8 Ways to Bring Out the Pirate in You

These days it isn’t too difficult to see what might have tempted men (and some women) of centuries past to succumb to the lure of the pirate life. Ahhh, the freedom and salty air of the open seas, the chests of gold coins and precious gems, the ruffled shirts and earrings…well you get the idea.

Who cares that buccaneers were once the scourge of the 18th century, we love pirates. We name sports teams after them; on Halloween we don patches and bandanas and stuff pistols and cutlasses in our our belts; at Disneyworld we Fastpass the legendary ride; and we look forward to the next movie with Johnny Depp. We even promote silliness such as Talk Like a Pirate Day.

As it happens, pirates of yore offer tips we can use to liven up our own day-to-day lives. Here then, are the steps you can take to add a little piracy to your own life, even at the office.

1. Dream big. Pirates were people who looked to the promise of the horizon. They defied a status quo that favored the upper class, the rich, the corrupt, and the well-connected.  As buccaneers they eschewed the hopeless lot of the masses, one that accepted a pittance in exchange for harsh working conditions at sea and brutal treatment by their superiors.

Becoming a pirate meant charting your own course and breaking free of what society said you were meant to be, and becoming something else. It meant being OK without a lifeline. Your first step as a would-be pirate is to not only desire a better life than swabbing decks—but to be willing to do something about it.

2. Let your freak flag fly. American satirist H.L. Mencken wrote, “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.” He meant we long for the call to adventure and nothing says that like a Jolly Roger.

You probably dutifully unfurl “Old Glory” on July 4th and Memorial Day, but what about the rest of the year? Mix it up a bit on that flagpole by getting your own pirate flag (try here or here) and let your neighbors know you are a pirate at heart all year round.

Give the flag a meaning to your friends and family, that something fun is about to happen. Plus, who knows, maybe the burglar will think twice.

3. Know your rules and live by them. From the fictional guidelines of Pirates of the Caribbean to the real-life Articles of Bartholomew Roberts pirates did indeed “keep to the code.” A successful pirate ship was a well-run operation.

They had agreed-upon codes of conduct covering everything from bedtime (The lights and candles should be put out at eight at night, and if any of the crew desire to drink after that hour they shall sit upon the open deck without lights) to the settling of disputes (None shall strike another on board the ship, but every man’s quarrel shall be ended on shore by sword or pistol).

You can draw up your own “pirate articles” for your family, club, or team at work. It sounds more fun than “rules” doesn’t it?

4. Know what motivates your crew. “Such a day, rum all out—Our company somewhat sober— A damned confusion amongst us! —Rogues a-plotting—Great talk of separation —So I looked sharp for a prize.  Such a day took one—with a great deal of liquor on board—so kept the company hot, damned hot; then all things went well again.” So wrote none other than Edward Teach a.k.a. “Blackbeard” in his journal.

Blackbeard was a giant, ruthless man. But even this fearsome pirate captain (who was known to intimidate others by lighting gunpowder fuses in his beard) knew that he had to maintain morale.  If you rely on a crew of your own, running a tight ship isn’t enough. Do you know what keeps them loyal and happy? Not knowing that can lead to a mutiny on any ship.

5. Hang around with like-minded shipmates. Life wasn’t much fun aboard a Royal Navy Man O War or merchant ship in the 1700’s. A captain’s authority was unquestioned, and the officers enforced the rules of the ship without mercy.  Sailors could be whipped or keel-hauled  for the slightest infraction.

Pirate ships were purposefully far different. Wary of the power of an unchecked boss to deliver misery, Pirates crews elected their captain and he was only vested with total authority during instances of battle. If the crews were unhappy with a captain, they could replace him with another of their number at any time by democratic vote.

Interestingly, long before affirmative action and EEOC regs, pirate ships were equal opportunity workplaces. Beneath the unfurled skull n’ crossbones one could find Europeans, West Africans, Carib Indians and Asians all as equals, united in their common pursuit of—as Roberts was fond of saying—”a merry life and a short one.” What mattered on a pirate ship was one’s ability to hoist a sail and wield a cutlass. Take a cue and try associating with other rogues not afraid of hard work and bucking the trend.

6. Stash some coins for a rainy day. Legend has it pirates buried their treasure, though historians debate the frequency of this practice. (Captain Kidd was the only pirate known to do this, and that loot has never been found.) Still, the wisdom of stashing cash for the future is a prudent one, as you always need to keep an eye on your hard-won plunder.

So whether you set up some automatic deductions from your paycheck and invest it, or get yourself a wooden chest and hide it, make it a point to have some loot to tide you over until the next prize is won.

7. Dress with a bit of flash. In Pirates of the Caribbean at World’s End, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards portrays Jack Sparrow’s dad, “Captain Teague.” This was an homage to the notion that pirates were the rock stars of their day. In those times “sumptuary laws” prohibited those of the lower classes from wearing  fine clothes and jewelry.

Pirates flouted these laws by dressing up in garish outfits and jewelry in the manner of the “free princes” they believed themselves to be. (Granted their hygiene probably had a lot to be desired but they made do with what they had.)

You don’t have to saunter into work in full Jack Sparrow regalia to show your pirate side. Why not add a splash of color with a new tie or scarf, or sport a skull ring, or accent that suit with some new crossbones cufflinks.

8. Make it happen. What if you really want to find wealth and freedom beyond your wildest dreams? What if you really want to be a pirate? I asked Richard Zacks, author of The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd and he offers the pirate recipe for success:

“A dash of insanity mixed with relentless perseverance, topped off with an ‘I’d-rather-die-than-fail’ mentality usually yields results…or death.”

Aye, are you ready to sign up?

How to Manage More Than One “Personal Brand” Online

Many of us know the importance of maintaining our own personal brands. From Twitter and Facebook, to business cards and personal brochures, we’ve heard the message.  Determine your brandand own the spaceas business today is all about niche marketing.

But what happens when there’s more to you than just one brand? What if you are a polished finance-type during the week but on Saturday nights front a hard rock band? Maybe you’re in marketing by day but a writer of trashy romance novels at night, or perhaps you pay the rent as a department manager while off hours auditioning for theater roles.

How should a person effectively manage more than one personal brand, or dual identity, without jeopardizing career prospects or compromising artistic pursuits? Let’s look at some real-world examples.

Be upfront

By day, Juliette Mutzke-Felippelli works in PR in Orange County, CA. But when the sun goes down she’s part of a husband-and-wife DJ team pumping out the hottest House and Techno mixes in clubs from Rio to New York. Mutzke-Felippelli believes the best bet is to be straight up about her two roles and show how they are not only compatible, but offer a strategic advantage.

“At my job interview I was asked to bring in press releases I’d written, so I showed examples from my DJ/music producing project,” Mutzke-Felippelli says. “I also got to show off my experience in designing and managing the social media profiles that I use.”

Mutzke-Felippelli has found a way to combine her two brands, and the skills she learns in one complement the other. “As a DJ in my free time I can practice the skills I’m learning in PR and social media to enhance exposure for my side project, which makes me better at what I do in all areas.”

Jeff Perry of Minneapolis-St. Paul is another believer in marketing the different facets of one’s life. He bills himself on Linkedin as a “Recruitment advertising executive by day and a professional, conservatory-trained musician by night.” Perry advises those with alter-egos to look for employers that are compatible with your artist brand and to showcase the advantages your talents bring to the table.

“I used to think a music degree and the skills that go with it—composition, performance, improvisation, arrangement, project management—was not valuable in the business world until I realized one thing: good companies don’t seem to complain when someone has imagination and knows how to apply it. For musicians and other artists this is second nature.”

Christine Tieri, Creative Director of Smith & Jones advertising in Boston, agrees. “For many years, we employed a graphic designer who was one of the most professional, talented and buttoned-down employees by day, but also played bass in a very successful hardcore band,” Tieri says. The same creativity, energy, and team work he brought to the band he also brought to the office.  “Our clients actually thought it was pretty cool he was on our staff, and they loved him.”

Keep it undercover

Not everyone wants their off-hours activities under the purview of their employer, however. Performers and writers have have long used a stage name or nom de plume to indulge the artist within and avoid potential reprisals.

Michael Lovas is a business consultant in Spokane, Washington. But when he’s not speaking or coaching professionals and entrepreneurs on building credibility and emotional intelligence, he plays drums in a blues/funk band where he’s known by the moniker “Psycho” to the musicians and bikers he relaxes with.

“I associate with some pretty strange looking people,” Lovas says. “It doesn’t serve anyone to co-mingle the identities. I had a stage name long before the internet, and as I bump into people who knew me back then, it’s always a surprise when I realize that don’t know what my real name is. I kind of like the anonymity.”

But what if you already use your given name in your weekend band but don’t want to have to water down your rocker persona for the corporate world?  Here’s a tip to promote your band while keeping yourself below the radar. “You can circumvent the search engines by creating a JPG art work incorporating the names of the band members,” says William Howard, a marketing and communications professional in Charlotte, NC.  “Make sure the name of the JPG file doesn’t include your name to keep it from being discovered in an image search.” People searching for the band will find it— and see your glam-rock self—but the site won’t come up when that finance recruiter searches your name on Monday.

Leverage the unusual

Vanessa Holmes, a London-based Brand Development Director, sees an alter-ego as a way of differentiating oneself in the marketplace. Holmes has a friend who is a dapper healthcare economist and college lecturer. However, in his off hours he communes with the hereafter through tarot card readings and séances. At first these identities appear to contradict one another. But Holmes realized economics and fortune telling both involve predicting human behavior based on making observations.  “Since this is his personal brand we are talking about, all aspects of his character seem equally important so we figured one area could potentially inform the other,” Holmes says.

They let the professor’s dual identity out of the bag and as it turned out, the professor’s undergraduate students liked the idea of attending a séance delivered in a more intellectual way, one that demystified illusions and explored their fascination with the unknown.  And what of his peers and business associates? “We found that a little bit of magic can certainly help liven up business meetings and economic presentations,” Holmes says.

If you can find compatible ideas that can guide both your day and evening jobs this can help make you a more interesting person in both endeavors and you will probably feel more satisfied not having to be at war with yourself.

“Authenticity and relevance are of the utmost importance in personal branding today,” Holmes says. “The trick is to find a way of communicating one’s personality, skills and interests in cohesive, well differentiated and meaningful ways.”

Perspective from 13,000 feet: Q&A with marketing expert Chris Worth

Chris Worth is a London-based entrepreneur, marketing pro, Warwick MBA, and intrepid skydiver. From the boardroom to the back country, Chris sees life—and business—as a bold adventure. We tracked Chris down and threw him some questions about  marketing, B-school, books, and what he’s doing to keep the spirit of adventure alive in our kids (all while keeping his lively British spelling intact).

Offbeat Leader: Chris, your self-titled blog was mentioned in that popular “Cluetrain Manifesto” book a decade ago and you’ve since pounded out a thousand or so posts for over a million pairs of eyeballs. So what are the elements of a good blog?

Chris Worth: A million? Wow, yes it must be—it hit 60,000 page views a month in its prime. The reason I started it (back in 1997) was perhaps due to one of those elements: I was living in Asia and having an interesting time both inside and outside work, so I just wrote about the parts of those cultures that inspired me. The streets, the bars, even the local noodle shop. That’d be my reason 1: be interesting.

Second, remember Strunk & White. Write in proper sentences with concrete nouns and active verbs; use punctuation properly. A blog in Swedish Chef dialect may be amusing the first time you read it, but the English language coalesced into its current grammar and vocab precisely because that was what most people understood. I’m still working on this: just yesterday I was criticised for referring to a woman as “my gf”, which is txt-speak a man approaching 40 probably shouldn’t affect.

OL: Well, we live and learn. What else do you like in a blog?

CW: True, Ed. Let’s see, a third good element? I like to be episodic. Even a business blog—driven by advice rather than personality—should still be bylined, written by a recognisable person in a narrative context. If you learned something today, write about it today. If next week you learn something that adds to it (or contradicts it completely), write about that and refer back to the previous blog.

One of my most-read posts was about something very down-to-earth: studying for the GMAT exam to enter business school. It was a simple day-by-day account of doing practice tests and the questions I had trouble with, yet I still get emails about once a week thanking me for it.

OL: After years in the working world you recently went back and earned an MBA from Warwick, a top-ranked business school. What’s a great nugget of advice you learned  in the program?

CW: People do MBAs far too young, and end up treating a legitimate qualification as some sort of “badge of rank”, rather than for what it is—a toolbox. The biggest thing I learned is that these techniques –everything from strategic analysis to financial modeling—are only useful if you actually put them into practice, and keep practicing, every day. The last two years have been the most rewarding of my life, and I still go back to Warwick and talk to current students as often as I can. I’m still in the Skydiving Club there, after all [laughs].

OL: You’ve also done a lot of world traveling, much of it with a backpack. What’s the best business lesson you learned out on the road?

CW: From a little shopkeeper in Tokyo: just remember who your customers are. He was an amateur cartoonist, and behind the counter he had little pictures of all his regular customers, to which he’d add little notes over time!  (“You liked this beer last week, you’ll like this beer tonight…”) That’s an example of perfect CRM:  remember their names, note their behaviour, and treat them in a way that maximises the value of their interaction with you—on both sides. I probably spent Y2000 more each visit than in an average corner shop, and walked away with better wine and more interesting snacks.

OL: What are some of your favorite books these days?

CW: The “100 Bullets” graphic novel series by Azzarello and Risso. The way these guys develop narrative—over what, for them, was an eight-year writing project—is astounding: characters speak to each other as real people, not actors there for your entertainment, and few concessions are made to the reader. I think Garth Ennis described it thus: “If a character doesn’t know what’s going on, he’s doomed.” And the last panel of the last issue is one of those that genuinely, completely, explain everything.

OL: That’s true, especially since we’re all characters in a story. What about marketing and business?

CW: I still love “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne (and I loved it before one of their associated businesses became my client in Paris). Why? Because an innovative business premise is strongly supported by the hardscrabble work of research and “doing the numbers.”  I use the method with my clients a LOT.

Also, “Molecular Biology of the Cell” by Alperts et al. It’s everything a textbook should be: clear, concise, and brilliantly written and illustrated, a perfect piece of information design. Read it as a copywriter and you’ll swoon with delight.

OL: Three to take to the beach! As a marketing director, what are the biggest mistakes you see in campaigns? What’s the biggest misconception people have about marketing?

CW: Oddly, I’ve just written a couple of campaigns again after three years as a “pure marketer” not getting involved in the creative aspect, and quite enjoyed it. The mistakes I see in campaigns today are the same as when I started in 1993!

First off, arrogance.  “Our product’s the best”, “run don’t walk”, “you’d be a fool not to.”  Nothing turns real people off faster than being talked down to. The great creative director John Hegarty once summed up a great ad in one word:  “Irreverence.”  So the biggest misconception in marketing is that we’re actively trying to treat you, the consumer, as a fool. And far too often, that “misconception” is correct.

I have the luxury of being able to pick my clients these days—after all, there are perhaps 150,000 businesses that could use me, and I have a capacity of about 3! The ones I work with are those who genuinely care about changing the world and have great, innovative ideas for doing it.

OL: What’s your favorite all-time marketing campaign and why?

CW: A single roadside print ad many years ago for a British beer brand, John Smith’s. On a billboard, they’d made it look as if there was a previous poster beneath the half-pasted John Smith’s one, for something very feminine (the John Smith’s brand is very working-class and masculine).

So in flowing feminised script were the words, “Make it a night to remember with…” and then (apparently on the half-pasted poster over it) “JOHN SMITH’s!”

Then below, “Just watch her face when she finds out…” “THE LADS ARE COMING ‘ROUND!” It had everything: irreverence, laugh-out-loud funny, and credited the consumer with intelligence.

OL: I like it, Chris. The big thing now of course is social media. How do you believe social media is affecting marketing for the long term?

CW: What interests me is just how quickly social media becomes anti-social once you bring money into it. Like pyramid selling or multi-level marketing, the whole basis of trusted connections gets frayed the moment financial incentives are slanted towards one party. Social media is a great method of communication, but it’s the communication of a rock concert (you’re there because a lot of people whose opinions you share are there) rather than the sales seminar (you’re there because you believe you’ll gain financially from it). I think this is positive: a LOT more reasons to keep your marketing true to itself, believable AND authentic.

OL: Who is one of your biggest inspirations?

CW: I’ve always felt close to the musician David Bowie, for the way he’s reinvented himself not once but a dozen times. Imagine it’s 1971, you’re just starting to make money, and everyone around you – your manager, your agent, your bank – is screaming at you to carry on doing more of the same. Then one night in Hammersmith you sack your band live on stage and change what you’re doing completely. And take that risk every couple of years as if it’s the normal thing to do, even coming up with non-musical innovations like selling bonds backed by your future output.  It probably gets easier when you’ve trousered $60m.

OL: You like to jump out of planes…so would you put an ad on your parachute? Is there any place marketing shouldn’t be?

CW: Well, as you become a better parachutist you use smaller canopies and come down faster, so the advertising real estate shrinks in two dimensions as you improve, not a great marketing strategy! [laughs] Yes, I think marketing should stay out of anywhere it’s not pulling its weight by contributing cash or content.

A case in point is Britain’s BBC—it doesn’t carry advertising, but instead levies a £120 tax on every household. One of those crazy things I ought to vehemently oppose, but I don’t. Like a lot of things in Britain—with its unelected upper house, its combined legislative and executive branches of government, its extraordinary police-state powers but whose cops don’t carry guns—it works in practice but not in theory.

I spent a month Stateside recently and I’m always shocked by the sheer volume of ads crammed into each TV hour. Great marketing doesn’t need to be everywhere;  it just needs to be effective. I love Tabasco, but I wouldn’t chug a bottle.

OL: Speaking of extreme, on June 12th you are going to abseil—or rappel—off a tower in London for a cause, to “put the adventure back in.” How important is it that people—especially youth—experience adventure? How sedate and comfortable have we become?

CW: Britain’s recently-departed Labour government introduced, largely by stealth, some of the most liberty-unfriendly legislation ever known—some of it destroying centuries-old freedoms enshrined in the Magna Carta—along with a library’s worth of new laws designed to trammel and control the population. For example, the UK has the highest penetration of CCTV cameras and the largest DNA database in the world.

OL: I saw “V for Vendetta.”

CW: Yes, and all this has had a corrosive effect:  young people are growing up with a sense that their safety and liberty are… in the hands of the government. That they don’t have to do anything for themselves, which prevents them developing a proper perspective on risk. So yes, I think we are moving towards a “comfortably numb” society, where risk and adventure are frowned upon rather than celebrated. And that’s bad. Especially in a country that spawned some of the world’s greatest explorers and adventurers.

The British Schools Exploration Society, which puts underprivileged youths in adventure training situations in the world’s wilder places, attempts to change that perspective. As part of their fundraising efforts, I’m abseiling down the outside of 322ft London building! My sponsorship page is here and all donations will be warmly acknowledged.

OL: Sounds dangerous, but that’s our kind of cause! We encourage readers to support your efforts, Chris. Thanks for standing still long enough to share your insights with us.

For more info check out Chris Worth at RedPump and on Twitter.

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