2×4: One series that examines two topics, creativity and productivity, by asking those who make things on the web the same four questions on both subjects.
Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know today’s 2×4 guest, Geoff Livingston a little better. He is a man who looks to do good, looks to do more and encourages you to do the same. He believes in the tools that social media has to offer and believes that we should use them to make a difference.
He is straight forward, blunt even and has made an enemy or two along the way. Yet one thing becomes quickly clear when you start talking to Geoff. He believes what he says and says what he believes. He puts tremendous thought into how he spends his time and he clearly wants to make a difference.
Geoff is the co-founder of the non-profit social good marketing boutique Zoetica. He has already published two books on social marketing and ishard at work on a third with fellow 2×4 participant and all around amazing person Gini Dietrich.
Without further ado, here is an inside look at how and why Geoff Livingston does what he does….
Have you always considered yourself to be a creative person?
Since I was very young. I was in art talented until my parents pulled me when I was in 8th grade. They were concerned about my earning potential. I guess that was the equivalent of AP in the 80s for art, at least in my school district. I took up words or writing as my medium increasingly through High School, and was a Literature major in college.
What mediums and inspirations do you gravitate towards to realize your creative goals?
Clearly the written word, but also visual arts. If I had time to paint, I would take it up again. I’m sure I will later on. For now, photography satisfies that hunger, though I could stand to have a few more windows of time to shoot and edit. What’s good is that time is being absorbed by book writing, which is a dream of mine. I am lucky to have the chance to continue to write.
If you had to point to one thing, what specific posts or creation are you most proud of and why?
I wrote a novel in my senior year of college called The Fundamentalists. I picked it up again ten years later, and revised it significantly, basically rewriting the whole thing in depth. It came this close to being published, I had a small house nibbling on it. Novels are very, very hard to get published in the digital era. But by far that is my most proud creation.
And you know what? When I am done this book with Gini Dietrich, my third business book, I plan on taking a good long break, and then I will revise The Fundamentalists and get it published, either by a real house or by myself. I never give in when I set my eyes on something, even if it takes me 20 years like this project will.
My second business book is also something I am proud of, Welcome to the Fifth Estate1, especially now that the publisher fixed most of the damn typos (cough). The book was well reviewed, and really represents everything I know in social. It is my Art of War, and it is experience based. I am confident anyone who reads it will get something out of it, and that means something to me.
Any suggestions for those who feel they may not be creative take to unlock their inner artist?
Oooh, I don’t know. Private time is critical. Taking an hour or two just to breath and screw around is so critical. There’s a great book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron2. It’s very good for this type of thing.
Can you describe your current personal and professional responsibilities?
Well, I am a Dad, and that is by far my most important responsibility. In any day, business or not, I invest 2-3 hours into my daughter’s life, bare minimum. I am not online when I spend time with her.
On the business front, I have been working on this big project called Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington. This is a giving day for the metropolitan DC region on November 9 that is expected to raise $3 million and encourage well over 10,000 civic actions. It’s really an awesome project, combining multiple disciplines and extending well beyond social into channels, traditional PR, events, advertising and direct marketing. Further, it is a bit of a test, seeing if the long tail model works for giving in major metro markets, and if so, the sky is the limit. Really, I feel like this project ties my past six years in social with the 12 years of prior marketing and communications experiences into a grand effort.
Otherwise, I am book writing again for my third published title, this time with the delightful Gini Dietrich. Oh, yeah, then there is the blogging and social media stuff, which admittedly has been treated like the shoemaker’s children of late.
How do you go about balancing the personal, professional and digital?
Increasingly, I balance it in that order, and let the digital slide. Personal must come first, and that’s the difference between healthy lives and myopic ones that can go astray.
Professionally, showing people how to fish is much better than fishing, and so professionally, I get more out of seeing clients succeed now. I don’t need to be the man deep inside. I am confident that by focusing on the few opportunities to invest in people, I will have more reach than I would if I were a top blogger. For example, the Inspiring Generosity blog that I helped launch three months ago got more traffic per post than my personal blog in August. It is change focused and not social media specific. That means more to me.
What tools and techniques do you find yourself counting on to get through your workload?
I hate email. I use an auto responder to excuse myself from responding to everyone. I know, some people hate it, but I hate wasting my time on something I feel is not important. And I am also a zero in box guy, so tons of email drives me nuts. I don’t respond to 99% of pitches, and don’t make myself very available for free anymore. If I get an ask for something that I feel is an unfair request, I don’t pull a Shankman, but I don’t respond at all even though I certainly read the request.
I also minimize my phone time, using that tool for important conversations. Same for meetings. The more you can do electronically the better.
This may seem anti-social, but in reality it’s more a prioritization. Again, I want to concentrate on a few opportunities as opposed to being accessible to all. In that sense, I have a B2B marketer’s focus, not a consumer one. I invest time on the opportunities that are most fulfilling or can affect the most beneficial change for society.
What is the best starting point for the unproductive amongst us, who are looking to get more organized?
Understand what you want, and then go get it. Don’t get distracted. When we chase windmills for weeks on end, it can be disheartening to look back and see that we are nowhere. But when we have goals, and are disciplined about staying on task, dreams come true.