I’ve been tagged “it” by Kevin Hillstrom, author of the MineThatData! blog. As part of the 17th generation of recipients of this playful meme*, I’ve been challenged to tell you a few, fun personal details and then pass on the challenge to five others. Although this has become a much larger year-end Internet phenomenon, you can thank (or blame) Jeff Pulver for this particular game of tag.
I’ve learned a lot about my fellow bloggers, and gotten a good chuckle in the process. Probably the best list I’ve read so far (and mind you, my RSS reader is tuned exclusively to business- and technology-related blogs — no puffery to speak of) is from a blogger who will remain nameless, who confessed, “Every winter in college, I ran naked through the library giving out donuts.”
Here is my list, refreshingly free of nudity and donuts:
- At the age of 11, like a lot of pre-teen boys, I developed a passion for performing magic tricks. This could have made me a social pariah, but I was quickly “discovered” by Dick Oslund, a talented professional magician who was born in my same home town. Along with studying how to do tricks, my first mentor had me reading books on showmanship and selling. In high school, while my classmates were earning a few dollars with paper routes and odd jobs, I was building a surprising bank account by performing at children’s birthday parties. Dick taught me to offer the curious mothers a choice of three different shows, with varying prices: good, better and best. I never had to decide exactly what to do for two of those, because the mothers would always book the mid-priced show. In this and other ways, I learned lessons I’m still applying. But don’t ask me to do a trick. I’m way too rusty!
- I lived for a time, shortly after college, in Venice, CA, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my marketing education. Two blocks from the Pacific Ocean, I was helping a friend convert a factory building into apartments, living in the construction site. One day, working in the Beverly Glen area as a plumber’s assistant for some extra cash, I was nearly electrocuted in the crawlspace under the house of Tom Bosley, of Happy Days fame. The culprit was a poorly grounded sump pump. Perhaps it was the jolt of electricity, but shortly after that I was on a less hazardous career track.
- It’s hard for me to think of a professional accomplishment that wasn’t actually the work of a team of inspired and talented people. Therefore, I won’t single out any one of them here. Instead, I’ll tell you that I did some solo work as a volunteer, years ago, for the Wisconsin chapter of the American Cancer Society. On the basis of my analysis and by merely changing what donors were contacted, they increased renewal donations by 23% over the prior year. All without spending additional fundraising dollars. This added over a million dollars to their bottom line. (I also donate blood regularly, but not to the organization.)
- Between high school and college I traveled with a circus. Yes, a real circus. I kid you not.
- My wife keeps hoping I’ll outgrow my love of loud, fast punk rock music — some by musicians young enough to be my kids. In my opinion, by far the best album from last year is by The Arctic Monkeys.
*So what’s a meme?
The term was coined 30 years ago by the Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. It refers to a unit of cultural information, such as this “five things” list, an urban legend or even a catch-phrase, transferred “virally” from one mind to another. Like a virus, it needs a conveyance method and a hospitable host. In the case of this meme, the conveyance method from blogger to blogger is something called a “ping.” The bloggers I mention below will be automatically informed of my challenge to them. As for the hospitable environment? Hey, who doesn’t want to divulge a few facts about themselves?
Anyone who wants their brand to spread online — and offline — would do well to understand memes and how they can be leveraged.
Here is my challenge to the next five bloggers. Do tell!