireworks…oh yes, it’s an experience.

We were blessed with great weather throughout. The sun was out every single day and the temperature was consistently between 68 and 82 degrees. In short, it was exactly what you’d want it to be. We agonized over when to visit and finally settled on early November. This was definitely the right decision. The parks were rarely crowded which meant the was it times for the rides were short.

Over 6 days we covered Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. I think 6 days was a day too long, but the price for passes was actually cheaper than a 5 day trip. Crazy. We spent most of our trip at Magic Kingdom and Epcot; Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios were each 1/2 day experiences. There’s so much to see and experience; you never felt like you were repeating anything.

John and Cora had a blast. I was so proud of my kids. From how well they were behaved relative to other kids to how adventurous they were. For example, Cora rode the Kilimanjaro roller coaster at Animal Kingdom, TWICE, The Tower of Terror, Thunder Mountain and Test Track. Not bad for a 4 year old.

Of course the kids also wanted to see and visit with the characters. Over 6 days they met with: Pluto, Mickey, Minnie, Flick, Pinnochio, Daisy, Donald, Goofy, Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Tigger, Whinnie The Poo, Buzz, Woody, Mike, Sully, Chip and Dale. Crazy, right? John even got a kiss from Tinkerbell!

I can’t say enough about how amazing the Disney staff were. There was always a smile and a bounce in their step. You don’t realize how impressive this is until you head to the airport and interact with the surly and grumpy TSA staff. Disney proves that you can operationalize core values to each and every employee. The only nit I have with the Disney experience is how poor the food was…which could be overlooked if it weren’t so expensive. Hey, no one’s perfect. There’s not much I’d change about the experience. I’m really happy that Cheryl and I were able to give our kids a life time of memories.

Here’s a few photos from the trip all taken with my Nikon D700:

John playing the drums at Animal Kingdom

Cinderella’s Castle

Cora after getting her face painted

John driving a car (I can’t even describe the laughter and pure enjoyment he had driving this car)

A caricature of the kids

Me with Tinkerbell

 

John’s 2nd Birthday

Technically, the birthday is Wednesday, June 15, 2011, but we decided to celebrate his birthday today.  Great day for the celebration.  In the morning it was roughly 60 degrees and overcast.  While that might not sound like perfect weather, it’s ideal for great photos.  The overcast sky means no harsh shadows or squinty eyes.  We headed over to the baseball field for some early morning photos and this one was easily of my favorites.

The rest of the day was filled with fun.  Great food, family and friends created a very memorable day.  John definitely enjoyed himself and that’s all that really matters.