Tainted

Tainted is usually a word used to describe something bad or terrible, but to me it also resembles something inspiring.

Two weekends ago I saw a fearfully touching reading of a play called Tainted about a family who lived through the troubling times of the Tainted Blood Crisis that took off in the 1980′s. This crisis deeply affected the lives of hemophiliacs across Canada.

What are hemophiliacs you ask? Hemophiliacs are individuals (mainly males) whose bodies are missing and/or cannot produce the protein Factor XIII in their blood that allows it to clot, meaning that yes, in severe circumstances they could bleed to death. Though there is no cure, there is a way to temporarily restore these Factor VIII levels via direct infusions into the blood. Sounds like a solid fix, right? But what if this medicine was once tainted with HIV and Hepatitis C? What if that one thing that enabled you to live a safe and normal everyday life was the thing that killed you? What if the Canadian Red Cross knew about this and did nothing but stand by and watch innocent victims get sick, and during those early and often hateful days, die and get ridiculed for contracting the “gay disease”. What if I told you this appeared to be true.

In the 1980’s, many people who’d had blood transfusions or used medical blood products were mysteriously getting sick. It seemed that by the time proper testing took place around 2,000 were infected with HIV and up to 60,000 contracted Hepatitis C. What’s worse is that there was major denial of infected products and none were ever recalled. No official statement was made until all of the infected products were distributed and used. It wasn’t until 2001 the Canadian Red Cross was found guilty of negligence for failing to screen blood donors effectively for HIV infection and stripped of its control over the blood program. To this day many are angered with the 2007 ruling that found there was “no crime” in the actions of the four doctors and a US medical company in relation to this disasters turn of events. Many believe this crisis is responsible for nearly wiping out an entire generation of hemophiliacs.

Similar tragedies have occurred in a few other areas of the world such as Japan, Iraq, Iran, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and the US. France is currently in the middle of their public inquiry to find out exactly how this happened and who’s to blame. The playwright behind Tainted has done a full production of the play in Toronto and is currently raising $5000 to take the reading to the UK and spread awareness.

For me, this play hit close to home. My brother has severe hemophilia. Though he himself was not directly affected by this crisis I know a few people who have HIV because of it today and the thought that it could happen again is frightening. This play deeply touched many hearts, including mine, and unveils so many of the awful and true stories of this tragedy. I believe it is such an impactful way of spreading awareness that I personally want to help this cause.

Here at Spring we like to do good things. For my birthday, I will be taking my annual “Spring Do Something Good On Your Birthday, Get the Day Off Day™” to donate blood, as Factor VIII is created from the plasma of donated blood. And, instead of my usual birthday-spree I will be donating $100 to GromKat Productions and the Moyo Theatre.

I suggested to the playwright that she have a reading recorded so it can be distributed and shared as a podcast. A few days ago, Kat Lanteigne (the playwright) emailed me and told me she has reached out to her CBC friends to see if it’s a possible endeavor. You can bet I’ll be sharing this recording if and when it becomes available, as I believe it is truly a valuable, tear-jerking, eye-opening 90 minutes worth hearing.

For more information on the play visit
gromkat.com/tainted/

For information on how to donate
gromkat.com/support-us/

To learn more about Hemophilia and the Canadian Hemophilia Society’s BC Chapter visit
www.hemophilia.ca/en/bleeding-disorders/hemophilia-a-and-b/what-is-hemophilia/
www.hemophiliabc.ca/

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A Snap Shot on the Facebook Camera App

Mark Zuckerberg may be taking some heat from the Facebook IPO chaos in Wall Street, but the show must go on in the world of social media with the launch of Facebook Camera app last Thursday. It seems strange that only two months after buying Instagram for a whopping $1 billion dollars, Zuckerberg created his own iOS photo editing software app entirely devoted to Facebook users. Although Facebook spokesperson, Derick Mains, told ABC News that “the product [had] been in works before the acquisition,” it seems as though Zuckerberg used a ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ approach prior to the launch of his new app. However, with the acquisition not quite closed, Zuckerberg claims that Facebook Camera will not bring an end to Instagram and that the original photo editing app will continue to develop independently from Facebook Camera.

Me climbing The Chief in Squamish, BC! (Edited using Facebook Camera on my iPhone 3G)

Phew! As an avid Instagram user myself, I was hesitant to accept Facebook Camera, fearing that the launch of the app would bring an end to my beloved editing software that could transform my photos from amateur to professional at the tap of a finger. However, after cracking under social media pressure I decided to see what all the hype was about and downloaded Facebook Camera from my iPhone.

Faster than you could say, “Cheese”, I was hooked! The app is incredibly user-friendly and easy to navigate with its familiar Facebook-like layout

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and graphics. Facebook Camera seems to start where Instagram left off, building on the former app’s use of professional-looking filters and simple upload technology, while also incorporating some much needed improvements. For example, unlike Instagram where you are only able to edit and upload one photo at a time, Facebook Camera lets you edit, crop, tag, comment, and apply filters to multiple photos from your entire camera roll – all of which can be uploaded in one go! Its home page consists of albums, photos and photo-updates from your Facebook contacts, allowing you to easily navigate through albums by simply sliding your finger across the screen. My technological shift from Instagram to Facebook Camera reminds me of the time I made the grand switch from being a devoted Blackberry user to become iPhone (and Apple) obsessed, but it’s a change worth making! Although Instagram exceeds in the artsy, hipster department in its appearance, Facebook Camera is undoubtedly more advanced in its ability to edit, upload and share multiple photos, making it the perfect app to create and showcase your inner photographic talents with the rest of the world. I strongly suggest you give Facebook Camera it a try – maybe you’ll be the next Steve McCurry.

Facebook Camera is available for any iOS device and can be downloaded from the Apple App store.

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THE BEST DRUG IS A WHOLE LOTTA HUG

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The phrase, “Am I nuts?” was the first thing that came out of my mouth at 6:00 am yesterday morning. This advertising business contains a lot of idealism. Sure that client will approve the ad with a happy Hitler holding a bunch of balloons (they didn’t). Of course you’ll be able to get that shot with a remote control helicopter (it crashed). Hug thousands of strangers while dressed as cuddly animals to raise money for charity? No problem, uh, somebody else will do the hugging right?

When Spring set up an internal contest to find a replacement for our very fun first day of spring fundraiser, Boink Day, we got a lot of great submissions. But a hug-athon was the clear winner. Full marks to Springer, Justin Van Mulligan for his submission. The plan, simple. Every time a Vancouverite would hug a cuddly-dressed Springer, Spring would donate $1 to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. We held Hugs For Hunger in downtown Vancouver. Much of the activity centered around the Art Gallery. Passers-by were invited to kick in their own money too. One kind soul actually gave us $100 for a hug.

This being our eighth year of Strange Acts of Kindness we’ve learned most of the lessons that go with holding weird fund raising events. One is, there are specific roles. Three kinds. People to sell participation (in this case, Hug Pimps) then there are those who do the “thing” – Huggers. And finally, collectors. They count the hugs and take in donations. These jobs have always been rotated among Springers as the day goes on.

Yet in the days leading up to Hugs for Hunger an air of nervousness descended on Spring. Few were volunteering to be huggers and many were just refusing. Turns out, the idea of hugging hundreds of complete strangers while wearing a fuzzy animal costume is a little out of most comfort zones. Turns out, it’s out of mine.

Turns out that in one of life’s oxymoronic truisms, you can’t get behind a great idea from behind it. You get in front of it. In a furry bear suit. In front of a core sample of humanity with open, fuzz-clad, beckoning, hugging arms.

The embrace hug

Which is what a bunch of us wound up doing yesterday. And it was one of those life experiences that has so far, defied words. Yesterday I had the incredible experience of embracing and feeling the embrace of hundreds of people who I have never met and will probable never see again. And found that each hug was like a tiny touch of their souls. I felt, and everyone who had the same experience agrees, that I could look inside of these people a little. For added sensory acuity, the suits provided lousy vision so there was a lot of hugging blind where other senses kind of took over.

I had hugs from people who felt good about hugging because they felt good about life. I had hugs that felt like that person was getting permission to be affectionate. Hugs from people who at that instant challenged themselves to something they were afraid of, and congratulated themselves in that hug. I hugged people who just really needed a hug. Hugged those who hadn’t had human contact for quite some time. Hugged the happy. Hugged shoppers who got something unexpected for free. Hugged little kids. Got firmly rejected by a guy who clearly could have used a hug. Hugged by the reluctant and the aggressively enthusiastic alike. Hugged an old man with a long beard and a turban and a cane. Hugged executives in suits and delightfully bewildered Japanese tourists. For some reason there was a large group of Native kids downtown yesterday and all of them lined up and gave me the most wonderful warm and sincere hugs of the day. And given the high quality of many other hugs, that’s saying something. An older woman among them said to me, “we must touch hearts when we hug” and we did.

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The whole thing, in its entirety has left me a still-grinning idiot.

I’ve been lucky enough to count up some great experiences in life. Hugging for Hunger now stands among the top of that tally. Sorry about this trite sounding rhyme but the best drug, is a whole lotta hug.

Thanks to all the Springers, the clients who kicked in, BooLala costumes for the deal on the furry suits, Jim at John Casablancas Institute for providing your very helpful extra personnel and thanks to every one of you who came in for the hug.

Love,

Rob Schlyecher

Chief Cuddling Officer at Spring

Hugs for Hunger Signature

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Hugs For Hunger

March 20 isn’t Christmas or Valentines Day or Mother’s Day but to me, the first day of spring is a day that needs its due. If you think I’m biased, you are correct. But let’s leave that aside for the moment and consider the following. If Vancouver’s long, damp, leave-for-work-in-the-dark-come-home-in-the-dark winter is a very long and miserable workweek, then March 20 is at least its Friday afternoon. The crocuses are up, the days are longer and warm evenings of flip-flops and ice cream cones are on the way.

We opened our little shop of ideas on the first day of spring eight years ago. So yes, the first day of spring is the first day of Spring. We’re grateful for the people who’ve come to work here and the clients who’ve come to work with us over those years. And, with exactly one paying client and an 8 x 12 workspace, we were grateful on our very first day in 2006. On that March 20, we donated a portion of our extremely meager working capital to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank through an interesting online donation program that involved Slinkys frozen into 250 lb. blocks of ice.

Since then we’ve encouraged Vancouverites to celebrate the exit from winter’s sodden squeeze on every first day of spring. Every time we’ve worked with the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. The Food Bank gets pretty much ignored this time of year so we have drawn attention and donated to it in some pretty unusual ways. These actions fit into a broader policy employed at Spring that we call Strange Acts of Kindness. (SAKs)

On a number of those March 20s we’ve held Boink Day. Boink Day is a pogo-stick-athon where we encourage downtown passers by to get on a pogo stick. When they do, we donate a dime per “boink” to the Food Bank. Or, they can get a Springer to do the same for their ten-cent donation per boink. Good fun.

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This year, we’re changing things up. It just feels like the city could use a hug. So, we’ll be sending our team of big, soft cuddly animals out on the streets this Thursday March 20th to Hug for Hunger. See one, give him or her

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a hug and we’ll donate a $1 to the Food Bank. Or, see one, ask for a hug, donate $1 yourself. Look for our designated Huggers around the Art Gallery. Here’s more http://hugsforhunger.com/ . Or check out @springad on twitter for #hugsforhunger and invite us to your office, workplace or crowded bus for a round of hugs.

It’ll make your day, and somebody else’s dinner.

Hugs,

Rob

http://hugsforhunger.com/

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Snapchat as an Ad Medium

Snapchat is a rapidly growing photo messaging application. Using the app, users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. These sent photographs and videos are known as “Snaps”. Users set a time limit for how long recipients can view their Snaps (ranging from 1 to 10 seconds) after which they will be hidden from the recipient’s device and deleted from Snapchat’s servers.

The extremely active Snapchat user base is made up primarily of millennials aged 13 to 23. Over 400 million snaps are sent daily and recent research shows that 77% of college students in North America are using Snapchat at least once daily. This has made it one of the fastest growing social networks. In fact, in November of last year the company turned down acquisition offers of 3 billion and 4 billion cash from Facebook and Google respectively.

As the network continues to grow, advertisers are looking for ways to get involved.

Brands can send snaps to users that follow them or create stories that are visible to followers and/or the public on Snapchat. Stories are a series of pictures/video clips that have been stitched together and are the closest thing to a broadcasting option that exists on the medium.

Check out stories:

Early adopter brands that have experienced success on the app include: Taco Bell, Seventeen Magazine and HBO. However, since the release of stories, increased activity from a more diverse set of brands is being seen. McDonalds, NPR, Bloomberg Businessweek, Juicy Couture and the New Orleans Saints have all recently launched campaigns using stories public to the Snapchat user base.

A drawback of the service as an ad medium is the lack of engagement metrics such as: likes, shares, favourites and retweets. Companies can only see if their post was viewed and there are currently no business friendly reporting and analysis features built in.

While Snapchat is quite young and unproven as an ad medium, a rapidly growing, engaged and diversifying user base mean a massive amount of potential. In a recent study, 73% of users surveyed said they would open a snap from a brand they knew, while 45% said they would open a snap from a brand they didn’t. There is the possibility of the service going the route of Twitter by incorporating “promoted snaps” to users, however there are no immediate plans for monetization.

It will be very interesting to see how advertisers continue to interact with the growing user base and how the app evolves in both its user experience and advertiser features.

snapchat

 

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Be Afraid of What Isn’t Scary

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A little while ago a couple from Whistler came to see us about doing some package design and branding for a line of premium priced, high quality organic baby food. They had a name for it. It was OK. But we changed it.

This business of marketing gorges itself on jargon: Differentiation, niche, point-of-difference, positioning. Rather than clear all those charge-by-the buzzword terms I’d like to add one:  Undull. Undull, it’s a verb, it’s an adjective. And it’s important because so much of what we experience in the world has been focus-grouped, committee-d and job-security-ed into drowsy submission.

My wife and I used to celebrate the fact that we always agreed on paint colours. Until we realized that we were painting all the rooms in our house different shades of beige. Sure we fought a lot when we repainted, but our place looks great.

Here at Spring we use a motivation exercise called think/feel/do.  As in, what does the target audience think? And how can we impact that thinking? What do they feel? And can we have a hand in that? And finally, what will they do? And can we get them to do something? And what is that? Think. Feel. Do.

We’ll start with an insight on our premium baby food target audience and go from there.

Insight: “First Born” is an important concept. It is the point when parents care the most about getting it right. It’s when they take the most photos, install the best car seat with the most care and put the most effort into parenting. I can tell you as a three-time parent, it’s pretty much downhill from there.

So? Anyone who pays a premium price for baby food is probably a first time parent. Yes I know, there will be second and third time parents etc. remember your marketing 101, secondary target audiences are superfluous to focus.

Think/Feel/Do

Note: Please forgive the attempts at a comedic tone here; case studies can be a little tedious without it.

Think:         “We must have the very best quality, safest and most nutritious baby food in the world for the very best baby we’ve ever had.”

Feel:          “We used to be cool. We were a couple. We hung out in cool places, we were individuals! And we just fell in love with this beautiful little person. But please, don’t bury us in a minivan. Yet.”

Do:             “Let’s buy baby food and stuff that reflects our newly discovered two-is-now-three-ness.”

Now let’s go back to the beige paint. Don’t want beige? Get your brave pants on.

Too many brands drop dead. Actually they were born that way. They weren’t different enough, they didn’t stand out. Nobody took a chance, nobody got into an argument. They were conceived in a committee and gestated in a focus group.

Taking the Undull Route.

We decided to call the baby food something kind of out-there and controversial. At the same time it had to be descriptive. We went back to our imagined parents, two individuals on a new frontier of love and fear.

We dealt with love by creating a brand that was loving. We dealt with fear by making it a clean and trustworthy package and design that projected purity, nutrition and confidence. And we found a name that felt iconoclastic and strangely, controversial. And individualistic. We wanted our audience to feel like they were doing something cool when they picked the package up off the shelf. We wanted them feel like they’d want to show it off in their pantry.

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Child of the 90s

The 90s were a time of economic prosperity and unbridled excess. So naturally, there were some really great commercials. Here is a selection of my personal favourites:

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MENTOS

Before Mentos was dropped into Coke Bottles to make mild explosives, it was the Freshmaker!

CATCH DE TASTE!

Seven year old me loved two things: The Toronto Blue Jays and Juice. Needless to say, McCain fruit punch made its way on to my family grocery list every week. In fact, I loved these “Catch de Taste” ads so much that they have since become the name of my softball team. We actually had a chance to meet Roberto Alomar a few years ago to get our Jerseys signed. He asked if he could have one, we gladly obliged.

TREMCLAD

No one has ever made painting a fence look this fun. I particularly enjoy how heartfelt the “RIGHT OVER THE RUST” line is sung. I’d also recommend taking in some of the City Pulse episode that comes after the clip.

ASTAR

Ok, so this one is more of a PSA than a commercial but that doesn’t make it any less incredible. Created by War Amps for their PLAYSAFE campaign it features an acrobatic robot named Astar, from the Planet Danger, who can re-attach its own limbs at will. Three important questions immediately come to mind:

  1. What is Planet Danger?
  2. Where
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    is Planet Danger?

  3. Why is Planet Danger?

CHOCOLATE BARS

I can’t be sure what product this ad is actually for but I think we can all agree that “some people say I eat too many chocolate bars” is one of the most iconic lines of any TV ad from the 80s or 90s. My favourite part is how uncomfortable he looks at the end.

BODY BREAK

If Hal Johnson and Joanne MCleod told me to eat dirt, I’d probably do it. I wonder if that fax number still works…

MOUSE TRAP

I could probably write a whole separate blog about 90s Toy ads because they were all so perfectly persuasive but Mouse Trap had to be my favourite. LOOK AT HOW MUCH FUN THEY ARE HAVING. Also worth noting is that the actual Mouse Trap game was impossible to set up and broke immediately, placing it alongside “The Grape Escape” and “13 Dead End Drive” in every garage sale ever.

Honourable toy ad mentions include: Creepy Crawlers, Simon, Sockem Boppers, Bop-It, Don’t Wake Daddy, anything NERF.

While we are on the subject of 90s nostalgia, Microsoft did a great job rehashing the classics in this spot:

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The 7 Hats of the Advertising Intern

If you are an account services intern at a place like Spring it can be hard to answer one very simple and common question. Advertising agencies rely on clear communication, but you might find yourself stumbling and stuttering when asked:  “Sooo what do you do all day?”

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Well it’s hard to come up with an articulate reply because you do a lot, but never a lot of the same.

Sometimes you will be working on a job and then, suddenly, you will start on something so massively different that you need to stop and remind yourself what sort of task you are facing.

That’s where the hats come in.

Keep them handy, you never know which one you’ll need next.

1.    The Quest a.k.a “We need foam yellow grapes. ”We need a giant fox costume.” or “We need 200 birthday hats.” 

Someone needs a very particular item to help nail the feel of an ad. Rarely do you have ample time so your job is to quickly find out whether the item even exists, and how to get it as fast as possible.

If all else fails, you could use this line with the creatives involved “Hey, I didn’t get exactly what you wanted but you can do that photoshop thing, right?”

2. The Producer a.k.a  “check this” ”double check this” or “triple check this

A big part of this hat is looking for errors and typos, but you do need to think critically. You are looking for ways to improve ads, which could be grammar, adding something, removing something, making parts more visible, etc..  

Mention anything you notice, no matter how seemingly insignificant. It’s better you notice than the client, or worse neither.

3.    The Reporter a.k.a “Hey did you hear what Google is doing?” ”Did you see the new Facebook Ad Manager option?” or “Anyone else not like the new Pepsi commercial?

Advertising is a volatile industry where ideas emerge at a remarkable rate. Relaying back to your account services team on new campaigns, social media trends, and ad agency news is therefore an important part of your job. Keep an eye on the Twitter and Facebook of other agencies, both local and international, and a few good websites such as BuzzFeed and Advertising Age.

4.    The Handyman a.k.a “The air conditioner isn’t working.” “I can’t connect to the printer.” or “The thing on that thingy in the fridge is stuck again.”

Things break and there are a lot of such things in an office. You might not wear this hat often but sometimes before repairmen get called, you will be.

5.    The Administrator a.k.a “Could I get an expense report.” “File this please” or “Could you please file this expense report” 

For an office to run smoothly there needs to be certain procedures that are done consistently and precisely. These tasks might not be the most fun in the world, but the more you do them the quicker and easier they become.

6.    The Coffee Runner a.k.a  “Can you set up a meeting at 2?” two milk, no sugar” or “*phone rings*”

This hat is for all those jobs you’ll get that involve doing the little things, behind the scenes, to keep clients happy. It’s not quite Mad Men but these tasks are good experience for talking with clients.

 7.    The Thinker a.k.a “I need a research report.””Let me know what you think of this” or “Wanna write a brief?”

The most important jobs you’ll get need this hat. So sit back, take your time, and think hard about the questions you are trying to answer.

This hat might not be that common as an intern, but once you put it on it is hard to ever take off. You’ll bring it home, you’ll wear it out, you’ll even wear it underneath your other hats at work, because wearing this hat is why you got into advertising in the first place.

There are not many jobs where you can be working hard while staring out the window, this is one of them.  Cherish that.

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Ads That Save Lives

My mom loves to tell me the story about the time I almost died. I was 3 years old and eating apples when I started choking (I don’t remember any of this, of course). She said I just went silent and my lips started to turn blue. Thankfully, my mom works in the healthcare industry and is required to know first aid, including the heimlich maneuver. Since I am here writing this blog, I guess I don’t have to tell you that my mom was successful. Now if you’re wondering why my mom would tell me the story about how I almost choked to death, well it’s because she understood the value of having first aid training.

So, I was glad to come across this St. John’s Ambulance ad highlighting the importance of first aid skills from BBH London. The campaign is called “Save the boy” and features a rather shocking ad that shows a boy falling out of a tree and his helpless untrained father. But in my opinion the shining star of this campaign

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has to be the interactive website that allows you to perform virtual first aid on the boy.

Here in BC, St. John’s Ambulance offers first aid and CPR courses over 2 days that cost around $150. It’s definitely a bit of a financial and time commitment but when you consider that you’re learning some life saving skills that you’ll have for the rest of your life, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Watch the ad here: http://www.sja.org.uk/savetheboy/

Register for a class here: http://www.sja.ca/bcyukon/Pages/default.aspx

 

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There’s no such thing as a stupid question, right?

I’ve recently been asked a trick question that made me stumped at my own answer.

“It’s 12am midnight; you just finished your first day at work. Your boss text you and wrote: “I want a cup of coffee on my desk by 9am (the time you start). What do you do?”

I gave an answer without thinking twice “I get him a cup of coffee.” Luckily this wasn’t an interview question; otherwise I would’ve failed miserably. The answer…More questions!

“Where would you like your coffee from?”

“What size would you like?”

“How would you like your coffee?”

The lesson learned from this scenario: don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t assume when you’re not sure. It might be common sense here, but we still make the same mistake. It’s one of those things where it’s easier said than done.

As a new intern here at Spring, there would always be several things going through my head before I would ask someone a question: They may get annoyed or they may think you’re unreliable, incapable, etc. Trust me, you’re doing yourself and the person you’re helping a favour by making sure and getting the job done right the first time, rather than making assumptions. By doing everything all over again, you’re not only wasting your time but other’s as well.

I’m not an expert (yet) in what people expect from you in the business world, but I can give you my perspective in filtering out these stupid questions (Yes, they do exist).

1) If you can find your answer on Google, don’t ask.

2) Direct the question to the right person. -i.e. are the dish washer dishes clean? Ask the person in charge of cleaning the dishes the day before or the day of!

3) Try to not ask open ended question. –i.e. picking up a birthday cake. Don’t: “Where do I buy a cake?” Do: “Where do you usually buy your birthday cakes from?” “Price range?” (Same as the coffee scenario.)

There are people who won’t answer your question, but you have to realize they’re helping you grow to become more independent. The next best thing to do is ask yourself, can I answer this myself? Otherwise follow the three steps above. And when you realized

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you asked a stupid question, don’t crawl under your bed in a fetal position and cry over it…grow thicker skin, get over it, and learn from it.

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