Chuck Berry and his Ding-a-Ling
As you probably heard by now, Chuck Berry passed away this weekend on Saturday, March 18th, 2017. He was born in St. Louis, MO, and lived in a suburb just west of St. Louis for many years.
Chuck Berry always had a special place in my heart. I can remember singing his songs from the time I was a little boy. My two favorites were Johnny B. Goode and My Ding-a-ling.
I remember being in 3rd or 4th grade singing, “My ding-a-ling, my ding-a-ling, won’t you play with my Ding-a-ling-a-ling.”
My mom said something like, “Doug, that’s not an appropriate song for a kid to sing.”
“Why not?” I said. “It’s just about a bell on a string.”
“No it’s not,” she said. “It’s about a man’s ding-dong.”
I remember from that day on knowing that the song was a double-entendre and that I couldn’t sing it as freely as I used to, especially around adults.
Flash forward 30 to 35 years and the news of his passing. The first thing I did was put on his Ding-a-Ling video where he’s singing somewhere in Europe. What the YouTube video doesn’t show is that Mr. Berry just showed up to the show minutes before going on stage, which he was known to do. The host and producers were nervous he wasn’t going to make it.
I think his thought was, You don’t pay me to be here early, you pay me to perform at a certain time. I got here on time, I played, and now I’m done, give me my money—in cash, and I’ll be on my way.
So I’m watching him on YouTube with my daughter as he’s getting ready to play the Ding-a-Ling song and he’s calling out the key of the music to the band. He introduces the song and says something like, “This is an innocent song made for kids in about the 4th grade. They have an innocent minds. It’s us adults that ruin everything…”
Meanwhile, he’s flipping off the camera as he’s talking about how “You guys are number one, you’re number one…” someone yells from the crowd and Chuck says, “Oh come on people, I have to hold my guitar pick with these two fingers, this is the only one I have left. See that’s what I’m talking about with the whole innocent thing…”
Berry then goes into the lyric about how, “When I was a little bitty boy, my grandmother bought me a cute little toy, silver bells hangin’ on a string, she told me it was my ding-a-ling-a-ling…” and then the whole crowd started chanting it back at him.
My seven-year-old daughter asked, “Why are all those people singing back about a toy?”
I said, “You think it’s about a toy?”
She said, “Yeah, that’s what he said.”
Being who I am, I just couldn’t let it go at that. I didn’t even think about how my mom ruined the song, or I should say, tuned me into what the song meant. So I said, “Well Jaya, some people call a man’s penis a ‘Ding-a-ling’”.
“What? A penis?! Oh my gosh!” Then she started laughing uncontrollably as the verse had come around again and all the adults were chanting, “My ding-a-ling, my ding-a-ling, won’t you play with my ding-a-ling-a-ling!”
Seeing Chuck Berry play live was on my bucket list. He played once a month at a bar in the Delmar Loop area in St. Louis called Blueberry Hill. Tickets were only $20, but you had to pick them up at the box office and they sold out the same day they went on sale.
My ex-wife got us tickets for either our anniversary or my birthday, about seven or eight years ago. I was pumped to see him. I remember him coming out in his white Captain’s sailor hat and a long-sleeved button-up shirt. His beautiful daughter, who’s a hell of a harmonica player, was with him, as well as his full band. He said a brief introduction and then slid into his classic Johnny B. Goode guitar lick and it was on! The crowd was pumped and was dancing, big smiles all around as he finished that song and went right into Roll Over Beethoven.
A couple more songs into the set, his daughter grabbed the mic that Chuck had just finished singing into and did a mean harmonica solo. She was up there jamming on the harp and movin’ and groovin’ her feet and then Chuck started singing right into the empty mic stand.
His daughter ran back across the stage and held the mic up to his mouth until he was done with the verse and then put it back in the mic stand. Everyone kind of laughed, including Chuck and his band.
Chuck laughed it off and played around on the guitar for a minute and then hit a couple of licks and went right into Roll Over Beethoven again. Everyone in the crowd looked at each other a little confused. The drummer and the bass guitarist just smiled and shook their heads, but they went along with it and kept playing.
When they were done Chuck turned and said something to the bassists. The bass player said something back…probably to the effect of, “You played that one twice…”
Chuck started laughing hard and came back to the mic and said, “Sorry about that ladies and gentlemen, I guess I just really like that one.”
At the time this concert happened, I was in a Master’s degree program for creative writing. I thought I was going to be the next Mark Twain or David Sedaris as far as essayists went, so I wrote an essay of the night and laid on every detail of how Chuck had messed up. (There was a couple of other singing into an open-mic /harmonica situation.)
I presented the essay to my writing group a few days later and immediately got crucified.
“You can’t write this about Chuck Berry. He’s been a legend for over 50 years,” one person said.
“He’s done more for rock-n-roll than almost any one person who’s ever lived! Elvis practically stole his style and presented it as his own. If it wasn’t for Chuck Berry, who knows what we’d be listening to these days,” another said
I decided not to publish the essay after listening to the critique. I had mentioned in the original essay that he was still doing the duck walk across the stage. He also did the move, which I called the Galloping Guitar where he keeps one leg straight out and bounces across the stage with the other leg, and it kind of looks like he’s riding his guitar like a horse. Chuck also jumped up and did the splits almost to the ground and pulled himself up just using his core muscles while holding his guitar—and oh yeah, I forgot to mention, HE WAS IN HIS EARLY 80s!
Looking back on it, I’m glad I didn’t publish the original essay. Chuck Berry, even in his 80s, was a better dancer and guitar player than I will ever be and I’ve played the guitar for over 20 years.
Yes, a lot of his songs introductions sound the same. (Listen here if you want.) But it’s easy to criticize someone else’s art, talent, and skill. These days it’s hard to even get started in your art because people have instant access through social media and there are plenty of people out there who will tell you how much you suck.
(Of course, the flip side to that is, people, put out their stuff before they should these days.) In Chuck’s case, he was doing music before (and longer than) most of us have been alive.
Some of the articles you will read if you search them out will talk about his run-ins with tax evasion. Or he had a camera in the women’s bathroom at his club. These stories are true and if you want to find out more about that feel free to look them up somewhere else.
My thoughts and memories about Chuck Berry aren’t about all of that. I love walking down the Delmar Loop and seeing his name on the star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame right in front of Blueberry Hill, the same place where I saw him years ago. I love seeing his statue right across the street from Blueberry Hill holding that Gibson guitar and in a pose that you can tell is just 100%, Chuck Berry.
I also love knowing that the circle of life has spun around once again with me, my mom, and my daughter with the Ding-a-ling song. And I like the fact that part of this essay has gotten to see the light of day again, even if it took Mr. Berry passing away to reevaluate the piece, knock some dirt off it and then rework and recycle parts of it.
Chuck Berry influenced me in many ways and I hope my daughter will be able to say the same thing later in her life. One thing I know for sure is the next time she and I walk into Blueberry Hill together, I’m going to make sure that I point out the big fat Gibson that’s sitting in the display case next to the front door and I’m going to say to her, “You see this guitar? This guitar was Chuck Berry’s. You know, the guy who sang the ‘Ding-a-ling song”?
And I hope in 20 or 30 years from now she will be able to do the same thing with her kids.
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Taking a Break From Writing
Recently I have had a couple of people ask me, “Hey Doug, did something happen to make you give up writing? I haven’t seen anything out of you in a long time.”
“Life’s happening,” is what I usually say.
There has been so much going on in my life that I have put writing aside for a while. Here’s my dirty laundry list of what’s been happening recently:
–Some people may not know this because I haven’t written much about it, but my ex-wife and I got divorced last year after being separated for two years. We are both doing well and are getting along just fine. We have a seven-year-old daughter to raise so we try to make it as easy as we can on each other.
–The lease on my apartment is going to end at the end of March, so my girlfriend of two years and I have been talking about moving in together. I think both of us had a mild panic attack when we realized how much stuff we both have. Two months come and go pretty quickly, so I’ve decided to take a six-month extension on my lease and move at the end of summer. This allows both of us enough time to get physically and mentally ready for the move.
–I blew up my car. I had a 2002 Honda Civic that I bought from a friend when she moved to the Middle East. It only had 12,000 miles on it when I got it and it lasted me 12 years.
–I also have a 2003 Chevy S-10 that has an $8000 paint job and was body-dropped with airbags. I can’t drive it in the winter because the air-ride fittings leak air when it’s cold. Once my car blew up, I decided to take out the airbags and replace the air-ride system with traditional shocks and springs, which were lowered a little. That cost $1500 plus $900 for a rental while it was being fixed. I don’t know about you, but $2400 is a bit of a hit to my wallet.
–This brings me to the election. (looking sigh…) As we all know, Mr. Trump won the election. In case you forgot, I’m the Day-shift Training Manager for a place that employs 1600 workers who work for the Affordable Care Act, aka Obama Care. I am in charge of 800 of those people’s training. So now that the Republicans are trying to repeal the law, there is a lot more uncertainty around here. Everyone’s asking, “How long do we have?”
I say, “We have 18 more months until the end of the contract. We will have to see what happens after that.”
But I can tell you upfront, I am not waiting until then to find something else to do. I am applying for everything I can now because I’m not going to be caught with my pants down.
–I have wanted to start my own business for a long time. I started working with a business coach last year using her system. It’s time for me to renew her licensing agreement. It costs me $300 a year to use her materials, which would be fine if I were using them, but I haven’t been. I’m thinking about giving myself three months and if I haven’t got enough clients to cover the cost, I’m going to let it go.
–I’m going back to school, “pool school,” that is. What is pool school? It’s a 3-day billiards workshop where you work with a Master Level Instructor. I have wanted to do this for about 25 years, but never had the time or the money. I’ve been reading a lot about accelerated learning. One of the things I’ve found out is, if you want to learn something fast you have to work with a teacher or coach who can give you instant feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
It’s a little scary for me to throw down money on myself for something that seems frivolous and unnecessary. But I’ve been playing pool now for over 35 years. I’ve been at the same level since I was about 16 years old. I figured I will be playing the game until I either can’t walk or I can’t see, so why not get some professional instruction?
–Finally, I just booked a trip to Colorado at the end of March for my girlfriend’s birthday. My daughter is excited because she has had the chance to meet some of her, “new cousins,” that are right around her age and they live just outside Denver. She’s excited about getting to camp out in the living room with tents and all. I’m pretty excited about being able to see Colorado with all its green glory. I haven’t been there since the circus started and I’m interested to see what that looks like.
–I have heard some writers say, “I didn’t choose writing, writing chose me.”
I don’t necessarily feel like that. I was slightly dyslexic growing up. I never had good handwriting. I didn’t like to read until I was an adult. I never had to write until I was around 30 years old. Even when I was younger and fantasized about being a famous writer, my mom would say, “Go out and live life. Then you may have something to write about.”
Often when I feel burned out on writing, I’ll take a long break from it and let life happen. When I come back I feel a little more refreshed. Writing seems more interesting then. I just hope my readers remember who am; which is one other reason I write so that people can remember me when I’m gone.
I look forward to writing to you more this year. Have a great day.
MO Cowbell Half-Marathon
I ran the MO Cowbell Half-Marathon on Sunday, which was my 7th or 8th official half-marathon. I’ve lost count.
I say, “Official,” because when I ran a full-marathon (26.2 miles) in 2010, I ran between 13 to 20 miles every Saturday for three months straight. Over the past six years, I have ran at least one official half-marathon; some years I’ve ran two. However after each race, and I use that term loosely, I ask myself, Why am I doing this?
Every year for the last six years I have signed-up for a race three or four months out. I usually do the bare minimum to get into running shape. This means doing two to three mile runs once or twice a week. Then when I’m about six weeks out from the race, I’ll start running a little further on the weekends adding about two miles to my long runs on Saturdays until I’m up to about eight or nine miles.
Of course the real-run is 13.1 miles, so I’m usually under-prepared for the race. Then the week before the race I will hardly run at all. This is not recommended.
“The proof is in the pudding,” means the results you get out of something are from the work you put in. My lack of training shows in the result-times most years for me. I’ll struggle through the race, but I do finish. The times aren’t impressive. Usually I’ll finish between 2 hours and 40 minutes to three hours. I then hobble back to my car swearing at myself with each step.
I then spend the next two days limping around saying things like, “Next time things will be different. I’ll run more and I’ll get back into the best shape of my life.” Most years I usually do the same thing that I did the last training season and usually end up with the same race results that I had the year before.
I will say that in 2010, I took my training much more seriously. I ran three or four times a week. I had a coach. I quit smoking. I logged 20+ miles a week. Bottom line, I trained hard and took it seriously.
There have also been a couple of years out of six that I was in pretty good shape, meaning I could run four or five miles without stopping. One of those years I finished this same race in 2 hours and 18 minutes—which is my best time so far. It was also the only time in my life that I ran 13 miles without stopping except at a couple of water stations for 10 or 15 seconds to get a drink.
This year’s race was much different. I felt like I was getting major blisters on both feet at Mile 6. I stopped at Mile 7 to pee in a bush, then sat down on a rock wall, pulled my socks off and looked at my bare feet. The blisters were starting to form and they were both quarter-sized. Oh well, I thought as I started to put my socks and shoes back on.
Up to this point I was pacing with the 2:40 pace group. For those who don’t run, you can tell your pace group by volunteers who run the course with long sticks with times posted on them. If you hang with them the whole race, you should be about on pace with what the number/time says on their stick.
I saw the lady holding the 2:45 stick go by me while I was sitting down checking my feet. I put my shoes back on and started running. About two minutes after that, I saw the 2:30 pace-lady run past me.
That’s when I realized that I must have gotten turned around on the course. I didn’t know what mile marker I was at and I had a brief moment where I thought, Do I turn around and go back?
Then I thought, I still have a long way to go with these blisters and I don’t care about this race. I paid for it. I know no one else cares at all what I’m doing. And if I found someone with a golf-cart that would take me back, I would go back right now.
So I just kept running.
The surprising thing is about two minutes later I came back to life. I found a little spot in my shoes that wasn’t as hot on my foot as it had been rubbing my arches where my blisters were. I bared-down and made sure my foot didn’t slide off that spot and I kept on trotting.
The people around me were keeping up a slightly faster pace than I was which in turn made me pick up my pace. I ran for about three miles without stopping until I got to a long hill. It was too much for me mentally, so I walked up the hill and then ran for four or five minutes down the other side of the hill, then walked again for two or three minutes.
By the time I had hit Mile 12 I was wiped out. The last time I ran this race I ran the last mile in nine minutes. This time it took about fifteen.
When I got to the finish line I passed-up where they were handing out medals and went straight for the beer tent. The lady working there said, “Here sit down. You look like you could use a beer.”
I thanked her and slammed my beer down in about five gulps.
“You look like you could use a refill,” the lady said handing me another beer.
I thanked her and said, “You can see where my priorities are, I didn’t even pick up my medal.”
“Whatever makes you happy,” she said.
By the time I finished my second beer my Facebook running buddy showed-up with her family. She got herself a beer and I explained to her how I got turned around somehow.
She said, “Well go get your medal.”
“Nah, I don’t feel like I deserve a medal this time,” I said.
“What? That’s crazy! Go get your medal.” she said.
“I’m good. I think my official time might say, ‘Cheater,’ when they look at the computer screen.” I said.
A few minutes later I heard the announcer say, “I’m sorry folks, we are out of medals. Just sign up at the tent and we will send you one.”
My friend said, “Go sign up.”
“Eh, don’t worry about it. I’m good.” I said.
As I was hobbling back to my car, a 70-something year old man saw me limping and said, “How did you do?”
“Well I saw you pass me,” I said shaking his hand as his whole family laughed.
I took the next day off from work and went “floating.” Floating in this context involves getting into a sensory deprivation tank filled with warm water and 800 lbs. of Epsom salt. There are no lights or sound after a few minutes of getting in the tank. You are left alone with your thoughts for 90 minutes.
When you run long distances you sometimes forget that things rub against each other leaving it a raw—like your shirt against your nipples. It didn’t take long to remember what rubbed against what when I got into the salt bath. Once the salt hit my nipples it stung so bad that I almost had to get out. But I let the pain wash over me and muscled through it and after a couple of minutes the pain went away.
Thoughts ran through my mind faster than a deer being chased by wolves. I thought about people who I hadn’t thought about in years. I thought about five different businesses that I could start tomorrow if I just could pick one. I saw blinking blue lights and heard swirly sounds that weren’t really there. Occasionally my foot would hit the side of the tank and I would come crashing back to reality.
I went back to work the next day, limping with each step and trying not to bust my water-filled blistered feet. I opened my email and there was a message that said, “We are judging by your time that you didn’t receive a metal. We are sorry but we didn’t realize we were short on metals until we ran out of them at the finish line. But don’t worry, we are sending you one!”
Great! I thought. Now the only thing I can think about is, Will mine have the word, “Cheater!” engraved on it?
The funny thing is, I don’t even care about the medals from each race. I keep them in a cardboard box that is in the closet where my heater and air-conditioner are. For me it’s about getting out there, doing some form of exercise and competing with your mind that you are going to finish no matter how much it hurts.
But no matter what the medal does or doesn’t say I promise you this, next year things will be different.
Autumn Equinox and Pumpkin Spice Everything
Today is the first day of autumn equinox. (If you’re reading this post from your email, it was yesterday.)
Now I could bore you with facts like:
-Today is also called the September equinox which happens the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above Earth’s Equator – from north to south.
-The equinox happens either on September 22, 23, or 24 every year. This year it’s on the 22nd at 10:21 am E.T.
-On the date of equinox, night and day is practically the same length, 12 hours all over the world.
-This is the reason it’s called an “equinox”, derived from Latin, meaning “equal night”.
But it’s not really my style to just let the facts do the work. I want to talk about something that’s really important. I want to know, who was the person that thought pumpkin spice was the best thing to put in beer?
It seems like such a hipster thing to do.
But alas, with one quick Google search you will find out that pumpkin beer has been around since at least the 1600’s. This was for practical reasons. Settlers were not always able to get barley to make malt, so they had to use what they could to get the fermentable sugars that they needed to make beer. Pumpkin, and even parsnips, were readily available to meet the settler’s needs.
The settler’s wrote a song in the 1640’s addressing their displeasure at having to use pumpkin to make their beer. (Side note, this is considered America’s first discovered folk song that was rediscovered in the late 18th century.)
Instead of pottage and puddings and custards and pies,
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies;
We have pumpkin at morning and pumpkin at noon;
If it was not for pumpkins we should be undone
… Hey down, down, hey down derry down….
If barley be wanting to make into malt
We must be contented and think it no fault
For we can make liquor, to sweeten our lips,
Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.”
I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin spiced anything except for pumpkin pie. So unless pumpkin-spiced beer was the only beer available on Earth, I’d be fine never touching pumpkin-spiced anything ever again.
Recently TV’s most loved/hated chef Anthony Bourdain said, “I would like to see the pumpkin-spiced craze drown in its own blood.”
I have to say I agree with Mr. Bourdain. I just looked up a list of pumpkin-spiced foods that are available in 2016…and…uh…uh…I might have changed my mind a little.
I’m taking a firm stand here. I don’t want pumpkin-spiced anything unless it cookies. And pie. Or Bailey’s Irish Creme. Or Krispy Kreme Donuts. Or Starbucks lattes…ummmm pumpkin spiced lattes with Bailey’s Irish Creme and donuts, yum!
Ok, maybe I don’t agree 100% with Anthony Bourdain. But I’m sticking with the fact that I want brewers to keep pumpkin-spice out of my beer.
The directions below will help you drink your pumpkin beer responsibly. Enjoy the autumn season.
How to Survive an Active Shooter Situation
Before I was a corporate trainer, I was a law enforcement trainer. I worked in both the city and county jails around the St. Louis area for 12 years. So it was a natural choice when my current job asked me to train the Active Shooter Class.
By this point active-shooter scenarios are by no means obscure. It feels like we see them on the news every other week. According to the Dept. of Homeland Security, there were 160 active-shooter situations in the United States from 2000-2013. In the last 3 years we have added to that significantly. But believe it or not, you actually have a better chance of being struck by lightning than being involved in an active-shooter situation.
Would you believe that approximately 250 people are struck by lightning in the US a year? Roughly 48 of those are through direct strikes and around 200 are injured from the lightning hitting something first then hitting the person. Your chances of being struck are about 1 in 3000. (Now you understand why you shouldn’t play the Power Ball with your chances of winning being about 500,000 times more likely that you’ll be struck by lightning over your lifetime.) I know, it’s still fun to dream about winning.
These weird lightning facts seem to help calm people’s minds about being involved in an active-shooter situations. However out of the 30+ classes that I taught over a 3 week period, I was surprised at how many people said they were in an active-shooter situation. (Although most were robberies, not really active-shooter situations.)
For the one’s in the group who had never experienced gun violence, those people said that they never really thought about what they would do in real-life active-shooter situation.
So in case you fall into that group who’s never thought about it, I’m going to give you the 3 ways to survive an active shooter situation:
- Run—and I would add, duck to the ground and look where the shooter is, then run the other way.
- If you can’t run, try to HIDE. Preferably somewhere that has a locked door. Try not to trap yourself in. But if you are trapped in and that door opens, be prepared to do the last one, which is…
- FIGHT! If you’ve never punched someone in the face before, this would be a good day to give it a try. If you’re not the fighting type, look around for objects that could be used for improvised weapons: water bottles, phones, pens-which can be used like an ice-pick and fire extinguishers.
These are the 3 basic things you need to know to get through the situation. Your main thought should be, “I’m getting the hell out of here alive. I’m getting to a door now!”
Below is a link to the video that I showed in all my classes. It’s only about 5 minutes long. It was produced by Homeland Security and the City of Houston. I will warn you that there is some simulated violence, but once the shots are over, the rest of the video is about how to react in an active-shooter situation.
Please take the time to watch the video and then I want you to think about your own job. Do you know where all the exits are? In most cases, 83% of people will go out the door they came in. Do you know where the side and back doors are?
Start paying attention to where the other doors are when you enter somewhere like a movie theater or a restaurant. Remember, there is always an exit through the kitchen. Don’t believe me? Let me ask you, unless you were at McDonald’s, when was the last time you saw the bus-boy bringing trash through the dining room? (There’s always a backdoor or loading dock area. Usually two guys will be sitting there smoking a cigarette. Run past them.)
Again, I want you to start thinking about exits when you go out somewhere. Just because you parked on one side of the mall, doesn’t mean you have to go that way to get out. I want you to tell yourself that you will get out if you had to.
And remember your 3 options: Run, Hide, Fight!
Here’s the video. (Click the link if you are receiving this through email.)
Gamification – Making Life More Fun
Gamification is a hot new buzzword in the business world, but the idea of it has been around since the beginning of time. Gamification is the idea of applying elements that makes games fun into just about any kind of activity or process.
The most common gamification process in the business world right now is in the field of marketing—“Make it fun, make it interactive.”
Another process or activity that is incorporating gamification in the business world is filling out insurance applications—reach page 3 you get a medal, reach page 5—Boom! A little wizard might pop up saying, “You’re a Wiz! Keep on going!”
Gamification is even being used in exercise. If you look at gyms like Orange Theory Fitness, they pit individuals or teams against other teams. The people exercising can see in real time who’s working harder and who’s in the lead on the screen. This motivates the other teams to get moving. It also helps that they have a coach up in the front giving feedback in real time.
If you’re a runner, you may have heard of the app called Zombies, Run! It’s one of the most popular exercise game apps out there with over 1,000,000 downloads. You plug your headphones into your phone, listen to the story line and scary music, next thing you know you hear, “There’s a zombie! Run!”
You take off running. As you run, you come across things that you can pick up that will help you with your quest. Music, points, a sense of danger, all of these elements are part of gamification or game theory. Who knew running could be so fun?
Some other elements of gamification are: Status, Access, Power and Stuff.
- Status—it doesn’t matter if it’s Military Badges, “Power Seller Status,” or Level-statuses; all of these things make people feel important. And the best thing about them is they’re free. It doesn’t cost anything to make people feel important because they only get these if they accomplish something. The harder it is, the better.
- Access—this also can be free, but it is very valuable to the person obtaining it. Why is it valuable? Because normally the person wouldn’t be able to get close to it own their own; whatever it is. Let’s say you worked at People or Forbes magazine, interviewing Oprah or Warren Buffett may feel like just another day at the office. But if you’re a person who enjoyed reading about celebrities and you wanted to learn how to get rich and you never met a billionaire, much less two famous billionaires as famous as Oprah or Buffett, this would feel like the opportunity of a lifetime.
- Power—everyone likes a little power, even if we don’t want to admit it. Some just let it go to their heads like an elementary school hall monitor or that first month never-been-a-manager-before-manager. But in gamification, power equals advantage and everyone likes that.
- Stuff—this is the one that most people think we want the most. But most of the times that’s not true. Free things, a discount and cash-back is nice, but look at the three above things and really think about what you want more?
I’m stealing this example from Gabe Zicherman one of the leading thought-leaders on gamification, would you rather skip a 15 minute line at Starbucks and walk right up to the front, they will have your drink ready right when you come in, then you pay with a “Speed Pass,” and then you’re out of there? Or would you rather wait 15 minutes in line and have a free-coupon for any drink you want?
Most people would rather walk by everybody and still pay. Why is that? Because humans are not rationale creatures and gamification incorporates this. This is why you still see the claw-crane games crammed in the corner of an arcade begging for some sucker to grab a three-cent stuffed animal for a $1.00 that will take $6.00 or $7.00 to get.
“Oh, but it’s so fun and my kid really wants one.”
If you are interested in becoming certified in gamification, the Engagement Alliance is offering classes through UDemy. Of course they have four levels, each varying in difficultly, price and amount of work that needs to be done.
Wonder how you can use this idea to get employees motivated? There’s an app of course! It’s called Due Props. Let’s face it, no one likes doing, peer-reviews, annual reviews or filling out feedback forms. Due Props lets you give instant feedback to peers, employees and even higher ranking people than you. As data is collected, it can be complied for a more comprehensive review later.
So why should gamification matter to you? The biggest reason is because it’s going to change the way you do things and you probably won’t even notice that it’s happening to you. From exercise, to filling out long boring applications, to getting your performance evaluations at work, gamification is going to creep into your everyday life and hopefully you will be having more fun doing every day chores.
The trick for you business minded people is figuring out a way to gamify something before someone else does so that you can make your millions. If people can do it from exercising and running, I’m sure you can apply it to whatever your passion is.
Want to dig deeper? Two of the biggest Gamification Gurus are: Gabe Zicherman and Yu Kai Chou. You can check them both out by clicking the links.
If you want to read more on the topic, Dr. Karl Kapps has an excellent book called, The Gamification of Learning and Instruction and Ralph Kosters’s A Theory of Fun is also a good one.
Making a Career Out of Beer
Did you know you could make a career out of drinking beer? Can you imagine the look on a parent’s face when they asked their child, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”
And they said, “Eh, I think I’m going to drink beer all day and talk about it to people.”
There are many careers out there that many of us aren’t aware of. Once you understand that there is not always a clear cut career path to doing what you love, the sooner you will realize that sometimes you have to blaze your own path. As far as knowing everything about beer goes though, there is a clear cut path. It’s called the Cicerone Certification Program.
There are four levels of the program: Level 1 -Certified Beer Server, Level 2 -Certified Cicerone, Level 3 -Advanced Cicerone and finally Level 4 -Master Cicerone.
There are almost 67,000 people who have been through Level 1 training called—Certified Beer Server. To get this designation you have to take a 60 question closed-book test and pass with at least a 75%. Questions would include things about: proper storage, styles of beer and knowledge about the Cicerone program in general.
There are roughly 2000 people who have been through level 2 training or are called Certified Cicerones, which can take up to a year to complete. But when we look at Levels 3 and 4, the numbers drop off significantly.
There have been 13 people who have been through Level 3 Advanced Cicerone training and only 11 people worldwide who can call themselves a Master Cicerone.
Mirella Amato was the first person in the world to become a Master Cicerone outside of the United States. She has created a really cool business called Beerology where she does tastings and food pairing workshops centered around beer.
Amato also has written a book called Beerology-All You Need To Know To Enjoy Beer and has been teaching all-things-beer to students since 2007. She’s also been a judge at major beer festivals and beer tastings all over the world.
I had the chance to ask Ms. Amato a few questions regarding her business and the Cicerone Program:
What made you decide to pursue a Cicerone designation in the first place?
“My whole career is based around me learning as much as I can about beer and sharing what I’ve learned with others. By 2010, I had been working as a beer specialist for a number of years – doing sommelier-type work and doing public workshops to promote beer appreciation – and wanted to acquire some sort of credential so that my students and customers would trust my level of expertise. This led me to my Certified Cicerone certification. The Master Cicerone exam was more of a personal challenge; I really enjoy learning and found this to be a great way to structure my learning and work towards a tangible goal. It’s a 14 hour exam, so it requires a lot of dedicated study.”
When did you realize you were going to start your own business and incorporate beer in that business?
“I’ve always worked for myself, so the decision for me wasn’t so much about owning my own business as it was finding the right business. Freelancing is a combination of passion, intuition and hard work. I had many passions and was exploring a number of them in the year before I founded Beerology.
The reason I landed on beer is that there was a real need – that’s the intuition piece. At that time – 2006 – craft beer was finally gaining traction and, as it did, an increasing number of people were looking for information and guidance. There were people making beer, but there were very few people in a ‘beer sommelier’ type role. Because this was an emerging field, though, I had to figure out a lot of things on my own. It was quite a challenge!”
Do you have any inspiring thoughts you may have about people saying, “Your idea is nuts. Just forget about it.”
“There’s always someone who will tell you you’re nuts. They may be wrong, or they may be right – only you know for sure. Occasionally take a step back, look at the work you’re doing, and ask yourself:
1) Are you passionate about it?
2) Is it filling a real need?
3) Are you willing to work hard?
If the answer to these three questions is ‘yes,’ then you’re on the right track!”
Mirella Amato is one of less than a dozen people in the world who has blazed her own way in a career field that is as unclear as a pint of stout. She should be an inspiration to us all.
Please feel free to visit Mirella’s website. And if you really want to know how to taste a beer, click here and let her explain how.
Some Of Us Don’t Have One True Passion (Scanners, Multipotentialites and Dilettantes)
I’m in a dilemma. Again.
I recently purchased a book called Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher and now I know what’s wrong with me.
I’m a Scanner.
A Scanner is someone who is interested in a lot of things. They research these things intensely and when they learn what they want to know about it, they move on to something else and research that intensely.
Scanners drive the people around them nuts. They seem flighty and unfocused. Some people call them a Dilettante. Webster’s definition of a dilettante is, “A person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge.
But what Barbara Sher brings to light is that Scanners have a very curious and are highly creative people. They also can get bored easily.
Here are some things I’ve looked up this week (but mostly in one day) and spent anywhere from 20 minutes to four hours researching it this week:
1. Birthstones, specifically blue ones: Aquamarine, Topaz and Sapphires
2. Gamification—how to make learning fun. I even sat through an hour webinar from the VP at Adobe.
3. Different gurus on Scanners: Emile Wapnick—decent TED talk, Tia Sparkles, Douglas Eby, Patrick Ross and Mihaly Csiksenentmihalyi.
4. I made a list of all the cool things I’ve done over the last 10 or 12 years: the birth of my child, places I’ve visited, jobs I’ve had, houses that I’ve bought and sold, college degrees, too many things to list for this post.
5. Lyrical Essays for a possible submission—the “braided essay,” is the type I’m going to use.
6. That got me into looking up things that were related to writing in general and that brought me to Stephen’s King’s On Writing…
7. …which lead me to looking up, “How to submit to blogs for being a guest writer.” Hint: Google “Write for us.”
8. I checked in with this blogger named ViperChill who wrote a really long article on: How to buy Facebook likes for less than a penny each.
And then he described how to make two business pages on Facebook, send out the same stuff as the other one, but link the two together and somehow this gets more people to share your content because Google will index it differently.
9. Then I decided I needed to look up houses on the waterfront here in the St. Louis area, which in case you don’t know, is in the middle of the United States, so…there’s either rivers, creeks, ponds or lakes.
Well, I found a house that’s less than $100,000 on a lake by where I currently live and I didn’t even know it was there. But the bad news, it probably needs another $100,000 in work.
Somehow I let this take me out of the game for at least 45 minutes to 1 hour.
10. Then I got back into writing and found a blog called The Abundant Artist. There was a guest post from a lady named Steff Metal.
11. I went to her blog which lead me down the rabbit hole for another hour because she’s that damn good and what she does. Besides writing her own stuff, she writes SALES LETTERS for other artists and they are just irresistible. No wonder she’s helping so many people make money from their art.
12. So of course I had to look up Bob Marley stencils, because you know? I like to make art. And I like to make money. And I’ve made a few stencil art pieces in the past.
13. So then I went to Ebay and looked up how much stenciled Bob Marley paintings are going for. Answer–$12.00.
So I decided to write this post about Scanners instead of painting a Bob Marley painting to try to show you what it’s like to have this kind of brain.
To some it’s a curse. To others it seems like, “You can never pick one thing and stick with it.”
To me, it’s just what I do and this blog is my outlet for it. I hope to be able to harness the full potential of it one day. Until then, I’ll just keep being curious and keep on writing.
How You Can Barter For Something You Want
I saw an old friend recently and he said, “Hey, how come you didn’t write about your new ukuleles you got on your blog?”
“I think I did,” I said.
“No. I just searched it. You don’t have anything on there,” he said.
Most of my friends and readers know that I grew up in Hawaii and that I play the ukulele. I own five or six of them. Some uke players say that I have U.A.S. or Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome. But the good news is the last two new ukuleles I have, I got for free.
Well, they were free money wise, but not time wise. See I received the two new ukuleles on a barter and I’ll show you how you can do it too.
Most people have forgotten about the age old tradition of bartering. Back in the day, everyone bartered. Maybe they gave a quilt for some food or a blacksmith traded their services for a tailor’s service.
Today you can go to Craigslist and they have a “Barter,” section. Most of the times people list specific things they are looking for. For instance, I saw a guy looking to trade fishing gear for “things that go bang.” It’s illegal to advertise firearms on Craigslist. Most of the times an add like that would get flagged.
So how did I get involved in the barter in the first place? I contacted an overseas ukulele company to see if they would consider me to be a distributor for their ukuleles. I also mentioned politely that their site could use some help with the English translation. (“Wood make very good tone, nice looking.”)
I said, “I’m sure you speak better English than I speak Cantonese, but I would be willing to fix your ad copy for two custom ukuleles.”
The owner of the company got back to me to say that they are not interested in distributing to the United States right now. But he also said, “I happy to trade you a custom ukulele to fix site words.”
He agreed on the trade after seeing a writing sample. After going back and forth about for about 3 months, I now have custom ukulele. The guy even laser-etched my Polynesian tattoo design into the fret-board and the body of my ukulele. If I were to have a luthier make an ukulele here in The States with as much detail as this guy has given me, it would run $2000 to $3000.
Most people forget about bartering these days. But the next time you’re low on funds or you see where you can trade services, give bartering a shot. You may be surprised what you end up with.
I figured out a year or so ago that it doesn’t really matter where you go work-wise, you will probably end up not liking it somewhere along the way. You might like the profession, but the job itself will suck time to time.
A new Gallup Poll came out in the last month or two that said, anywhere from 48%-60% of Americans do not like their jobs. And that number is closer to 70% in other countries.
So what I’ve been doing is researching why that is? Does it make sense to live in, “The greatest country in the world,” and more than half on average hate what they are doing?
I will say for the record, I don’t hate what I’m doing. I just hate some of the attitudes of the people I’m dealing with. I also feel like those same people have an attitude of, this will get done, because they aren’t the ones who have to do the work.
Employee engagement, self-employment and follow you passion, these are three of the biggest search terms in Google. Tens of millions look these three words up every month and I plan on figuring out how to help these people, including myself.
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