closet full of clothing including shirts, pants, and coats

Wardrobe Life Hack: To the Left, To the Left

In my conquest to own less things, I’ve been developing some life hacks to whittle down my possessions or to not acquire new ones.

One of my favorite wardrobe life hacks has been smartly dubbed “To the Left, To the Left” by my good friend Mary Gwen, and it helps me decide which articles of clothing are worth keeping or if I’m able to give them away. It works like this:

  1. Hang all shirts, pants, coats, hoodies, and sweatshirts in a closet.
  2. Go about my normal life wearing clothing items from the closet.
  3. When finished with my day, I hang each used item on the far left-most hanger.
  4. Over the course of several months, my most used clothing gravitates to the left and my less important items filter toward the right.

With this hack, I can see at a glance which items are truly worth keeping and which are not. This has made my decisions on Donation Sundays much easier.

I hope this inspires you to try this wardrobe hack yourself. Do you have any hacks of your own? Hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ to share your own ideas or questions.

Southwest Airlines plane interior

Airline Alliances for Beginners

This year I gave the gift of new memories to both my parents. Each one was given the choice of one destination out of five. I’m really excited to be traveling to China with my dad in May, and I’ve been heavily researching airline alliances and airline rewards programs so we both can maximize our flight miles for future trips.

I guess I feel altruistic today, so here’s what I’ve learned about airline alliances.

Full disclosure: I found this blog post on “rookie travel tripsextremely helpful in coming up with this summary.

Why Alliances?

The three main airline alliances, including oneworld Alliance, SkyTeam Alliance, and Star Alliance, now account for almost two-thirds of the total world airline capacity and more than 80 percent of air travel spend between the world’s top 100 business cities. (Source: oneworld fact sheet)

Most people want to travel internationally to different markets, but local laws and ordinances make it almost impossible for a single airline to operate under all those pressures. Alliances enable like-minded airlines to work together for the benefit of passengers.

I’ve included a summary of each airline alliance below, along with member airlines.

oneworld Alliance

Member airlines: airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, and S7 Airlines.
Soon to join: SriLankan Airlines, TAM Airlines, and US Airways

Countries: 151
Lounges Available: 603
Destinations: 883

SkyTeam Alliance

Member airlines: Aeroflot, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Middle East Airlines, Saudia, TAROM, Vietnam Airlines, and Xiamen Airlines.
Soon to join: Garuda Indonesia.

Countries: 178
Lounges Available: 530
Destinations: 1,024

Star Alliance

Member airlines: Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EGYPTAIR, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, SWISS, TAM Airlines (moving to oneworld Alliance in 2014), TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines, United, and US Airways (moving to oneworld Alliance in March 2014).

Countries: 195
Lounges Available: 1,000+
Destinations: 1,328

Tips and Tricks for Airline Alliances

From what I’ve researched, there are a number of great ways to take advantage of airline alliance benefits.

  • You don’t have to join the alliance rewards programs to take advantage of their benefits.
  • Join one major airline reward program per alliance. Even though in most cases you can’t transfer points or miles between airlines reward programs, you can still book flights from a single airline across the whole alliance. For example, if you book a flight on Air Canada, you can use a rewards program from any other airline in the Star Alliance. Most travel experts recommend joining American Airlines AAdvantage for the oneworld Alliance, Delta Air Lines SkyMiles for the SkyTeam Alliance, and United MileagePlus for the Star Alliance.
  • If you achieve status in one airline, it will carry over to most other airlines in the alliance.

Let me know on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ if you have any airline alliance tips or tricks of your own!

o-CHIPOTLE-facebook

10 Best Ads of 2013

As a marketing professional, I probably notice good (and bad) advertising more easily than others. I guess that could be considered a curse to some, but I personally appreciate a well-constructed ad with a clear message and a strong focus on its target audience.

What are the criteria that make a good ad? There are plenty of professional opinions, of course, but in my mind there are just a few:

  • Be memorable.
  • Make a strong tie to the brand.
  • Appeal to a target audience.

This past year had some awesome commercials, marketing campaigns, and digital executions. In my opinion, these are the 10 best ads of 2013, although feel free to debate with me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Something set these apart and made them special to me.

10. Honda — “Hands”

It starts with Garrison Keillor making an alluring statement: “Let’s see what curiosity can do.” And then through technical trickery we’re taken on a jaunt through Honda’s many business arms as someone constructs each invention in their hands. I think this ad is brilliant at showing the breadth of invention that Honda has managed to produce over the years. We think of their engineers as tinkerers, thinkers, dreamers, and creators, and this persona is then subconsciously applied to their cars, motorcycles, and engines.

9. Kmart — “Ship My Pants”

With a clever play on words, Kmart managed to make everyone feel a little guilty for watching this in a public setting when others mistakenly heard another word besides “ship.” But because of the cheeky play, this ad was shared everywhere, driving up brand impressions for Kmart. In fact, the ad was so popular that they issued a follow-up, Big Gas Savings. You might also enjoy the wildly popular “Show Your Joe” ad for Joe Boxer.

Agency: Draftfcb, Chicago
Director: Zach Math, Bob Industries

8. Chipotle — “The Scarecrow”

Paired perfectly with a Fiona Apple cover of “Pure Imagination” from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” this Chipotle ad features a computer animated scarecrow discovering the seedy underbelly of mass food manufacturing. The good news: there is a healthier way to feed people, and Chipotle is working hard to be that alternative.

Agency: CAA Marketing, Los Angeles
Animation: Moonbot Studios

7. Guinness — “Wheelchair Basketball”

Many a man has brashly brushed an embarrassed tear from his face after watching the twist at the end of this ad for Guinness beer. And I was most certainly not one of them. Really, I wasn’t…

Agency: BBDO, New York
Director: Noam Murro, Biscuit Filmworks

6. Nike — “Just Do It: Possibilities”

This ad is so perfectly Nike: quick, witty, challenging, and smashmouth. If you can do this, then try something harder. Don’t settle.

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Oregon
Director: Nicolai Fuglsig, MJZ

5. Tullamore D.E.W. — “The Parting Glass”

With absolutely stunning cinematography shot entirely in Ireland, I think this ad for Tullamore D.E.W. paints a picture that most men will remember as they enjoy a good whiskey with friends.

4. LEGO — “Let’s Build”

Appealing to both the desire to build within children and the inner child within young parents, LEGO nailed the feeling of camaraderie of mutual accomplishment through shared creation. Plus, who doesn’t like children with British accents?

3. Dove — “Real Beauty Sketches”

What hasn’t already been said about this heartwarming ad from Dove? The message resonates with women from any generation: you are more beautiful than you think.

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Brazil
Director: John X. Carey, Paranoid US

2. Apple — “Misunderstood”

My friends know how far-reaching my love for Apple extends, but how can anyone question this? Most people portray teenagers as selfish technology-addicted me-machines, but as a past youth leader I’ve seen them as more than that.

1. Ram Trucks — “Farmer”

I remember watching the Super Bowl with friends and the entire room coming to complete silence when this ad for Ram Trucks started. The unique combination of poetry and silence is haunting. And the tone of the ad is truly American, which is perfect for the intended audience of truck owners. This ad is groundbreaking.

Agency: The Richards Group, Dallas

Other Great Ads from 2013

KitchenAid — “So Much More”

OK, I guess I may be biased. (Full disclosure: I am an employee of Whirlpool Corporation, which owns KitchenAid as part of its family of appliance brands.) But I find our new “So Much More to Make” campaign so ingenious and fun. In each ad is featured “the maker” who delightfully challenges herself (or himself) to new recipes.

Maytag — “Maytag Man: Laundry”

Maytag is also a brand owned and operated by Whirlpool Corporation, but I just can’t help myself because I’m very proud of my colleagues for this new campaign. The Maytag Man is a relaunch of an iconic character which many people easily identify with the brand. And this time, his dry wit and strong demeanor are a perfect fit to carry Maytag into the future. Well done.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-eqCdedq_Q

You can also watch a complete back-to-back YouTube playlist of my favorite ads of 2013.

So what do you think? Did I miss any good ones?

greenbush brewery glass wallet bullet

Michigan Brewery Tour

Michigan is known for good beer.

And there are new Michigan microbreweries and brewpubs popping up all the time. With the number of great breweries to check out, I figured it was time to create a travel list across the state.

On nights when the Michigan Brewery Tour is active, a number of my friends will carpool (with designated drivers, of course) to one of many breweries in southwest Michigan.

Here are a number of our potential destinations:

michigan brewery tour rating sheet card

I created Michigan Brewery Tour rating sheets.

For our first tour stop we’ll be checking out The Livery in Benton Harbor, Michigan. In true type A fashion, I created rating sheets for participants (although I mistakenly wrote “Michigan Beer Tour”). You can even hold a tour of your own. Just download and print copies of the Michigan Brewery Tour rating sheet, call some friends, and head out. Don’t forget to designate a driver before the drinking starts!

If you’re truly curious about the amount of good beer in Michigan, check out the newly-released Michigan Beer Film, featuring my hometown favorite, Greenbush! The same folks also made a custom Michigan bottle opener, too.

Let me know what you think via Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

old_map

The Minimalist Gift of New Memories

Last year I decided to take a break from organizing our summer camp’s annual work weekend. I’ve been dreaming of a way to show my parents how much I love them, and I finally had an idea that sounded really exciting. (But the idea conflicted with those dates.)

Wielding my personal flexibility and low cost of living as advantages, I strategized on how I could gift dedicated time with each parent. And thanks to my “game” of minimalism, I didn’t want to just give physical objects that would need to be stored, maintained, moved, and depreciated. They should be true minimalist gifts, lightweight, and not easily destroyed.

And then I realized what would mean the most to my parents: new memories.

It’s been over ten years since I lived at my parents’ home in Columbus, so some of my childhood memories are fading, and I knew it was time to create new ones. Great ones.

My mom and dad were each given five envelopes to be opened one at a time. A card within each envelope revealed a special destination around the world. After careful thought, my mom and dad could each select one of the five for a one-on-one vacation with me, flights covered.

And boy was I thinking big.

IMG_0357

Dad’s Five Destinations:

  • China
  • Germany
  • New Zealand
  • Scotland
  • South Africa

IMG_0356

Mom’s Five Destinations:

  • France
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Peru

Some of my friends have had tough experiences with their parents, and I understand that not everyone has had the greatest upbringings. I feel incredibly blessed to have two loving parents that are still highly mobile, joyful, and ready for adventure. And I don’t think a simple vacation is enough to repay them for how much lavish attention and support I’ve received over my lifetime.

Let me know what you think via Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

red and white striped bow tie

Learn How to Tie a Bow Tie

I didn’t go to the party specifically because of Nathan Ledesma, although I was pleasantly surprised to see him there. I could have been excited to see him for any number of reasons including his charismatic demeanor or fascinating career path, but I was especially excited because I knew Nathan was a sort of bow tie maverick.

Nathan Ledesma teaching Ryan Ricketts how to tie a bow tie.

It was New Year’s Eve, and my good friend Mary Gwen hosted her second annual Chicago-based party with a myriad of friends. Armed with a red and white striped bow tie from my uncle’s awesome Christmas gift—he wore it a couple times growing up—I asked Nathan to teach me how to tie it myself. Graciously, he obliged.

Every man should own a real bow tie.

group of friends at new year's eve party

If you didn’t know, this is number sixteen on my 30 Before 30 list. Special thanks to Mary Gwen, Nathan, and uncle Scott for helping me to accomplish this one! And if you’re interested in learning how to tie a bow tie yourself, check out this video.

Let me know what you think via Twitter or Facebook.

truck filled with furniture

My Ongoing Process of Becoming a Minimalist

Over the past year or so I’ve been on a journey to reduce my quantity of possessions and to live with a minimal amount of physical objects. I think I would agree with most people who think being a minimalist is very strange behavior, but with great support from close friends and family, I started ridding my life of extra stuff with the goal of being unbridled, lightweight, and free.

I started by using an old brown bag from a clothing retailer and doing an initial scrape of shirts, pants, shorts, belts, and shoes that no longer fit me. I used a principle that I learned while watching What Not to Wear on a sick day at home: own clothes that fit you now and not for what you want to become. With this first bag of stuff, I ran over to Goodwill and donated them. It felt really good to give some breathing room to my closet and to know that others would benefit from my perfectly fine clothing.

Fast forward to today, and I’m much further than when I began, but I’m nowhere near my final quantity of 150 things.

Instead of creating goals for the year, I’d like to operate from a core set of pillars and have goals eminate from each of them. For example, one of my pillars is going to be generosity, which along with the pillar of flexibility aligns very nicely to my movement of becoming a minimalist.

One of the tactics I’ll be starting this weekend is the Donation Sunday approach as proposed by Danny Dover in his blog post and video called “How to Become a Minimalist”. (Fast forward to the 4:16 mark for more information on Donation Sundays.) Danny has been an inspiration for me because of his authenticity, transparency, and optimism. He’s given me a lot of great ideas!

As a Christian, I believe my time will be better spent in ministry, fellowship, prayer, meditation, and learning, rather than in ownership, maintenance, or acquisition. It’s a journey—and let’s be honest—somewhat of a game. But I think it’s a fun challenge that has a positive benefit, too!

Let me know what you think via Twitter or Facebook.

Knolling Example from Spotted Appeal

Knolling Appeals to My Organizational Tendencies

I’ve noticed a trend among major brands over the past year or so, but I didn’t know it actually had a name: knolling. Coined by Andrew Kromelow, a janitor who worked for Frank Gehry, knolling is “the process of arranging like objects in parallel or 90-degree angles as a method of organization.”

Knolling Painted Logs via Spotted Appeal

And it’s so cool.

I guess I may be late to the game, but I see this being applied all over the place including major brands like Nike, J.Crew, Target, Sweet Green, and Warby Parker. I think it appeals to my personal tendencies (diagnosable?) to neatly arrange objects on a surface.

You can check out many more examples of knolling on Ultralinx and Tumblr.

Like #planking, I think #knolling has the capacity to be riffed and expounded upon. It has many possibilities.

Go to an NFL Game

From the upper balcony, top row, a panoramic view of LP Field in Nashville during the Titans vs. Colts NFL game.

From the upper balcony, top row, a panoramic view of LP Field in Nashville during the Titans vs. Colts NFL game.

It was pretty cold, but nothing compared to the moody winter chaos that I left in southwest Michigan just a few hours prior. After having snowed over a foot in under 24 hours (properly dubbed “Lake Effect” snow to those in the know), I welcomed the light breeze and cold fingers because the ground was simply uncovered. No slush, crunch, wet, or slickness.

My brother and his wife were gracious enough to gift me one of my 30 Before 30 items for my birthday—a ticket to an NFL game. At LP Field in Nashville, we hobnobbed in the very top row of the upper balcony, laughing at the surrounding southern slang. And since none of us had any allegiance to the Titans or the Colts, we could simply cheer for “offense!” and “football!”

An NFL game demonstrates American excessiveness at its pinacle. Not one, but two extremely large video screens paralleled each other on opposite end zones. Dee Jay Silver picked just the right heart-pumping beat and crowd-pleasing pop song in between every play. The announcer, “Duke,” had an almost drunken sound to his aging voice. Periodically, the Titans’ cheerleaders would bounce in time to music. I guess you could call it dancing, but with all the blond hair and partially unzipped jackets I’m not sure anyone was paying attention to their moves.

The three of us at the Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts NFL game.

The three of us at the Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts NFL game.

There was no such thing as dead time, even during commercial breaks. Honestly, everything was so well produced that it felt like one of my childhood video games and not a real event.

We joked about what it would be like for a foreigner to experience this kind of unnecessary American opulence. Would it be overwhelming, sad, or gross?

Another one down, thanks to my generous brother and his beautiful wife. Less than a year left, and I’ve got quite a few to go!

Giving Away DVDs and Blu-Rays

Stacks of DVDs and Blu-raysI’m involved in an ongoing quest to reduce the amount of things that I own. After first tackling board games, I’ve now moved on to movies and TV shows—be they DVD or Blu-ray in nature.

If you’re local (within a short drive of Southwest Michigan), then you can claim up to five movies or TV shows from this list by Tweeting, texting, or emailing me.

DVD Movies and TV Shows

Blu-Ray Movies and TV Shows