Steve Marzolf [editorial/content/strategy/copywriting]

work I've done, who I've done it with and what's happening now…

Spin Your Success

Leadership lessons from a top Hollywood mover and shaker

spinsuccess

Best Life

It doesn’t matter if you’re directing a tiny start-up business or Hollywood’s next blockbuster: Success hinges on your ability to tell (and sell) a compelling story. That’s not to say that Bear Stearns chairman Jimmy Cayne would still have a job if he had spun the occasional yarn with his staff. Rather, “You have to nurture an emotional connection between your audience and your mission, regardless of whether that audience is filled with VPs, employees or investors,” says Peter Guber, the CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, in Los Angeles, and the producer of such films as “Batman” and “Seven Years in Tibet.” “The better you are at tapping into that natural storytelling ability – and weaving a tale of drama, action and risk – the more likely you are to get people to buy your product, support your brand and pledge loyalty to your vision.” Here’s how to become a master narrator and a true leading man.

 

Best Life: Why is skillful storytelling so important to professional success?

Peter Guber: People aren’t moved by numbers. They can’t identify with facts and figures. Data is soulless. You have to narrate your products, your mission and your company into a story that resonates with people’s hearts before their minds. Ten years ago, while I was chairman of Sony, I took a group of our Japanese executives to a Los Angeles Kings game. I knew that getting Sony to buy the Kings, not to mention the Lakers and Prime Ticket, was a sound business move, but I also knew that I couldn’t convince them of that with flowcharts. Having great seats, meeting Wayne Gretsky and seeing the cheering crowds provided the context for my story. I convinced them to buy the team by eliciting their emotional response.

BL: Which leaders best employ this technique?

PG: Nelson Mandela is a master storyteller. I once heard him talk to a group of very influential folks about investing in South Africa. Not once did he mention rates of return, gross profits or tax benefits. He simply told the story of his country. Sure, the investors would pat their pockets, but that’s not what they were talking about when they left the room. They were abuzz with the impact their investments would have on future generations. That’s another key to effective storytelling: Make your listeners feel not only generous but also like the heroes of a great story.

BL: What, besides storytelling, can inspire success?

PG: I always try to give my staff an early victory so that they’ll be motivated to achieve even greater goals. Back in the 1980s, when we were making “Gorillas in the Mist,” there was a point when the film was on the cusp of not being made. Instead of pleading with the studio, I sent an Oscar-nominated cinematographer, Alan Root, to Africa to film the primates. It was a risky move, but I needed to give the studio and my staff a tangible success – a taste for how great the film could be – and that’s what Alan gave me. It narrated why I was so passionate about the film. It gave them a reason to believe in it – and in me – and I channeled their excitement into a box-office hit.

BL: What other qualities must a leader possess?

PG: Unflinching flexibility and the ability to delegate intelligently. If I didn’t nurture those qualities, “Seven Years in Tibet” might never have hit theaters. We were filming this $70 million Brad Pitt film in India when the Indian government heeded China’s “request” to throw us out. Some might have fought the decision, but rather than waste limited resources on a losing battle, we asked Argentina if we could film there. They welcomed us with open arms, especially after we told them that the story would be their “Out of Africa.” Things go bump in the night. They rarely work out according to the script. And if you want to survive, you have to be nimble. The more willing you are to embrace change as part of the process, the more likely you are to succeed.

Written by Steve

November 9, 2008 at 2:03 pm

Posted in Best Life

Tagged with , , ,

Rest Assured

Millions of Americans battle insomnia each night, but with these tips you’ll be catching Z’s in no time.

 

Maxim

Maxim

Bush-league sleepers cost U.S. businesses an estimated $150 billion annually in absenteeism and lost productivity. But fear not, rookie snoozers! While other Americans spend $4.5 billion per year on sleeping pills (see sidebar), we’re here to correct your dozing naturally. We even (yawn) brought in the experts to help.

 

Clear Your Head: Psychological links run deep, and things that happened to you as a kid – that bed-shitting incident at camp, say – can still be affecting your sleep. To avoid new hang-ups, send your subconscious the right message by limiting bedroom activities to sleeping and boning. “If you’re in bed for 20 minutes, go downstairs and read a book,” says psychotherapist Michelle P. Maidenberg. “Get out of there so you don’t associate your bed with tossing and turning.” 

Clean Up Your Act: “Take the pillow test on sleepbetter.org to find out which type is right for you,” says Michael Breus, sleep specialist and author of “Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health.” “Then, change it once a year – the amount of sweat, oil and other fluids that leak out of your head at night is crazy, and it breaks down the fabric.” Damn – just when that pillow was getting broken in! 

Psych Yourself Out: Leave the sheep-counting to Kentucky pimps and wrangle some shuteye with one of Maidenberg’s relaxation techniques. Start by breathing deeply, then talk out loud about a soothing image, like a recent vacation. Not working? Try Breus’ approach and count backwards from 300 … by threes. “It’s so damn boring that you pass out,” he says. “I’ve never made it past 150.” 

Dim Your World: A night-light can save you plenty of midnight misery. “The second you turn on bright lights, your brain thinks it’s morning and stops producing meltatonin, the key engine to the sleeping process,” says Breus. Studies also show that flashing TV lights degrade sleep, so if you absolutely need “Sin City Diaries” to pass out, at least set the timer so it doesn’t wake you up and reset your precious sleep cycle. 

 

KNOCKER OUTERS!

Ambien – Pros: Knocks most people out quicker than a rolling-pin strike to the temple. Cons: Not great for toss-and-turners who have a tough time staying asleep (only lasts 2-3 hours); some claim they’re hooked.

Tylenol PM – Pros: Might alleviate that postdinner, pre-porn headache you’ve been getting lately. Cons: May have little efficacy on sleep or sleep quality; may cause liver problems if taken while boozing.

Lunesta – Pros: Goes the distance for a full 5-6 hours of uninterrupted pillow time. Cons: Not ideal for people who have a difficult time getting to sleep (it starts slowly but finishes strong, like you in the sack). 

Written by Steve

November 9, 2008 at 8:22 am

Posted in Maxim

Tagged with , , ,

Loved or Feared?

To rule effectively, you have to find your assertiveness sweet spot

lovedorfeared

Best Life

 Whether you run a sales department or a crime syndicate, you’ll eventually have to tackle the same Machiavellian question: Is it better to be loved or feared? Model your managerial style after, say, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and you’ll achieve obedience through fear, but you won’t have your followers’ loyalty. But if you try too hard to befriend and appease them, your team will languish without direction. Assertiveness is the X-factor that can make or break a leader despite strengths such as intelligence, charisma and self-discipline, report Columbia University researchers in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “Truly effective leaders tend to tread a middle ground,” says Daniel Ames, PhD, the study’s coauthor, “pushing hard enough to get their way, but not so hard that they can’t get along.” Here’s how to follow their lead.

 

Find opportunity in disagreement. “The most effective leaders engage in cooperative problem solving,” says Ames. Not to be confused with compromising (which entails losing ground by splitting the difference), cooperative problem solving begets novel solutions that meet everyone’s needs.

Listen to yourself. Do you blame a lazy team for stalling your career? Perhaps you complain about subordinates’ not understanding your directives. “Such negative internal dialogue means you’re not being nearly assertive enough with a key team member: yourself,” says Carollyne Conlin, founder of Full Spectrum Coaching, an executive coaching firm in Canada. “Get yourself back on track by creating a list of leadership goals and holding yourself accountable for meeting them.” 

Speak with your body. “Fifty-five percent of communication is non-verbal,” says Joyce K. Reynolds, an executive business coach whose corporate clients have included Lucent Technologies and Noven Pharmaceuticals. Effective leaders use this knowledge to their advantage. To place someone at ease, assume a relaxed, open posture with your body leaning slightly forward to indicate interest. Before making a point, perform a decisive hand gesture; a recent Harvard study shows that doing so implies credibility and honesty. More generally, present an image of assertiveness with an erect, comfortable posture and maintain good eye contact.

Read the situation. Effective leaders adjust their behavior as necessary. When a subordinate won’t take no for an answer, ratchet up. When an agitated client just needs to speak his mind, tone down. “Take cues from the situation and gauge how your behavior is playing with the other parties involved,” says Ames. “Sometimes you can push harder than you may have initially guessed. Other times, your behavior may be crossing a line and you need to step back and really rein it in.” 

Written by Steve

November 9, 2008 at 12:26 am

How to Buy … A Baseball Team!

Got a few hundred grand lying around? Ditch the fantasy roster and buy your own franchise. 

Maxim

Maxim

 

 

Pick a Winner: Buying into the majors, or even the minors, is tough. Of the five levels of minor league ball – rookie league, short-season A, A, AA, and AAA –short-season is the cheapest, but teams are still worth multimillions. Your best bet is to cherry-pick from one of the nine independent leagues sprinkled around the U.S. After getting a couple dozen friends together, an independent league team can cost each of you less than a nice Toyota. “That’s how an ownership group starts,” says Frontier League franchise co-owner Bill Bussing. “As the years progress, people leave, and pretty soon one person has a majority stake.”

Keep It Liquid: You should expect to bring your share of the investment to the table in cash, and have at least $200k socked away for first-year operating expenses – especially if you’re buying in the winter, when your initial income will be zero. “I’d be skeptical that a bank would rely on the franchise value itself for collateral,” says Bussing, who paid $800,000 for the Evansville Otters in 2001. One failing team drags down the value of its competitors, so the league will scrutinize your expenses. After all, if a league goes belly up, everyone loses their entire asset overnight. The resale market on jockstraps? Not great in a recession.

Find a Stadium: Do not try to build your own. Shouldering $1 million in annual debt service to build a $10 million stadium can cripple your franchise, so buy a team that has a rental agreement with the local town. Keeping ticket prices down requires at least 5,000 seats, and if the rent climbs past $3,000 per game, you’ll need good concessions to cover it. “Concessions can make or break a season,” says Bradley Wendt, CEO of the United League (a six-team Southern association stretching from Texas into Louisiana). “For every person who walks through your gate, you need to make at least $5 or you may as well hang it up.”

Staff Up: Unlike other minor league teams, indies recruit their own squads (usually sluggers passed over in the draft or released from other clubs). And at the Frontier League’s slave-labor pay range of $600 to $1,600 a month, players come cheap and easy: According to Wendt, of the 200 hopefuls who report to United’s tryout camp this year, only 10 to 15 will earn a spot on a team. Is it time to shutter your fantasy operation and rule the real game? “Everybody loves baseball,” Wendt says. “When I was managing director at Goldman Sachs, nobody wanted to talk to me at cocktail parties. Now? I’m the most popular guy in the room.”

 

Buying Home [Three teams bad enough to be affordable]

Shreveport Sports ($1,000,000) – The Sports’ pitchers have been atrocious – only two starters have winning records in the past two seasons. And forget run support: The club averaged 6.5 strikeouts per contest.

Laredo Broncos ($2,000,000) – Last in their league in batting? Check. Back of the pack in pitching? You bet. Is Laredo on the border of Mexico? Yup. Will you have to budget for bailing players out of a Tijuana prison? Possibly!

Orange County Flyers ($3,000,000) – The Flyers are skippered by Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, but their coyote mascot has his own email address. Interested? You can book him for “any kind of function.” Any kind.

Yakima Bears ($7,000,000) – A short-season Class A affiliate of the Arizona D-backs, the Bears are plagued by the dreary weather of the Northwest – and a pitching staff that pegged a league-leading 74 batters in 2007. 

Written by Steve

November 7, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Maxim

Tagged with , , ,

The Five Deadly Venoms

Don’t let America’s most poisonous beasts ruin your summer

Maxim

Maxim

 

Timber rattlesnake: Located in any wooded or grassy area in the eastern half of the country, its cousin the diamondback prowls the west. The cocktail of poisons in the venom stops blood coagulation and can cause cardiac arrest. Did we mention the pain lasts for days? Their fangs can pierce canvas, so skip the tennis shoes and lace up the leather shit kickers. And make noise – a spooked snake bites. Sucking the bite only spreads the poison. Head to a hospital for antivenom. And bring your credit card: A dose is $1,000.  

Brown recluse spider: These guys appear across the entire south central portion of the country – often in homes, where they like to set up shop in shoes and even bedding. A bite won’t kill you, but the necrotic wound it leaves behind will rot your flesh down to the bone. If you feel one crawling down your neck, gently brush it off. Smacking it will guarantee a poisonous bite. Doctors will give you steroids or Dapsone. If necrosis sets in, they’ll carve out the dead tissue like a melon ball. 

Bark scorpion: Found in rock piles, forests and – like the boogeyman – under your bed if you live in the southwestern United States. Its neurotoxins can give you muscle contractions and fill your lungs with fluid, which could literally drown you. Fun! Seal wall foundations and doorjambs; if two credit cards fit into a crevice, so can the deadly scorpion. Elevate the bite area to reduce swelling, and if you can’t handle the pain, head to the hospital for some antivenom.

Portuguese man-of-war: Their home is the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic as far north as New Jersey. Yes, they’re attracted to IROC-Zs and gay governors. If you don’t drown while falling prey to an allergy-induced shock, you’ll survive with some permanent chemical burns. Heavy winds can blow them toward the shore. Watch for tentacles washed up on the beach, which can still sting you. It peppers your skin with poison darts called nematocysts. Stay in the salt water and scrape clean with a shell. 

Killer Bees: Abandoned structures like doghouses (or meth trailers) throughout Texas and nearby southern states make great bee habitat. Its venom is weaker than a honeybee’s, but when 1,000 or more attack, it more than makes up the difference. If you’re within 100 feet of a nest, they’ll mark you as an intruder. So, if you spy a cloud of buzzing death nearby, run! Use the edge of a credit card to scrape stingers off. But the bee’s toxins can strain the heart, so head to the ER.

 

Killer Cocktail [Take a swig of the manliest vino ever made: cobra wine]

Get ready for a real snakebite: Cobra wine packs a whole cobra into a jar of rice wine for this bio-lab-looking libation reputed to enhance the performance of the trouser snake. The alcohol nullifies its venom, so it’s safe for swilling (unless you have open sores in your esophagus). It’s legal in Vietnam – for now. Support is growing to ban the popular reptilian hooch. Turns out with so many cobras bottled up, the rat population is spiking.  

Written by Steve

November 7, 2008 at 10:28 am

Posted in Maxim

Tagged with , , ,

Ear to the Streets

‘The Wire’ music supervisor Blake Leyh lays down an urban soundtrack

OmarWhen fans describe ‘The Wire,’ no adjective seems to surface as often as “gritty.” After five seasons, creator David Simon’s painstaking arrangement of granular bits of research and authenticity, whether the detectives’ banter or Snoop’s drawl, have added up to a tone as low key and abrasive as the real Baltimore. 

For writers, costume designers and prop masters, mimicking reality falls into the standard job description, but music supervisor Blake Leyh – who, on another show, might compose sweeping themes and clever montages – has to fight the instinct to draw sentimental connections through song choice. “I want to make the scene less emotional, less melodramatic,” he says. “We put music in there as a device to push you away from the people a little bit. It’s something you would so rarely do in a Hollywood movie; you would want to pump up the emotion. But on ‘The Wire,’ so often we’re trying to go against that.” 

[More online at HBO.com]

Written by Steve

November 7, 2008 at 9:00 am

Posted in HBO

Tagged with , ,

How to Purchase …

… A RACEHORSE! 

Maxim

Maxim

 

Hitting the track is that much sweeter when you’re watching your own pony kick ass. Here’s how to make it happen. 

Name Your Price: Thoroughbreds aren’t cheap, so unless you spend your summers at the Kennedy compound in Cape Cod, you’ll probably need track-savvy buddies to split your horse’s cost and upkeep. “About 10 guys throwing in $5,000 each can get you a decent $25,000 horse and cover a year’s worth of training, stabling and feed,” says Daniel Metzger, president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

Shop Around:  You can buy an untrained animal straight from the farm, pick up a hot prospect at a “purchasing event” (a race in which a horse can be bought for a pre-determined amount), or hit a public auction and let the market dictate a fair price. In any case, hire a trainer beforehand at your local racetrack – that or risk a premature trip to the dog food factory.

Cover Your Assets: To guarantee you’re not the one who ends up sleeping in a barn, Metzger advises setting up an LLC (limited liability company) to separate your racing business from your personal assets. And be sure to elect your most responsible buddy “managing partner” so unpaid oats bills don’t get in the way of swilling bourbon in the winner’s circle, you cheap bastard.

Ride It to the Bank: The possibility of losing your shirt is real, but chances are you’ll recoup your investment through track winnings over the first year or two. And if you discover the next Secretariat, an early retirement could lead to millions in stud fees. “With a good racehorse, the real payoff is in the breeding shed,” says Metzger. “That’s where the real money’s at.”

 

… A MUSCLE CAR!

buymusclecar-lrA windowless van has utility, but a ’74 Camaro makes you even cooler than the kids who smoked in high school.

Stay Simple: Picking up a classic for less than 15 grand requires a few concessions – you’re not going to land a souped-up V8 or a custom trim. But a standard-issue second-generation muscle car is well within reach. Floyd Garrett, owner of the Muscle Car Museum in Sevierville, Tennessee, says the sweet spot for Camaro deals falls between 1970 and 1974.

Snoop Into the Past: Like that stripper at your brother’s bachelor party, you need to figure out where she’s been – but as long as her body holds up, anything else can be fixed. “If I found a ’69 Camaro with a good, solid body and the engine had a rod thrown out the side of it,” Garrett says, “that wouldn’t bother me a bit.” Beware of heavy undercoats hiding 30 years of Detroit winters, and check the trim tag on the firewall to see if the paint color changed – a clue to long hours spent at the body shop.

Keep it Real: The more original parts, the more valuable the car, so hunt under the hood for as many GM stamps as you can find. When it comes to making your own repairs, almost anything is fair game: radiators, alternators, starters, even entire engines can be swapped with moderate ease and expense.

Pimp Your Ride: While the ‘70s offered marvels like outrageous horsepower, sofalike backseats and Freddie Mercury, a few inventions from the golden age of chest hair fell short, namely brakes. Garrett advises replacing the front set of drum brakes with discs for the added convenience of being able to stop on command. 

Written by Steve

November 7, 2008 at 8:04 am

Posted in Maxim

Tagged with , , ,