In the Attic: The Art of Improv

1237bdb7a83c0ba10074c469210c6be3Note: this is the first in a series of happiness chronicles — discussions that focus on why and how interesting people pursue things that make them happy.

 

Two things that go bump in the night: something in your attic and someone on stage doing improv comedy.

For many people, the idea of crawling around in their dark, crowded, and potentially vermin-visited attic is equally appealing to the idea of stepping onto an empty stage with no props, no script, no clue — and only their quick wit to armor them from a cynical audience.

Lauren Bossers (nicknamed, appropriately, LaBoss) is an exception. She bravely visits attics and stages, and far off places in her very agile and very funny mind.

“My mother best describes me as my own best opposite,” says Bossers, a 40-year-old mom with a high-powered marketing role at Oracle. “I’m equally serious as I am silly. I’m a Type B in Type A clothing: relatively driven, but not consumed by it.”

Professionally, the petite, blonde and doe-eyed marketer is a master of the arcane technical details of supply chain software, and wields a grammatical sword with the passion of a warrior.

Personally, in 2012, Lauren was regrouping after a separation and looking for a new way to meet people and learn more about herself.

On August 20th that year, she read the obituary for famed comedienne, Phyllis Diller, who died at the age of 95, leaving the world with a lifetime’s worth of wit and humor about families, relationships and womanhood.

If you’ve never heard or read her work, here are a few Diller quotes that moms from any generation can relate to:

“Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.”

“Housework won’t kill you, but then again, why take the chance?”

“I want my children to have all the things I couldn’t afford. Then I want to move in with them.”

Here’s what jumped off the page of that obituary to Lauren: Phyllis didn’t start doing comedy until the age of 37. Lauren was 36 at the time.

“I’d been a shy child: an introvert, by Myers-Briggs standards. In my 20’s I worked hard to overcome that. Now I test off the charts on the extrovert side; and when I meet new people, they tend to think I’m a little insane. But people have always told me I was funny and quick, so I thought it was a good time to try improv.

“ I wasn’t that familiar with improv before doing it. Stand-up comedy is really different from improv: using a script versus flying by the seat of your pants. I had comedic heroes like Ellen Degeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock. But since then, I’ve listened to a ton of interviews with comedians and learned that most do either stand up or improv. It is a rare person that does both.”

Lauren signed up for Pittsburgh’s Steel City Improv Theatre introductory class.

Steel City’s website tagline is: Listen, Commit, Play. This was an appealing draw for the newly-single mom.

She wasn’t nervous about the first class since it was an introductory level and she came armed with a well-honed quick wit. But Lauren quickly learned that great improv requires equal parts verbal and physical comedy: the actors are not supported by script nor props. They need to create both an engaging story and a visual environment using only their minds and their bodies to set the stage for their audience.

One improv game created to help develop that skill set is called “In the Attic.” The first person in the group imagines something in an attic that they need to go and play with, like a doll, a wedding dress, a bottle, a gun. Each person, in turn, plays with something new plus everything the prior people have played with, doing something different with each item. For example: play a game of Russian Roulette, take shots out of the bottle you found, put on a wedding dress, then grab the gun…

This exercise helps the actors develop on two fronts.

  • First, the “yes, and…” priority of improv: when you are on stage with someone else, all you have are that person’s eyes and ideas. You always need to connect with them by really listening to build on the story ideas put forward before you. If you cut off the idea, you kill the sketch. And, ideally, if you are the first person in the sketch, you start on a positive note, which provides a lot more room to grow the content, versus a negative angle.
  • Second, if the actors —like great mimes— can’t clearly physically “show” the difference between each item they are working with, they can quickly lose the audience.

Putting the show into the right context for the audience’s mindset is a third leg to the comedic stool that Lauren experienced firsthand. The date of Lauren’s first show was the night of the tragic Sandy Hook shooting. She doesn’t remember that content for the show at all. “It was incredibly difficult to be funny or carefree that night. It was really tough.”

But overall, Lauren found improv incredibly energizing.

“You get an idea of why performers do it. It is an adrenaline shot. After working all day, you need to get your energy up to take a two hour class. But once you tap that creative energy, it’s almost harder to wind back down. It is exhilarating.”

Today, Lauren’s busy work and mom schedule doesn’t make it easy for her to do as much on stage with her improv skills, but those classes have carried over to her professional and personal life regardless.

On the personal side, she’s met a community of people from millennials to grandmas that she still sees, including one of her best friends that she met at improv class.

Professionally and personally, she’s taken the “yes, and” idea to heart in her relationships and collaborative teamwork.

“The power of validating and perpetuating an idea helps you connect better to other people. It makes you more engaged to try to understand what the other people are and to build on that idea.”

Those lucky enough to be on Lauren’s Facebook page, see the fruits of that collaboration every day, from the string of hilarious give-and-take discussion threads with her equally funny friends, to the brief and brilliant outtakes she shares from her life with her middle school son.

Here’s one recent example:

Adam and I were doing our usual bedtime routine of the NYT mini-crossword puzzle.

Me: Much debated Donald Trump word…

Adam: Bad hombres! Nasty woman! Chinese steel! Chiiiiiiiiina! DISASTER!

Me: Um, it’s “bigly.”

Adam: Good one.

Phyllis Diller has gotta be loving this.

 

Are you willing to share some insight about what makes you happy? Let me know, I’d love the opportunity to chat about it and share here…

Eat, Create and Learn Pomodoro

pomodoro

This week, my company zagged.  Unfortunately for me, I was still zigging away, deep in many interesting projects and didn’t see the course correction coming.

On the flip side, the timing was rather lovely.  I’d just arrived for a week with my husband at the lake house. Working remotely with a magnificent view across the water and of the surrounding fall foliage is a treat.  But it doesn’t compare to the freedom to follow a whim to hop on a bike, go for a run, take the convertible for a spin through the back roads, shop for pumpkins and snuggle up during a rainstorm with a book.

I have a lucky life, and it’s always pretty easy for me to find a silver lining during the occasional freak storm. But on Monday, when this little twister landed on my lakeside retreat, I was struck with a new revelation.  Rather than just indulge in my well established list of go-to experiences, perhaps I could use this time for a little zag of my own. Find some new tricks, push some new experiences, explore my “someday” list.

And so, I’ve started. I plan to use my blog to keep myself accountable to coloring outside my own lines.  Here are a few categories I’ve started with in the 55 hours since I learned that I’ve been freed of my corporate obligations:

Adventure with food. When it comes to eating, I am fearless. I haven’t met much I haven’t tried, or haven’t liked.  My decade of vegetarianism might have contributed to the giddy, reckless abandon with which I now approach food — especially pork products.

Besides eating, I am very accountable in the kitchen for food prep and dish clearing.  But I’ve long abdicated the actual preparation of food to my patient and creative husband.  In fact, when our son was about four, he told some of our friends that in addition to his daddy (who had just produced a lovely mushroom risotto for dinner), his mommy was a great cook too: “she makes cereal!”

So this week, I am taking baby steps toward self sufficiency in the kitchen. Monday, was Red Curry Shrimp (okay, it was with the help of a fabulous boxed kit from Marion’s Kitchen—but I selected and managed not to mangle the seafood and veggies). Last night: jalapeno vegetable casserole (my own making, and therefore meekly reviewed by my spouse). Tonight, I’m counting on divine inspiration for the small pumpkin awaiting its fate on my counter.

Make something tangible (and useful). Confession: my family does a collective groan every vacation when after a few days of idleness, I make my way to a craft store in search of yarn and knitting needles. It is not ever a well-planned initiative (I’ve always surmised that this is a good thing on vacation, because I plan —in detail —everything in my work life). This usually means I find a few skeins of yarn in a color or texture that makes me happy and then I just while away my vacation downtime making nothing in particular. Or at least nothing that anyone in my family would ever want to wear.

So this week, I started with a plan to learn to do more than a scarf or to sew together squares of knitting into something that causes my family to gasp “not it!” when I appear with my finished crafty confection.  Through the glory of Ravelry, Google and YouTube, I’ve learned to do a “tops down” raglan sleeved sweater designed by the talented Carol Feller. Since dinner last night, I learned to read the hieroglyphics of a knitting pattern from RS and WS to kfb, and ssk to k2together and CO. So far, my efforts look to have the potential to actually clothe a human form.

Learn, More Broadly. Ironically, for nearly 2 1/2 years I have marketed learning technology. I’ve written countless articles and blogs and tweets and produced educational videos about the power and potential of new tools to engage business people in more meaningful learning and development. So, along the way I’ve learned a lot about learning. But my own learning has been incredibly focused on technology and marketing.

So this week, I enrolled in a UC San Diego neuroscience course on Learning How to Learn. The professor, Terrence Sejnowski — just a few clicks of a mouse away —is one of the top ten experts in computational neurobiology on the planet.  And I get to learn from him and his colleague on how to train my brain to accept — and perhaps enjoy —topics that have otherwise unnerved me, using a few exercises.

The first tip: the Pomodoro technique. My brilliant professors counseled me and my virtual class that includes a high school student, a Filipino teacher, a Russian marketer and a number of call center reps — that less is more when it comes to learning new, complex topics.  They say that research shows if you want to absorb something into long term memory and build a foundation around it, limit the amount of time you focus on the new information. Ideally, no longer than 25 minutes at a time.

The decidedly low-tech way to support this process: set up your focused learning time (reading, reviewing, looking at anecdotes and visual examples) with a kitchen timer; the most common one happens to be shaped like a tomato.  Pomodoro in Italian.

So far, I’ve got an A in my first Coursera online Learning to Learn quizes.  And I’ve got an appetite from the Italian food mnemonics.

Must be time cook: little pumpkin, I am coming for you!

Looking forward to the next 55 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Spinach Pie of Friendship

Today, I was reminded of the delightful reward of being present. And of being kind.

It is mid September. For as long as I’ve been a software marketer, every turn of the calendar to September is like the turn of a southern debutante at the coming out ball: backed with hours of meticulously detailed preparation, carefully considered choreography and a mind-numbing amount of work.  Each and every September I am hip- deep in my version of announcing a debutante.  Mine is one in a sea of lovely new enterprise software coding “offspring” that is swanned around the veritable cotillion of technology industry tradeshows, each vying for the perfect blend of attention and social advance.

Caught up in this swirl of work, today I boarded a plane for a quick two-city business trip, to lay the foundation for my upcoming marketing events.  While I pride myself on my ability to constantly juggle and accomplish the ever-changing pile of work to-do’s, inevitably in September I drop a whole lot of other connections.  I almost missed two today on the plane: Jimmy and Janet.

I was looking forward to this flight. Since I was flying Virgin America, I’d made a deal with myself: after two weeks of very late nights of work, if I could manage to finish editing a partner prospectus, I would treat myself to to movie on the flight. Unlike me, I packed headphones and even did advance check-in to get my seat situated.

So, when I got to my row and saw an older woman sitting in my assigned seat, leaving a middle seat between her and her husband, I was a little bummed. But I gamely wedged in between the two of them and their many overstuffed bags of travel items, and set right to finishing an email before the flight. But my seat mates had other plans.  “Thank you so much, sweet, for taking the seat,” said the man. “My wife likes to lean against the window.”

Sure, no problem. And I went back to my detailed instruction to a colleague via email.

“My name is Jimmy and this is my wife, Janet,” he beamed, flashing a broad smile through a very thick accent. “What is your name, sweet?”

The feminist in me prickled a bit at this diminutive, but I explained my name and stuck my nose back into my work.

They became quiet, so I worked away, excited when I still had time for movie. After putting in my earbuds and paying for a movie, Jimmy leaned over and asked how I got the movie to work. I explained the on-demand channel and that it required a credit card. He thanked me. Five minutes later, Janet asked where I got my earbuds.  I pulled them off again and showed her how she could order some for $3.  “Can I give you cash, sweet, for some?” No sorry, but the airline said they only took credit cards.

To my left and to my right, each member of the 50+ year couple, chose to nap quietly instead of fight the array of digital prompts and requirement on their seat back entertainment systems.

When they rallied for a bathroom break, I did too. And on my way back I asked the flight attendant if I might buy headsets for my two elderly neighbors.  She gave me two sets with a smile: “it’s on us.”

I returned with my two cheaply-manufactured offerings and my seat mates responded as if I’d delivered them a lobster dinner. “What, for me? And even some for him? Oh, you are so darling.”

I set each one up with a show.  News for him: “Any stations where I can learn something  new and good about Hillary,” he said with a wink. “Oh, I think a movie, for me,” she said.

Reabsorbed into a romantic drama, I lost track of them both until I noticed lots of rattling packages and whispered comments between the husband and wife, with lots of hand signals. Seemingly, many of the hand signals were pointed at me.

“We thank you. And now, we eat.”  Then from the bottom of their many bags, emerged a bounty : first sandwiches, then packages, and more rustling and rattling…and a bag of pistachios. And eventually, spread across their little drop-down tables, emerged a lovely Greek picnic.

spinach-pie

“Please, eat with us.  Especially this, this is for you, you must try. It is homemade, and you will love it. I made. You try.” And Janet handed me a small hand-held spinach pie, with an entreating smile.

It was at once soft and light, but dense and savory. It was a treat made with care and it tasted of kindness.

And as we broke bread together, a mile in the sky, we broke the barrier of strangers and the chokehold of work and reveled in simply being present.

A gift without measure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginning

image

It’s December 27th. The work year has been wrapped. The gifts were selected and exchanged. The well wishes shared. The food prepared and leftovers assembled and stored, beguilingly, in the fridge. One zap in the microwave to an instant replay of our favorite holiday tastes, conjuring the best of our family memories and traditions.

But the biggest indulgence of all is nothingness.  Nothing on the calendar. And a wide open week ahead, to fill– or not–as we like.

Into this wide open possibility, I started my day with a random act that was at once thrilling and terrifying. I deleted my email. Every last one of the work and personal inbox items that veritably ruled my life all year long.

My newly downloaded IOS gave me the giddy-making one button power to finally round up and annihilate the 7000+ ghosts of deadlines passed and the weedy camouflage of junk mail.   I feel liberated and ready to reset that which I’ve allowed to shackle me.

As I get older, I’m realizing I no longer want to be as cavalier about what I do with my days, my life. So today, well into the middle of my life, I contemplate the possibility of beginnings.

I like this passage on Beginnings from David Whyte’s book  Consolations: The solace, nourishment and meaning of everyday words. 

BEGINNING
Beginning well or beginning poorly, what is important is simply to begin, but the ability to make a good beginning is also an art form. Beginning well involves a clearing away of the crass, the irrelevant and the complicated to find the beautiful, often hidden lineaments of the essential and the necessary.
Beginning is difficult, and our procrastination is a fine ever-present measure of our reluctance in taking that first close-in, courageous step to reclaiming our happiness. Perhaps, because taking a new step always leads to a kind of radical internal simplification, where, suddenly, very large parts of us, parts of us we have kept gainfully employed for years, parts of us still rehearsing the old complicated story, are suddenly out of a job. There occurs in effect, a form of internal corporate downsizing, where the parts of us too afraid to participate or having nothing now to offer, are let go, with all of the accompanying death-like trauma, and where the very last fight occurs, a rear guard disbelief that this new, less complicated self, and this very simple step, is all that is needed for the new possibilities ahead.
It is always hard to believe that the courageous step is so close to us, that it is closer than we ever could imagine, that in fact, we already know what it is, and that the step is simpler, more radical than we had thought: which is why we so often prefer the story to be more elaborate, our identities clouded by fear, the horizon safely in the distance, the essay longer than it needs to be and the answer safely in the realm of impossibility.

Email deleting may not be courageous, but it’s a start.

 

 

 

 

 

Jury Duty: Inconvenience, Truth and Opportunity

Scales of Justice
Scales of Justice

Six hours after I checked in for jury duty today, I made it to the jury room along with the suburbs’ best approximation of the American melting pot.

Judge Judy (really, that is her name) opened with: “Jury Duty is both instrumental to our American system of justice and an inconvenience to nearly every juror.”

Yup.  But if you are remotely fascinated by anthropology, jury duty is a treasure trove of ideas, ideals and “who’da thunk” insights on the human species in your corner of the world.  A few observations from today:

The Generation Gap Filler.
How long would it take you, if forced to sit right next to a complete stranger of a vastly different generation, to strike up a conversation? A friendship?

In our shared nine hours, I participated in, and witnessed many pleasant conversations, but one I overhead fascinated me the most.  Likely the very youngest and the very oldest juror each shared a row in the antiseptic waiting room and began a conversation so engaging, that I admit to ditching my new book club read to eavesdrop.

The octogenarian opened the gambit with a seemingly oddball question to the college boy next to him about whether he studied Daniel Boone in school… One thing led to another and the two engaged in a verbal tennis match of observation and follow-up questioning that covered:

1. Innovation:
Serve:  college boy snapped a selfie of the two of them to exhibit the speed of social          media and innovation of the iphone.
Return: elderly man. “Well I’ll be darned. That’s us! Steve Jobs was definitely an
innovator, even if he didn’t invent the phone, the camera or the computer. But do
you know the only president to have a patent? Abraham Lincoln for an inflatable
bellows patent that was secured in 1849 for use to raise river boats  stuck on a sand
bar…

2. Fact Checking:
Serve: elderly man. “Did you know Madam Curie won two nobel prizes, one of which she shared with her husband? And I have my own connection with great thinkers: I once had a science class with Albert Einstein’s great niece–and beat her best scores!”
Return: college boy. “Wow, when was Albert Einstein alive again?”
Volley: elderly man. “He lived to his mid 60’s I think. I believe he was born March 14, 1879…”
Deuce: college boy. “Want me to check on my iphone? Oh, this says he was born March 15, 1879.”
Advantage out: ” Well, I’ll be darned. How’d I miss a day?”

This pair sought one another out during breaks and picked up their educational exploration –and blossoming friendship–right where they’d left off . It was hard not to follow them and tune in to see how many times the Grandfather might just trump Google…

The Inequity of Justice
An hour after everyone was seated and the Jury director was wrapping up orientation instruction to a room full of 200 plus prospective jurors, a woman in a friendly-colored summer pastel cotton outfit, swept into the room, towing a quiet young man.

They sat and listened for about a minute, until the director asked if there was anyone in the room she hadn’t called from her list.

“You haven’t called this young man!” Shouted the woman, clearly aggravated.  “He got a jury summons; that was clearly your error. He has Down’s Syndrome.”

The director apologized and offered to speak with the woman separately in 5 minutes after she dispatched this group to the jury room where a  judge was waiting.

There could have been a million reasons why the situation unhinged the woman. Certainly, a misdirected jury summons–yet another paperwork reminder of the injustice of her son’s human experience–set the wheels in motion.  “I WILL NOT WAIT! AND, I DO NOT APPRECIATE THAT YOU ARE BLATANTLY WASTING MY TIME,” countered the woman, who likely spent the majority of her mothering years having to become increasingly assertive in advocating for her child, against the tide of society’s inequities.

Sometimes there is no right and wrong when it comes to rights of the wronged.

Running The Selection Inquisition: Balance of Sensitivity and Humor
The jury selection process is particularly fascinating, to have a front row seat to learn the backgrounds and biases of 18 total strangers. But it is a dicey business to socially undress a dozen people in front of a roomful of strangers. It takes a special touch to be the judge and have the job of  drilling–in a two minute group interview– into the impact of a father’s alcoholism or a spouse’s violence on a person’s ability to be an impartial judge of character on a jury.

This judge used plain speaking and a little humor to set the context; and she did it well. To set context she told the “underwear story” about a man who, 25 years after his underwear was stolen from a public laundromat (and the thief never tracked),  still held the view that all police were uncommitted to do their jobs well–and solve all reported crimes. “Are you,” she’d subsequently ask each of the 18 seated juror candidates,  “the underwear guy?”

She was also quick to show her own bias: as the long day drew to an end, without a jury fully selected, she asked for final questions.  One man –still in the back up group in the gallery–stood up and offered to take the place of anyone seated so far in the jury box, claiming he was keen for the opportunity to participate in the process for the first time. Without pause, Judge Judy shot back: “Remember what I said at the beginning about inconvenience? We tend to be suspicious of anyone who volunteers to be here.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you trap an elf today?

You know me. I’m the one in your yoga class that the instructor is addressing when he asks anyone that has a noisy mind, to kindly empty it out and just focus on their breathing.

I’ve always taken perverse pleasure in my ability to multi-task; to always have an updated to-do list top of mind; and –to my husband’s great dismay- to be poised at any hour of the day to helpfully complete a speech, a paper, a story, or even a sentence for anyone at a momentary lack for words.  I wake up caffeinated and ready to charge into each day.

But this year I have the opportunity to slow down for a bit. To take stock and think about breathing in my life a bit more fully, consciously and slowly.  I’m truly enjoying long conversations, beautiful California vistas from bike, hike and kayak vantage points, and more time with the people I love and admire.  And, I am reveling in the time to really look at the experiences that color my existence: finding little moments of kindness or beauty, or whimsy that light up a day.

Today, I strolled a path that I’ve only biked on previously.  A lovely dappled-light Spring afternoon set the dreamy backdrop for my walk, where I spied things that I’d completely missed in the past,  likely too busy thinking of my task list.

First, a full neighborhood of quaint birdhouses.  Brightly colored and creatively crafted, two dozen sweet homes were tucked amidst a copse of branches, literally off the beaten path of the nearby bike trail.

Birdhouse neighborhood.
Birdhouse neighborhood.

At my house, we have a new family of tiny wrens chirping away in a birdhouse our son built 10 years ago in grade school, propped up on our chimney base.  This is the first year I’ve stopped to notice the momma swooping in with offerings to the tiny chorus members nested inside. Fun to imagine all of the growing families ensconced in this hidden village of houses.

Next, was a flight of fancy.  A sunny collection of flowers caught my eye.  Upon closer inspection, the pink Gerbera and purple Hyacinth were part of a tableau, accompanied by a moss-lined and coin-topped treasure box and a sign that read: “Trap the Elf”.  And, just a few feet away, a tiny wooden door had been built in front of the trunk of a tree–ostensibly the Elf’s woodsy home.

Whimsical moment: Trap the Elf!
Whimsical moment: Trap the Elf!

These sweet, whimsical moments made me grateful. Grateful for the afternoon. Grateful for the families that had lovingly painted little corners of the world with their creative expressions. Grateful for the memories this sparked of my family’s magical moments. Grateful to clear my mind and breathe. Deeply.

 

Persuasion: Art, Science or Pride-free Experimentation?

Marketing challenge: persuading a dog past fresh spring grass.
Marketing challenge: persuading a dog past fresh spring grass.

Beyond my profession as a marketer, I draw on  skills for persuasion daily in my other roles: as a a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sibling, a neighbor, a friend, a volunteer and a pet owner.

An incident yesterday got me thinking about the ingredients of effective persuasion.   When you mix all of the art and science tricks in your repertoire to no avail, how far are you willing to reach to help cajole someone to change their thinking or take a different course of action?

Case in point: persuading a 14 pound dog to run around a 3 mile lake.

No brainer, right? Wrong.

Understandable challenge if the dog is old, overweight, arthritic or ill. Or maybe just lazy or unwilling to brave an unseasonably cold, rainy or hot day.  But, what if  there is no reasonable reason?

In marketing speak, my dog was already a satisfied “customer” that I was sure would be an easy “renewal”. She already loved our daily runs in every conceivable venue from mountain trails to beaches to neighborhood sidewalks and even across the noisy new span of the Oakland Bridge with a zillion lanes of traffic. And her Net Promoter Score (customer satisfaction) was off the charts: she cajoled every other dog–and even tried with a few cows, deer and turkey–to come and run with us.  So I thought I was good judge of her overall customer experience, level of engagement and willingness to respond favorably to an adjacent offer.

As we hopped out of the car at the lovely local reservoir on a stunning, sunny afternoon (in a small window of time between kid sports), I was comfortable that I was backed up with my time-tested communication tools to see me through a successful experience:

1. A leash and one word: “run?”  This does the trick 99.99 % of the time and is equally, efficiently effective for trips to the beach, jogs in the neighborhood, and adventures across miles of open space trail running.

2. Occasionally, there is a need to pull out the big guns: “treat?” Which brings the girl back, boundingly, across hillsides, from muddy ponds, and even tantalizing explorations of a hillside brimming with squirrel holes.

And then the inexplicable happened. My ever-ready running friend and ally stopped. Cold. She was suddenly, maniacally consumed with a grass-born OCD.  Each and every blade of grass along the trail now needed her personal triage: to be sniffed then methodically sorted into a to-be-eaten or to-be-peed-on classification.  Every single blade.

Amused, I watched carefully,  determined to understand her motivations and needs. About 5 minutes and 89 blades of grass into this, I engaged her with a little “campaign prompt” about how much better her experience might be with a change of venue.

She gave me the doggie version of an email unsubscribe. Not interested.

Then I tried proving the clear value of my customer service –and without her asking– I picked her up and carried her for a while, free of charge.  When I put her back down to let her test the new experience for herself, she balked.

GE’s CMO, Beth Comstock recently said in a keynote address to a roomful of marketers, that the ultimate skill of marketing is “to fly well in the fog.”  And even though everyone else out on this glorious day at the reservoir was indulging in 75 degrees and a bright sunny sky, I realized I’d run a-ground (or a-grass) in the fog.

Cajoling (“run?”) and bribery (“treat?”) were not working.  Then, I tried the toddler- tested skill: distraction (“see the squirrel?”). Finally,  the signal in the noise! She temporarily dropped a blade of grass from her mouth and looked up for a furry plaything…  Buoyed by that momentum, I tried again: “Oh! Let’s go find that squirrel… I see it over there, let’s chase it!”  She jogged 10 steps, then sniffed out my totally over-hyped promise. And went back to her fascinating weedy triage.

Flabbergasted, and with the carpool clock ticking in my ears, I made one more desperate attempt.  A bit of a high-wire act for me to attempt on a deadline and in front of dozens of happy, sun-drenched exercisers. But desperate times…

A little shyly, I tried the first one in a suitably high pitched tone: “blah-dahl, lah-dahl, lah!” My dog stopped her 312th pee and looked up, warily.  So, empowered, I let it rip, full-throated with no pride left to protect and a deadline to meet: “BLAH-DAHL, LAH-DAHL, LAH!” She was transfixed, alert, attentive to my every movement–we were on the hunt! She and I could both see and smell them in our imaginations–a gaggle of ungainly, opinionated turkeys.  I’d reached her actionable core, and it was time to make my move to persuade the ultimate action–a full out run around the 2.99 remaining miles of this lake loop.

And so there I was, the fearless, feckless marketer,  delighted to have hit on the magic elixir that persuaded my pint-sized canine to change course and try a new action.   Loudly doing my best turkey imitation: over and over and over, past every single blade of grass.