Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things Media

Tag Archives: Friends

Surrounded By Fakes

I’m a huge fan of Entourage.  It’s a shame that the show is only 30 minutes long and it’s coming to an end this summer.  I’ve watched every season, glued to the TV, waiting to see what would happen to the characters.  Vince, Drama, Turtle, E, Lloyd, Billy Walsh and of course Ari were more than fictional TV characters, they became part of my extended virtual family.  That’s the power of great story telling.

This season we start at the bottom.  I’m betting that the final season will bring forward a great story arc that goes from the brink of despair to the highest of highs (an Oscar?).  When you’re a superstar people have a habit of only telling you only good things.  The number of fakes who seem to exist only to remind you of how amazing you are, even when it’s not true, could easily fill a football stadium.  That’s what the Entourage is supposed to protect against.  The Entourage, often starts with family and close friends.  They’re people you’ve known all your life and have been around since before you became big, famous, powerful and rich.  That’s what makes them genuine, right?

Well, the first episode of the last season, titled, “Home Sweet Home” shows us that even our closest friends…those in the inner circle of the entourage can be disingenuous.  Vince, fresh from rehab, is being treated with kid gloves.  He has a horrible idea for a movie that all of his beloved entourage tell him is a great idea, for fear they’ll bring him crashing down.  When Vince comes to this realization he’s crushed.  He can’t believe that those he trusts the most are too afraid to offer him the harsh, but honest truth.

The harsh, but honest truth…I like that concept.  I pride myself on being someone who delivers the harsh, but honest truth.  This isn’t a one-way street though.  If I’m willing to share that type of truth, I need to be willing to receive it as well.  In social media, you have to be willing to believe your harshest critic is also your biggest advocate and fan.  They are so harsh because they are so passionate.  They are disappointed when you underwhelm, because they see your potential to be exceptional.  That’s the true test of any relationship, business or personal…the ability to tell someone something harsh, critical and fair, without having the recipient take the feedback as a personal attack.

In personal, in business, in life, those are the people I want to be surrounded by.  They’ll help me be better.

Good Friend

The other day I shared some exciting news with a friend of mine.  She mailed me a handwritten card and this wristband.

The wristband is pretty damn cool, no doubt.  But, the words in the card were even cooler.  She thanked me for letting her share in my great day and was appreciative I thought to share my news with her.  That’s a good friend.

The Price Of Friends

I love reading Penelope Trunk’s blog.  I often visit her site with the intention of  staying for just a few minutes and then end up getting lost in her words for hours.  Earlier tonight I got sucked down the rabbit hole again.  This time, I ended up at a post from March 17, 2007.  Talk about the way back machine huh?

I’m a New Yorker.  Born in Brooklyn.  Raised on the East Coast.  My family is from New York and most of them still live there.  After I moved to Minneapolis, I began a quest to get back to New York.  Every decision I made personally and professionally was based on getting back to New York.

Eventually though I came to a realization.  There’s no way in hell I could afford to live in New York.  As Penelope Trunk said:

I had never lived in New York City before. But I had seen photos of John and Carolyn Kennedy coming out of their Tribeca loft, and I figured that’s I would live with my husband. It was a harsh reality when I discovered that our combined income would need to be in the millions in order to have a loft in Tribeca. So we moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn that was so small that I had to buy storage for all my books. And just about everything else, too.

Technically, I could afford to live in New York.  I could move to New York City tomorrow and afford to live there, but in doing so, I’d be giving up an awful lot of “life” to do it.  Traveling would be challenging.  My photography passion would need to be tempered.  And, I think I’d end up making poor career decisions designed to fund the roof over my head.

For argument’s sake, let’s agree that money can’t buy happiness (for what it’s worth, I think it can), but money is the fuel for what you want to do in life.  If you want to travel you need money.  If you want to donate time, you need money to offset that charitable investment.  Money gets you where you want to go.

Money could get me to New York, but it would cripple my ability to do everything else I want to do in life.   One of the more interesting passages in her Penelope’s post was this:

That’s when we realized we had to totally shift our lifestyle to accommodate our work choices. We made big decisions. We stopped being friends with people who couldn’t stop ordering $70 bottles of wine at dinner.

There’s a funny saying, rich people don’t stay rich by giving away their money. When I was a kid, my mom advised me that I’d be lucky if I could count the number of friends I had on one hand. Well, today, I can tell you my friends are less than the number of fingers I have on one hand. I’m grateful for the ones I have. All of my friends, in addition to being awesome people, are also low maintenance. When we get together we don’t need pomp and circumstance.  Hell, a pitcher of beer and some peanuts is all we’d really need to make us all very happy individuals.  We’re able to get together more frequently because we’re all low maintenance.  We don’t need the $70.00 bottles of wine.  We don’t need the $100.00 steaks.  Frankly, we just need each other.

But, there are other people out there who need all of that pomp and circumstance.  They have an “image” to uphold, protect and project.  I don’t need people like that.  I don’t need people who need me to fuel their image with my money.  Sorry, but I’ve got plans.  I’ve got places to go.  And, friends like that are just too expensive for my taste.  But, hey, that’s the price of friends.

Real Conversations Are Better Than Virtual Ones

You’ll hear people talk about the number of followers they have on twitter or the number “friends” they have on Facebook. As I’ve written before, I’m not in the Collection Business.  No, I’m not looking to just pump up my “stats.” The best thing about social networking is that it can lead to real connections. Michael Leis was the first person that become a real connection. I met him nearly a year ago and I’m grateful for having had a chance to have a real conversation with him.

Recently, I had the chance to meet Judy Abel and Kasey Skala.  Meeting these folks in person was an awesome experience. We met up at a local bar and talked shop for roughly 4 hours. It’s always great to get the perspectives of people from different walks of life. Not only do you get some well needed affirmation when they agree with you :) but you also get your brain stretched when they bring something to the table that you haven’t considered.  Later on today, I’m going to grab lunch and talk with Keith Privette.  He’s someone I met on twitter and have been trying to meet up with for some time.  Finally the stars aligned and we’re going to make it work.

If you haven’t started making real connections, you’re missing the point of social media. Get out there, organize a tweetup, setup a lunch or grab a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate if you’re me). Because, hiding behind a computer tweeting isn’t very social. But, sharing a beer most definitely is.

ReThinking Mixing Friends And Business – Part III

This is part II of a three part set of posts on ReThinking Mixing Friends And Business. Part I can be seen here. Part II can be seen here.

Eventually you’ll find yourself in a situation where you and your friend are actively engaged as business partners.  In my line of work, this means your friend is either:

  1. A client
  2. A publisher
  3. A 3rd party partner

I’ll be honest with you, this is a really tough situation.  My clients have been my friends in the past.  Heck, my agencies (when I was client side) have been my friends.  It’s make for a tricky working relationship.  But, it’s 100% possible to not only maintain your friendship, but also to collaborate on amazing work.  I’m serious.  Here’s the key – honesty.  Yeap, it’s that simple.  As Bill Joel crooned, “honesty, is such a lonely word…and mostly what I need from you.”

Why do I say honesty?  Well, too often (and I’ve been guilty of this) we hold back our true thoughts, feelings, and opinions because we don’t want to hurt our friend’s feelings.  This doesn’t help anyone.  The friend, doesn’t receive the feedback they need to be better and mediocre work ends up getting created.  Both parties need to be focused on COUNTING UP, not COUNTING DOWN.  Here’s what I mean.  People who are counting down are clearly focused on getting out of the situation.  They’re counting down days till the project is over as opposed to counting up and looking forward to the next project.

Perhaps, more important than honesty is commitment.  Both parties need to be committed to making the situation work and ultimately succeed.  In my experience, this is where things often go wrong.  Someone loses the drive to make things work.  When that happens, they start counting down.

It’s too easy to start planning an exit strategy when things get tough.  We try to comfort ourselves by saying things like, “maybe we should cut our losses now so we can keep the friendship in place.”  Guess what?  It doesn’t work that way.  I can tell you from recent experience that when you start counting down, you’ll lose your friend and the business.  That’s why honesty is so important.  You need honest and open dialog to ensure that the business relationship and friendship are protected.

Look, working with your friends is never an easy proposition.  Emotion will always get in the way of rationale thinking.  That’s ok, we’re human.  When we lose that emotional aspect, we stop being human and we start becoming robots.  Whether your managing your friend, working for them, or working with them it’s a tough situation to manage.  However, all of the situations and relationship hierarchies can be successful.  You simply need to be committed to creating success.

ReThinking Mixing Friends And Business – Part II

This is part II of a three part set of posts on ReThinking Mixing Friends And Business.  Part I can be seen here.

Eventually, if you’ve been around long enough you’ll have the opportunity to hire or work with your friends. It happens all the time.  On more than one occasion I’ve been involved in a conversation that leads to someone saying, “we should just get the band back together again.”  When you’ve created magic, fought battles, and seen each other succeed it’s tough not to get nostalgic about the opportunity to work with those people.

But for every Eagles Hell Freezes Over moment, there’s a New Kids on The Block reunion.  I’ve got to tell you, there’s nothing sadder than seeing former teenage stars, now in their 30s, trying to recapture the magic of their youth.  But think about it.  All they’re doing is getting the band back together.  They’re trying to get lightening to strike in a bottle.

When we’re trying to put the band back together we often forget about the bad times and the problems each person brings to the table.  We get swayed and influenced by the nostalgia.  We get caught up in the moment and only focus on the positive.  We’ve seen this happen time and time again in sports and music.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with several previous co-workers and colleagues.  Many times I’ve passed.  Several times, I wished I had passed.  And on a few occasions it’s worked out perfectly.  Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about working with your friends:

  1. Develop a really solid set of role requirements.  Focus on that role, not the person.  Once you’ve identified the role, you can evaluate the person against the role.  Don’t try to shoehorn the person into a role.
  2. Leverage and learn from history.  The nice thing about considering a friend or former colleague for a position is that you have history. You know the type of skill set and attitude they bring to table.  You know the good, the bad, and the ugly. Apply that history when considering the person and don’t be afraid to ask them to acknowledge and account for that history.
  3. Realize that people change.  While history is important you also need to remember that people grow, learn, evolve, and change over time.  Ask them pointedly, how they’ve changed since you last worked together.
  4. Politically, it’s safer to bring in your friend at a level above you. Why?  Because they provide air cover.  They can save your ass.  This is especially true on the client/corporate side.  There’s simply more value in hiring someone above you than below you.
  5. The dynamics of managing a friend are challenging, but setting those clear expectations from the very beginning are critical to making it work.  They need to understand that they have a role to play and your job is to make sure they play that role very well.  Lines and boundaries need to be established.  Most importantly, they need to understand that they earned the job/position and were hired based on merit, not because they were your friend.  And, that fact needs to be true.  If you hired them because they’re your friend and they aren’t qualified, you’ve made a serious mistake.

Make no mistake, at some point you’ll have the opportunity to hire a colleague or friend.  There’s nothing wrong with getting the band back together so long as all the people/players are filling roles you need.  Never force a hire because someone is your friend.  Granted, I’ve had friendships strained by not hiring or recommending them for a role.  A real friend will be able to absorb your candid and honest feedback.  If they can’t, they probably weren’t your friend to begin with.  That’s just the facts.

Part III is coming later this week and will focus on working with your friends, when they’re the client or vendor.  Trust me, that’s an interesting one.

Quality Over Quantity – 5 Good Friends Are Better Than 100 Bad Ones

When I was a kid, my parents frequently reminded me that if I could count the number of good friends I had on one hand, I was lucky. They stressed the value in maintaining strong, close, personal relationships with a select few individuals rather than trying to be friends with everyone. Additionally, there was a continued reminder that there is a big difference between friends and acquaintances.

I have 3 friends, 3 real friends. Beyond that, I have a ridiculous amount of acquaintances. Hell, on Facebook alone I have over 100. I enjoy getting messages in my Facebook inbox, seeing responses to my tweets, and reading responses to my blog posts. However, when it comes to real quality conversation I turn to my friends. They listen better. They offer better feedback. They already know me. It’s a better conversation.

Ok, so what does have to with anything relevant to you? Think about the blogs you read, the people you follow on Twitter, and of course the people updates of your “friends” on Facebook. How much of that information is actually useful, interesting, and worth checking out in detail? 5%? 10%? 15%? I’ll be you it’s small. I’ll be generous, let’s call it 30%. Even at the number, 70% of the information you are subjected to is useless. That’s a lot of noise, don’t you think?

This is really similar to the number of ads consumers are subjected to on a daily basis. They come into contact with hundreds, if not thousands of ads a day. I’ll guarantee you that less than 30% of those ads are useful, interesting, and worth checking out in detail. We purchase gadgets like Tivo and switch to things like satellite radio so that we can avoid the noise. So that we can avoid the 70%.

Why then do we seek out noise online? Is it for pride? Do we feel better about ourselves because have 500+ connections on LinkedIn? What value is there in those connections if 459 aren’t useful?

I’m a sponge and I encourage you to be a sponge and soak up the knowledge online. However, with the number of hours in a day fixed at 24 I seek ways to simplify and streamline the information I’m absorbing. Starting this week, I’m going to be even more selective in:

  1. Who I accept connection from on LinkedIn
  2. The friends I accept on Facebook
  3. The blogs I read
  4. The people I follow on twitter
I encourage you to do the same.