Something you may not know about me is…I began as a magician’s assistant

My very first job out of college (gasp! in 2007) was anything but a typical 9-5. But it’s part of who I am today.

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This is literally a scan of the article clipping from the Chapman Alumni magazine.

To this day, I’m not really sure how I came home and told my parents my first job was going to be a magician’s assistant. Quite literally but not literally. You see, I was the executive assistant to a magician turned business owner whose company, JMP Creative, operated in the toy and promotional product industry.

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Yes, you’re reading that Twitter profile correctly, this was all in a workplace that had created a billion toys. All of these rooms were part of the tour and culminated at the world’s most unique conference room…the mother ship.

The underlying meaning of “get the conference room ready” meant my timing had to be exact. I learned to give myself at least 15-20 minutes of run-around prep where I’d swiftly navigate the presentation route throughout the toy room, arcade, Think Tank, artist area, library (I always adored how many books we had) –before sneaking past the tour in progress and deftly sprinting across the parking lot to our adjacent building–where I’d switch off the house lights and turn on (you guessed it) the show lights and soundtrack to the conference room a (life-size?) spaceship suspended upon an iron framework.

JMP Creative_space ship conference room_Holly Miller.pngMeanwhile, back on earth, I learned the true value of hard work.

The ingredient for success is hard work.

My early days were spent among artists, animators and inventors in a 10,000 square foot million dollar workplace of productivity and ideation. I organized numerous display shelves of toys (created by JMP or collected by Jim for inspiration purposes), dusted glowing pinball machines weekly and practically had the corporate credit card on file at the Container Store for all the stackable jars of brightly-colored goop we’d store or ship off to the production factory.

It was really hard work to stay organized myself and to do the same for our CEO. Still, I loved how weird and chaotic the day-to-day operations could be. Seriously, I should have started blogging back then. Every day was unique and challenging in its own way and I just had to jump in and navigate.

Thinking back, I sat in on numerous meetings with Jim where inventors would bring their ideas or contraptions to him seeking product or marketing innovation. It’s where I myself began to tune into my own instincts as a marketer thinking, “what kind of person would likely search for something like this?” and “would they purchase it?”  There was a lot involved from research, iteration, pitching, revising, patenting, tinkering, refining etc, etc.

The lesson I walked away with was: if you want to make something a reality, you have to bring it to life. There is no substitute for hard work.

Sparking creativity: Brainstorming is play-storming 

Remember when you were a kid and a couch fort was anything but a crude pile of pillows and cushions? Your imagination was the key to wherever you wanted to go. We seem to lose this ability as we grow up.

But somehow, Jim had captured lightening in a bottle. His forte was engineering creative brainstorm sessions for adults. During my time there, we hosted a variety of groups from entertainment executives to wealthy foreign entrepreneurs. The sessions were designed around a simple concept: play.  Even our weekly internal meeting (“Monday Fun Day”) was engineered in the same way.

Jim habitually collected toys, props, or anything representing creative imagery.  To him, each was a different kind of tool he hoped might help inspire a client’s big idea. While it was an incredibly fruitful and ingenious technique, organizing this world in which I found myself proved to be a unique challenge.

Eventually, I grew to appreciate my own balance of organized chaos when it came to creativity. Jim was one of my earliest mentors. He was an incredible example to me of the importance of building a personal brand around showmanship (he was a magician, after all). His facility was on par with that feeling of following John Hammond around Jurassic Park, “we spared no expense!”

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Whenever I came up against a roadblock, Jim encouraged me to find a different way to solve the problem. Those moments of having to think on my feet in front of him seemed endless. I frequently found it stressful not finding the right answer immediately. Ultimately, nature won and my brain found a new neural pathway to producing results.

Because of this, I became a much more resourceful person. Now I think, “Ok that didn’t work. But there is always a way. What’s the next thing I can try?”

My extraordinary moment – Creating Christmas in July

One of the best projects I got to be a part of was when JMP was approached by a production company to participate in the reality television series American Inventor. Three inventors were selected to work with our company and we were all on different teams to help them build, prove and develop a go to market strategy for their respective inventions. I was part of Team Chavez, with the Guardian Angel product (woo!).

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That’s me inching backwards from a mock living room completely engulfed in flames (don’t worry, mom, it was a controlled burn). See, even the professionals are present. How I got to that point requires a bit more context.

Chavez, a firefighter by trade, had an invention where the angel on top of a Christmas tree was specially designed activate and release water by way of a coil system were the tree to catch on fire.

Typically, we would be in development on a toy or product for up to a year. But due to the nature of reality TV and the production schedule, we basically shot around the clock for one month.  The timeline was compressed, to say the least, and we still had to go through all the stages of product development from sketched concept to a finished, market viable product.

On the big shoot day, production teams, JMP crew, and fire fighters set up on the back lot of a local fire station training ground to capture the product in action. We built a three-walled mock living room completely furnished (by yours truly) with curtains, couch, coffee table and, of course, Christmas tree (apparently, I couldn’t be bothered with presents at the time?).

Let’s take this in for a moment, this was July in southern California and I found Christmas trees (it still amazes me that I found a way). It was already incredibly hot outside and there we were trying to light a tree on fire to capture the successful product activation of a fire-suppression system and not enough of anything to be setting on fire. All in a day’s work.

But we delivered.

“JMP set up five cameras to shoot the test from every angle while ABC’s crews videotaped all the action.

The first test, the horn sounded but water didn’t flow because the angel blocked the release mechanism.

The second test put out the fire so fast there was hardly any flame.

Chavez wanted a bigger fire.

“You’re killing me,” McCafferty cried, half joking. They had just one fire sensor and two Christmas trees left.

The third test, a two-foot flame shot up, the horn sounded, water sprayed, the fire was not just suppressed but extinguished.

“It was probably one of the best moments in the whole process,” McCafferty said.
The judges and viewers who voted to determine the winner apparently agreed. Chavez won the million dollars and is in negotiations with First Alert.”
http://www.ocregister.com/2007/08/27/american-inventor-contestants-get-help-from-local-firm/

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I really should have asked for some of the firefighter turnout gear…

From Big Ideas to Big Data

My experience as a magician’s assistant gave me a unique skill set. It taught me how to become more adaptable, resourceful and creative. These days, I work for a German software platform that uses big data insights around business intelligence and the most outlandish place my meetings take me is Berlin.  I no longer have meetings in space ships or have to source Christmas trees in LA in the middle of summer. But my foundation in toy and product development is where I developed a great deal of humility around what it takes to bring an idea to life.

Bring on the rare, the bizarre — I can manage. I do my best work in the unknown because it’s oddly comfortable. Care to join me? It can be fun!

 

I know it all sounds so hard to believe. I guess that’s why seeing is believing. Here’s an old promo video I found on YouTube that highlights the awesome work place that is JMP Creative. Enjoy!

 

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The Best Practical Advice

I happened to be listening to the radio while getting ready this morning and I heard a trailer for the Martin Scorsese film ‘Silence’. At the very end, there was this sound bite from Liam Neeson where his character says, “Pray. But with your eyes open.”

That stopped me, mid mascara swipe. I thought, “that’s got to be the most practical advice ever.” It’s the balance between being hopeful but also realistic. Kind of like these quotes which I also love:

Be kind, but not weak.
Be strong, but not rude.
Be bold, but don’t bully.
Be humble, but not timid.
Be proud, but not arrogant.
Be confident, but not cocky.
Trust, but don’t be deceived.

Be content, but never settle.

Though, hands down, the most practical advice of all: acquire a very particular set of skills 😉

How Drinking A Protein Shake Before a Workout Made Me Eat Again

I had gotten into the habit of consuming my protein shake on the drive home from an evening workout. Good, healthy habit, right? Well, lately I noticed that once I got home, I wasn’t hungry for a real meal. This was happening fairly regularly over the past few weeks and for as much as I spend on groceries (and how much I enjoy food!) it wasn’t a good trend.

There were also times when I had been experiencing some nausea post-workout which also caused me to not eat a sufficient dinner. I think the upset stomach had more to do with the level of exertion during the workout. Still, it’s not a good sign to consistently have your body be unwilling to replenish its nutrients. Not eating dinner also meant I was missing out on hitting my macro nutrient goals; these are the “big three” I learned to keep a close eye on if you really want to impact your weight loss or weight gain – protein, carbs, and fats. In a way it felt good to put in the hard work that’s often required for a CrossFit workout but I also felt like I was robbing my body of the fuel it needed to sustain me in my desired level of activity.

I really dislike feeling sick in any capacity. I’m one of those people who has those giant bottles of Tums from Costco that you gradually chip away at. And while this sometimes helped to subside the nausea, as an athlete, you look forward to eating 😛

I decided to change things up today and performed a little test on myself. An hour before heading to the workout, I had my protein shake. I’m happy to report it worked! I was hungry afterward. And! The workout was definitely a good test of my exertion too.

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All of this…took me roughly 27 minutes to complete.

50 push ups
30 pull ups (I did them with a band)
50 bench hop over’s
30 alternating dumbbell snatches (25 lbs)
50 wall balls (14 lbs)
30 slam balls (15 lbs)
50 lateral ball throws (14 lb)
30 burpee broad jumps

So, after finishing that little whopper, for dinner I enjoyed a modified version of home-made chicken noodle soup (I love improving upon the classics). Instead of noodles, I added different kinds of carbs in the form of vegetable pot stickers and diced red potatoes. I didn’t have carrots so I substituted with a larger helping of celery. For an extra bit of taste, I added a dash of balsamic vinegar.

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I ❤ dumplings 🙂

So there you have it. My hope is that if you’re experiencing something similar, don’t be afraid to switch things up on yourself. Eating right and being active are important ingredients to living a balanced life. Sometimes you need to keep yourself on our own toes.

 

Want more for yourself? Expect more from yourself first.

I found it a bit ironic that the top organic search result on “new years resolution statistics” shows we’re just as apprehensive about making them as we are about not making them. The data surveyed roughly 1,200 respondents (#grainofsalt) showed there are just as many people unwilling to create goals for themselves as there are people who refuse to even try.

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http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

So yeah, 2017 is off to a great start 😉   No matter where or when you choose to dip your toe in, I’ve found, the point at which you do so largely depends on why you’re doing it. In my experience, the point at which you’re in enough “pain” about something is the tipping point.

I wonder if the reason people are divided about making resolutions is because they inherently know they won’t follow through. Yet, human beings are inherently aspirational; we always want more for ourselves and our loved ones. But to get those kind of gains, we have to want more from ourselves.

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When you think about what you stand to gain, you get excited because it’s what you want!

I spent most of last year life-hacking my own schedule and routines figuring out how to make 1% shifts to be more consistent and become more aligned with what makes me happy. This year, I’m keeping it simple and building upon the things I put into place (trust me, it’s not always easy to keep yourself in line :P) Here’s a peek at what I’m going to focus on asking of myself in order to continue building a life I love:

  1. Read or write ever day.
  2. Focus on completing three high-value tasks each day.
  3. Planning the next day the evening before.
  4. Making health a priority – actively move or stretch and nourish my body.
  5. Learn from people I admire.
  6. Keep goals in a visible place and set check-points for myself ever three months or so.
  7. Have a powerful and inspiring ‘why’ for where I choose to invest my time.
  8. Insert more random dance breaks…maybe at work…maybe during my workout. You never know. All I know is, if I’m dancing join me 🙂

African Safari – Maasai, baboons and the Ngorongoro Crater

African Safari – Day 2
Location: Ngorongoro National Park Crater
Lodging: Ngorongoro Serena Lodge

Saturday morning began with a game drive on our way to the crater. Still en route, we stopped to visit Maasai village where our group had the opportunity to interact with members of this nomadic tribe.  We were invited into their home. I was amazed that such tall people could be comfortable inside these small huts. But once inside and out of the sun, “comfort” took on a whole new meaning.

Dad and I talked at length with a young man who was about my age. Of course, he asked why I wasn’t married yet. If only it were as simple as getting hitched to a man who has killed a lion and offers my dad 100 cows. My world is somehow lacking men with those kinds of credentials 😉

The Maasai are what you might imagine as the tribal ‘face’ of East Africa. Their brightly colored cotton capes called Shúkà replaced animal skins in the 1960’s. We gathered the red cloth was for younger individuals and blue for older members.

Evening lectures focused on treating patients who had had a brush with animals with tentacles or venomous marine life. Important note: flush out a jellyfish wound with vinegar not human pee.  The lectures also touched on snake bites on ankles and we wrapped up with wild animal attacks. A few chuckles could be heard among the group since earlier that day, at the gate of the crater, we had a very close encounter with a baboon. I probably could have given that part of the lecture 😉  It’s a great story that I can recount for you next time we’re swapping stories.

Tomorrow, we would embark into the Ngorongoro crater.

Photos from my Canon Rebel T5.

Photos from my iPhone.

 

 

Year-end Reflection on Rapid Fire

I love Christmas time but not for the reasons you might expect. To me, this time of year is a reflection point. In particular, it’s a day where we collectively consider what’s really important in life and make an effort to be surrounded by people who contribute to it most.

I think we should have more of these types of days throughout our year because far too often we get caught up in life, in jobs, in relationships, in things that don’t serve us. If you don’t have marked reflection points, it’s hard to evaluate whether or not the things around you still serve you.

My goal for 2017 is to continue to put energy into things that actually contribute to my growth. I came across a great, quick approach shared by Marie Forelo to evaluate how to get more of what you want. It’s so simple, I love it!

Here’s how it works. Try it on rapid fire (because want to get back to family time), go through your pictures on your cell phone and through your calendar for all the travel, meetings or appointments you had over the year and answer these questions:

  1. What worked?
  2. What didn’t work?
  3. What were the highlights?

From there, riddle me this: what does 2017 look like if it’s full of ‘what worked’?

Ready? Go.

 

Holly’s Reading List

I typically over prepare for questions I might get asked on webinars or talks I’m giving. But I was recently part of a panel at an event hosted by the San Diego American Marketing Association where I was asked a question about what books I’ve read that have had the most influence on my professional career.

Holly Miller speaker

Top-Of-The-Funnel: Awareness Strategies & Technologies

For a split second, I blanked.

But, I’ve actually read quite a bit! I’m the type of person that’s reading 2-3 books at a time. So, for personal and professional development, productivity, and all-around inspiration here is the batch of books I highly recommend checking out:

“Emotional Agility” – Susan David, PhD
“Settle for More” – Megyn Kelly (hand’s down the book is amazing)
“And the Good News Is…: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side” – Dana Perino
“Let Me Tell You about Jasper . . .: How My Best Friend Became America’s Dog” – Dana Perino
“The 48 Laws of Power” – Robert Greene
“The Art of Seduction” – Robert Greene
“Mastery” – Robert Greene
“Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” – Brene Brown
“The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that fuel Success and Performance at Work” – Shawn Achor
“Being in Balance: 9 Principles for Creating Habits to Match Your Desires” – Wayne Dyer
“Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships” – Daniel Goleman
“First you have to row a little boat” – Richard Bode
“Marketing Genius” – Peter Fisk
“Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” – Brian Tracy
“The Power of Myth” – Joseph Campbell
“On The Shortness of Life” – Seneca

 

Now, the next time I get asked this question, I’ll be able to say “oh, on my blog itsmillertimebaby.com, you can find a list of the books I recommend.” 🙂

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Having a laugh along with Alan Bush

About the event: Top-Of-The-Funnel: Awareness Strategies & Technologies

Our first-ever event collaboration with SoCal Marketing Club was an unqualified success! An SRO crowd heard about the latest trends in awareness strategies and technologies from our all-star panel: Alan Bush of Ignite Visibility, Holly Miller of Searchmetrics, Donovan Moore of Goodway Group, Adam Wagner of Raindrop Marketing and moderator John Bertino of The Agency Guy. Many thanks to our lead event sponsor Searchmetrics, to Downtown Works for the fantastic space, to Stella Artois and California Fruit Wine Co. for the tasty adult beverages, and to Lenóce photo for capturing the spirit of the evening. @sandiegoama