Talent Vs. Hard Work

While I am confident there are several examples to the contrary (no matter how hard I work, I won’t be as good at basketball as Lebron), for us run-of-the-mill humans, hard work is still the way to succeed.

Talent, for me, lies more in what you find interest in and have a natural gravitation towards. As for me, I have a talent with words and being quickly clever. I have a talent for thinking outside of the box and tapping into emotion when creating marketing campaigns. But it’s research, experience, and studying data that helps me when it comes to being successful and retaining clients. I am a human dictionary/thesaurus because language is interesting to me and communication is important in all aspects of my life.

As much as I could possibly work and study, I couldn’t be an accountant. I couldn’t fool with numbers all day and stay that exact. I couldn’t be an engineer or homebuilder because there are too many equations and codes for my brain to decipher – bridges and houses would be falling down right and left. But I do plenty of marketing for folks in left-brained industries that don’t have a creative bone in their bodies. The bone is the talent. The muscles are the hard work.

People also tend to lean on their “talent” (degree, sphere of influence, etc.) and eventually feel like they are the victim after getting let go. Again, your name, degree or talent may get you into the room, but your hard work, dedication, and INTEGRITY will keep you there. I have been incredibly fortunate to meet a lot of people in my career in several states – but I know that is only one part of the story.

I feel this tenet is the same in personal relationships as well. Maybe you expect or want something in particular from a loved one, or they expect or want something from you and it’s caused some resentment. You may not have that talent (writing poetry, buying flowers, volunteering physical affection, committing to acts of service) but…knowing that you love them and they love you, could some “hard work” (as simple as a note on your calendar) make some of these things a bit more of a habit?

What’s your take on this argument? Will talent ever overtake hard work in the workplace, or even in your personal relationships? Let me know what you think.


Control Your Happiness.

Take a deep breath and shake your shoulders out. Are you stressed? Overworked? Underappreciated? Stuck in traffic? Take another breath. When it comes down to it, our lives are made up of millions of these tiny breaths, strung together, until we run out. Most breaths we take are mundane and forgettable as we type away at work, fix dinner or snore soundly. Some are rushed, leaving us catching our breath from stress and worry. Some moments even take our breath away out of beauty and awe. What is the key to ensuring that more of those breaths are in peace, joy and happiness?

It’s actually really simple – and it lies in what you can control.

Outside of my neighborhood is the unavoidable road that leads to all of my clients, my child’s school, friends’ houses, and the grocery store. On this road are the only entrance and exit to and from my neighborhood. This highway stretches for miles into Montgomery, Texas through Conroe, Texas where the powers that be have decided to conduct years of construction, adding medians and turn lanes that have made my daily travel needs often tangled and frustrating, to be kind. There are a plethora of posts on Facebook, NextDoor, and other outlets of people complaining about TxDOT, the government bloat, guys just standing around, barrels and cones being strewn about, lane markers not being clear, and the length of this project on the whole. Many people are talking about how this ongoing project is making them late to important meetings and doctor appointments, leaving their children stranded at school longer than anticipated and the like.

I ask you, of the complaints waged above, which ones do the residents of Montgomery and Conroe have control over?

When I looked for the original discussion of this widening and redesigning of this long stretch of highway on the TxDOT website, I can find various public information sessions as far back as 2003, several in 2016 and a few more in 2021 and 2022 that outlined, publically, what was to happen and when.

Yes, it’s a pain. Yes, the traffic seems thicker. Yes, there are always ways that the government could communicate better and streamline processes. But in the meantime, what can these bloviators control? No one is moving their kid’s school or their work. It’s been in public discussions for upwards of 20 years. Montgomery County is growing and it’s not looking like it’s stopping any time soon – and they’re MAD about it. Hey, here’s an idea next time you’re hopping out on this main drag through town…

The happiness lies here in what you can control. You can set your alarm earlier. You can get yourself and your child(ren) ready earlier. You can meal plan on the weekends and use curbside and Instacart instead of navigating the blue hairs at Kroger in their motorized scooters. You can leave earlier for meetings. You can schedule your meetings more effectively or handle them remotely. You can schedule other errands around your schedule so you aren’t going out as often. You can schedule more time between meetings. You can run a tighter meeting with less fluff. You can email instead of meeting in-person entirely. You can coordinate with your child’s friend to carpool some days. You can download a crap-ton of podcasts or audiobooks to listen to when you’re sitting out there to educate or entertain yourself. You can pack a few snacks or a lunch if your day is extra tight. Heck, you can do your kegels; no one will know the difference and your sex life will thank you for it.

But, please note: Those ten minutes crafting what you feel is an articulate diatribe about how crappy the traffic is (that will make you feel righteous and justified when you just didn’t get up on time), how frustrating the government is (that you voted into office), or how late you have been – DOESN’T MAKE YOU HAPPY. It doesn’t make the person who scheduled the meeting (that you’re late to) happy. It doesn’t make your kid (that has been standing outside in the pick-up line for 15 extra minutes) happy. It doesn’t change that construction takes a long time and sometimes, you’re going to see some dudes putzing around instead of working. Guess what? They probably aren’t happy either.

…And you’ve wasted ten more minutes.

I used this example because it was top-of-mind, but Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – this is a tenet that can be used in absolutely every facet of your life – and even to the point where you are happy with your marketing. (Check out that segue!)

If work is getting frustrating, figure out what you can control and do it. If you can talk to your boss about adding more responsibility for a dull day, delegate your overflowing workload, negotiate a day to work from home, or if your company can finance some continuing education to expand your horizons, great. If there are no options for the time being, use your PTO for a short trip or staycation to refresh, or find a new hobby to do when you’re not at work that fills the creative/active/philanthropic hole your work isn’t. If the culture is THAT bad at your job, give your resume to a friend or headhunter (who is oftentimes not paid by the job seeker) who is good at editing such things and start looking for a career that is a better fit. Put your own light at the end of your own tunnel.

In your personal life, if you’re in a rut, you can find a new hobby, take a walk each day, play guitar, volunteer, or find something else you like, even if for 5-10 minutes before bed to commit to for your mental health. We can’t always control work or the kids, but outside of 9 – 5 and after they are in bed, take those BREATHS back for you. Oftentimes, this is a bubble bath and a good book for me, even if I can just get through one chapter.

In marketing, we can’t always predict how a campaign will work. Marketing is a fickle and subjective beast – subjected to time, audience, budget, length, shades of colors, subtle messaging, and more. Admittedly, it is inherently frustrating. But what can we control? You can hire someone third party (AHEM!) if you don’t have the hands or expertise or time to do it right. You can create evocative, moving campaigns and test them in different spaces, on different platforms. You can create and supply a good product or service that markets itself through word of mouth. You can feel good about what you are providing for your community and can sleep well at night knowing you are on the journey to your satisfaction and success while someone is working behind the scenes for your brand.

You, and only you, can refill your cup, and move towards your satisfaction in life. Only you can control your happiness – and it’s a choice with each breath. Accountability is SO much more freeing than blame because if it’s someone else’s fault, you have no hand in fixing it! THIS you can FIX, even if it starts small. Pick something this week or weekend to start on this path – if it’s your attitude in unavoidable traffic, handling a bad apple at work, boredom in your personal life – or a lull in your marketing – and take your happiness back with your next breath!

Typos Galore.

Have y’all noticed this? Every third or fourth post I see on Facebook from professional companies and organizations has some sort of egregious, lazy typo in it that could have been prevented by having literally ONE more person look at their work.

I fully recognize that I am a total geek for the English language given my career and given my time on social media platforms, I will likely see more of these transgressions than the average person. But the fact that any size company or organization cannot or will not send their posts, eblasts, or graphics through another set of eyes is beginning to flabbergast me.

A client and good friend just got some print work done and when they got their work back, turns out no one tested the QR code, and the link was incorrect. A significant amount of money was wasted when they had to chuck them all and get new pieces printed. They are on a tight budget as a new company and didn’t really have that to throw away. I told them (tongue-in-cheek) that it is absolutely free to send me anything they have, as a client or a friend or a stranger, whenever they want, for an extra set of eyes. We had a laugh and agreed that this was a lesson learned.

But it’s literally that simple. It doesn’t have to be me or even a marketing person.

Good grammar and proper use of the English language are the easiest but most powerful tools to project integrity and CREDIBILITY about your business when it comes to marketing. If a company isn’t going to give attention to detail in a simple post or eblast, what makes you think they will take time to take care of you as a customer down the road?

A London-based digital agency surveyed 1,003 social media users and found that 42.5% reported they would be influenced not to purchase goods or services by spelling mistakes. Don’t land your business or organization in that percentage.

And hey – I get it. You may be a great CPA, plumber, or car detailer and grammar was never your thing. THAT IS OK. Accounting and plumbing and detailing cars aren’t mine. It takes all kinds and I am grateful for that. This is why companies like Bespoke, or even friends who just want to help, can be SO valuable when it comes to your marketing efforts. If you feel like we could be of help, don’t hesitate to reach out.

2023 Marketing Predictions

With the new year knocking at the proverbial door yet again, business owners are looking for the magic pill to get more business and more profits in 2023. Of course, with all marketing, there is some trial and error….but here are my thoughts on what to try and execute in 2023.

Influencers and Content Creators.
You don’t have to shell out a jillion dollars for some highly-visible celebrity to endorse your brand per se, but you DO need someone dedicated to valuable, educational, informational and/or entertaining video content. There are a lot of ways this can manifest – if it’s regular check-ins with new deals, how-to videos, introducing your staff or new products, or whatever else you may have in mind. After 2020, there isn’t a good reason to not be investing in consistent and quality video content.

Really Getting SOCIAL.
It’s called SOCIAL media for a reason. This is the time to have someone consistently responding and engaging with your followers – no excuses. This level of customer service is invaluable because not only will your customers feel special and cared for (fostering loyalty), you can get free insight and feedback on what your company is doing right and wrong when you ask questions and authentically thank your respondents. FREE. Read that again.

The last few years have seen extreme change in how people buy and sell, work and play. But one thing that has come to the forefront is that we are all ready to be part of a community again. People need and want human connection. How does that translate for your business? How can that turn into strategic partnerships with other related businesses or non-profits? Does that mean a yearly toy drive? A restaurant partnering with a local bakery for their desserts? Joining a Chamber? The ideas are endless. You likely get something you need to improve your business and its offerings…and you get to use THEIR platforms to promote yourself as well.

More Automation – With Personalization.
It can be hard to find the time to be on social media, create marketing collateral and provide a personalized, genuine response for every single comment or question. If you find that you are reaching your critical mass in this area, there are a slew of software solutions that not only respond to your customers but can save “if-then” processes to reach out when a certain question is asked, or a certain amount of time has passed. We have seen this in its most basic form in Facebook messenger with the capability to suggest questions and answers to the most asked inquiries (hours, prices, etc). But software like Active Campaign and the like can be incredibly robust if you’re looking for more specific, highly calculated drip campaigns and reminders. This can even trickle into AI automations as well, which you can chat about internally or with an IT person of your choice.

Of course, new platforms will come out (Discord? Mastadon?) just like TikTok took over, and of course, we can never tell if another natural disaster, pandemic or meteor from a billion miles away will come into play. But these are researched, viable projections for the new year, given what I’ve witnessed as we close out 2022. The name of the game is establishing and growing community, automating all you can within reason, and making social media and customer service a priority. If I can help you with any of these bullet points, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

It’s Not Your Baby.

I’ve come in professional contact with a handful of vendors and clients as of late who have very strongly defended their work, book of business and/or communication style.

Taking pride, ownership and accountability is one thing, but not responding because you’re hurt about a client’s decision is another…

…Responding negatively, insultingly and brashly isn’t the way to go.

The nature of my work – in writing, graphic design, web design, and other creative endeavors – is incredibly subjective. I learned very early on that not everyone likes the same layouts, colors, or words as me.

I also learned very early on that they are paying ME to cover MY bills so they are more than welcome to share their input.

I have been working in media, marketing, and graphics for over twenty years now, and I absolutely bring an expertise to the table that many don’t; especially small business owners who work in non-creative fields. I can bring external ideas and execution to insurance agents or plumbers that they may not see in their spreadsheets and leaky pipes. But if they like red over orange, or “angry” instead of “mad”, I’m happy to make the edit.

It’s not my baby. And neither is your work. Don’t be arrogant, be confident. I know that after decades of work in this field, using these platforms and technologies everyday, I am going to know more than the average person about social media and the like. Just like you are going to know more about accounting as a CPA or more about building houses as an inspector. It takes all kinds in this world, and I am grateful for that. Let’s appreciate those differences and double-down on the folks who have them to raise us even higher. There is enough sunshine to go around for everyone.

This is where differentiating your value proposition and focus comes into play. I, admittedly, can’t handle doing a website for a monstrous billion-dollar organization. As much as I’d love the income from that, I am realistic and honest about my bandwidth and I have found real joy in creating an online presence for several small- to medium-sized businesses and non-profits. To watch entrepreneurs in my city and county see their dreams come to fruition is more important to me. I am within their investment range and have great ideas….when they don’t have the budget for my benefits. I get the creative license and aggregated income I need with several clients…who become friends or with folks I already have a great rapport with. If one has me in the weeds, I can take a break with another client’s work and refresh my brain. It’s a win-win! How can I complain?

More than one person in the United States makes websites, if you haven’t noticed. Aqua vs. teal isn’t going to make or break a marketing campaign, believe it or not. There are plenty of immutable laws of marketing (22, in fact) but the rest of this industry can be a fun, rewarding, and infinite landscape where a lot of us can succeed. Remember – it’s not your baby. Nothing is, except the humans you’ve created. Your career and its production are about it being a creative outlet, helping others realize their passions, and paying your bills. Relax – you picked this. It’s fun.

Approaching Failure.

I’ve been in the marketing business for over 20 years now, and there have been some real successes I can hang my hat on – and a handful of real stinkers. It happens to everyone; it’s part of trying new things, personally and professionally. So when one of those less-than-perfect campaigns or events come down the pike, what can you do to keep pushing forward?

Remind yourself you’re not a failure.
You were entrusted with a certain goal or outcome, but it just didn’t come to fruition. Someone – a client, a boss, a friend, or a family member believed in your skills. Your skills still exist; they didn’t evaporate because you fell short. Michael Jordan lost 300 games in one of the most prolific careers of all the NBA. You’re okay. I promise.

Be honest with yourself.
You very well gave 100%, but what other variables came into play that, in hindsight, might have helped the cause? Conducting a candid post-mortem can really help you see the forest for the trees and teach you valuable lessons for future obstacles. Use your notes not to point fingers or lay blame but to inform your strategies moving forward.

Assess how you measure success.
Success in an event or initiative can be measured in many ways. Maybe a budget wasn’t reached or a certain number of leads weren’t garnished. Don’t get down. You can ask yourself two questions here: Were those the best metrics to illustrate success? If so (and especially, if not), what other positives can you glean from your efforts? Was it huge for the visibility of your product or service? Did you learn a lot about your customer base? Were you able to check this kind of event, initiative or advertising spend off your list so you never do it again? Take that as a win!

Failures are VERY rarely solely the fault of one person or one idea and there is always a lesson to be learned. Take your bumps and bruises, organize your notes and turn your trials into triumphs!


A girlfriend and I had a conversation this weekend that was based primarily in the romantic realm, but I couldn’t help but translate it into the business world.

Passion. What does it mean to you? It can just mean strong emotion in its most superficial sense, but for me, it goes much deeper than that. I like people with passion. I like people who like to grow and learn, are excited about what they do, and are curious.

It’s difficult for me to connect in a significant way with people who don’t exhibit some level of passion. Maybe it’s passion about their family or work, a hobby or a cause – but they have to exude some sort of drive to imbue progress in their world. While we all shoot to achieve a certain level of contentment and rest at times, it is difficult for me when people are aloof and unaffected by the world around them to the point of rarely or never confronting each day with interest and some level of intensity.

Of course, being a small business owner, this is something I had to have to begin and continue my work. If I don’t hit the ground running each day, enjoy what I do, and make it a point to learn more about my craft, I won’t be successful. I work to live AND live to work in that I genuinely enjoy the creative release of the work I provide my clients. When I do good work, I get paid what I am worth and have the livelihood I need and want for myself and my daughter. Without passion, that wouldn’t and couldn’t happen.

It absolutely takes all kinds and not everyone can start a business or work for themselves. But even as an employee, there has to be some level of passion about what you have to get up and do every day, and a desire to get better at it. With that comes pride and contentment, creative release, accomplishment and joy.

If you’re in a position in your life where you aren’t experiencing passion, you probably aren’t experiencing those feelings either.

Plain and simple, if you want to see change, you have to make one. Small or significant, do the work to create change and joy in your life. Be on the lookout for a new job. Take a road trip to clear your head. Cut a toxic friend out of your life. Begin to exercise. Start a hobby. Join a class. Make a change.

Where are you passionate in your life? Where do you have an unparalleled drive to inspire change? Where could you use a change?


Integrity. Noun. The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. Integrity is the practice of being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values.

I promise I’ll get back to marketing posts soon, but I had to share my thoughts on the concept of integrity after this last week in my world. It’s important in business and it’s my blog, so leave me be.

Being as good as your word, my previous blog post, is just part of integrity. Doing what you say you’re going to do is key of course. But that can be a quick, fleeting and easy action. integrity is consistent and part of your fabric – or it isn’t.

I heard two separate stories on opposite sides of the spectrum over the last few days that deepened my understanding and appreciation of integrity.

One person is an inspiration, rising from the ashes of a life that started in tumult, abandonment and fear and that led to addiction and hitting rock bottom. Responsibility and accountability hit this person smack between the eyes, and slowly but surely, they got the help they needed and got back a life many people in the same situation would have never worked so hard to change. That is character, humility and honesty. That’s integrity.

The other, on the polar opposite of this spectrum, had almost anything they could want in life and threw it all away on narcissism. Family, long-term relationships and more were all turned to dust with selfish decision-making.

Honestly, we all know both of these stories from friends, family or coworkers. Who are you keeping as company?

As I lay in bed last night, I thought about both of these examples and I got teared up. I thought about what kind of mother and daughter I am, what kind of businesswoman and friend I am. I thought about how, over the years, I have added bullet points to my list to discern the real and authentic from the cynical and selfish. I thought about how genuinely happy and blessed I am to know the first individual – with chinks in their armor and stories to tell that purified them by fire. Those are the ones to keep close.

We all screw up. We all make mistakes – some of them big. But our capacity and diligence to at first, humbly recognize what we’ve done, be genuinely remorseful for it, and commit to the patterns to change it or a consistently better future and dynamic? Those are the actions of people with integrity.

The Best Advice.

When you’re starting a business, everyone and their mothers are looking to give you advice. Completely independent of their experience or industry, people come around, tossing up cliches from every last Covey, Sinek, Vaynerchuk and Carnegie book you’ve heard for decades. And while these guys are legends in their own right, entrepreneurs are not riding on the backs of giants, but forging their own path. Each of these big names and impactful words can contribute a piece to your full puzzle, but when you are the one waking up each morning in YOUR bed, in YOUR house, with YOUR finances and work to do, what’s going to push you forward and predict your success?

My dad was a sharecropper in Louisiana growing up until his family moved to Texas in 1956. If you don’t know what a sharecropper is, I challenge you to go read about it and the socioeconomic plight of the less fortunate in the deep south that continues even now. I tell you that to tell you this – My dad sped up the ranks in each job he had to the position of Director of Sales and Marketing for Coca-Cola in Cleveland, Ohio. He left there to start his own businesses in 1987-88 and has been self-employed, without so much as a high school diploma since 42 years old; that’s 35 years. (He did get his GED.)

We lived in incredibly nice homes, in one of the nicest suburbs in Cleveland, and drove brand new cars. I didn’t pay a solitary penny for my college education (beyond a multitude of scholarships I earned) and my mother didn’t have to work outside the house (thought she did because she enjoyed it). I would venture to say that I was not spoiled, but very fortunate. I had jobs from 15 on, even through college. I got good grades and graduated early and with honors. I never felt entitled because I worked hard for each step I made.

As I went through my developing media and marketing career, no matter what was asked of me or how much I made, my employers could always depend on me. Short of disaster outside of my control, I was always on time and did my work to the best of my ability. Not one boss or coworker ever had a derogatory word to say about me and my effort. Despite leading a pretty charmed life, what made me bust my ass so hard?

It came time to start my own business and I thought back to these monster quotes and books I had read over the years about Traction and Influencing People and Rich and Poor Dads. Had I Found my Why? Could I be a Highly Effective Person? I just found myself digging deeper in doubt as they kept piling on expectations. Entrepreneurship in many ways felt like a mountain I was unsure I could climb. I then turned the proverbial pages back into my own storybook and remembered some of the most important words I had heard and learned from.

My dad, as forged by his dad, had quite a simple outlook on life. Whether this was in business, sharecropping, being a boss or employee, or being a spouse, it all came down to one thing – being as good as your word. If you said you’d do something, you did it. If you said you’d be somewhere, you’d show up. If you said you’d pay someone back, you would. If you said you’d complete a task, it was done. Beyond influencing and studying and devouring a million books on the ethics of business or the art of a deal, why my dad and why I am successful in acquiring clients and keeping them is because we are as good as our word. If a client isn’t a good fit, we cut our losses. If something isn’t happening at the right time, we can be humble and change our trajectory.

And wow…I have so far to go. But as I come up to my one-year anniversary of starting my own business and look back, it has been my word that has gotten me this far. Sure, I have a certain skill set, personality, and drive that may not be found in everyone or in the same percentages. But doing what I say I’ll do has been the key to unlocking more doors than anything else ever will or has. I have watched it happen day in and day out…and I can’t wait to see where it leads for Bespoke.

LinkedIn Tips for ’22

A plethora of people have seen their marketing fluctuate through the pandemic and if they have been smart, have been reaching out on new platforms to chip away for more market share. While I have been on LinkedIn for ages now, it wasn’t until I stretched my creative muscles and started my own business that I started to take this often-overlooked platform to a heavy hitter for me. So, how did I do that?

Quality content.
This is the answer on every social media platform out there. Whether it’s blogs, articles, or polls, quality content is always going to win. Peruse other people’s pages and potential clients’ pages to see what their pain points are and be a solution in a world of problems and complaining.

Strategic sharing.
If you can get this content to audiences that would value it the most, it can work twice as hard. This can be in the form of sending sort but thoughtful direct messages to those who could benefit. But here is the key: Ask for participation, don’t hard-sell your product. Give them value before you make them a customer.

Post consistently.
it’s important to stay on the radars of your potential customers, and even current and past customers, so they remember to share your name in circles where you’re needed. This comes with doing the aforementioned tasks and then, of course, doing them regularly.

Join groups.
Joining groups that are local to you or in your same skill set can open you up to new connections, potential clients, and even collect tips and tricks you wouldn’t hear anywhere else.

Make sure your profile is thorough.
This goes for both your personal page and your business’ page; the space is there, use it. Be as thorough as you can with your information, work, projects, and contact information. Add photos and personal anecdotes – people like doing business with people.

Pay to play.
Of course, on each digital platform, there is an opportunity to target advertisements to certain groups for a price. As you start out, this can be a great way to build your base of followers and perhaps even your book of business. But inevitably, you will have to play the long game and provide consistent, quality content for those folks to stick around longer than a season or a coupon expiration date.

Have you tried these LinkedIn tips in the past? What worked best for you? Will you try one this week? Should I add to this list?