Episode 43: Mark Silva, Real Branding on Consolidating Social Maps, the "New School" of Beer and the Connected Agency

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Meet Mark Silva, managing director of independent San Francisco interactive agency Real Branding. Mark is an ad veteran, social media geek, beer maven and painter to name just a few of his dalliances. Real Branding artfully blends the innovative perspective of digital pioneers with the business rigor of a buttoned-up agency. The company occupies an old can factory in the up and coming "Dogpatch" area of San Francisco. Beer is where it all started for Real Branding. Mark is a beer maven, having tasted over 2,500 brews. He started RealBeer.com in 1994 and soon picked up a number of local micro-brew clients for digital marketing. He's parlayed his experience in the adult beverage business into one of the hottest independent shops in the country, managing digital brand strategy for such stellar names as ABC/Disney, Anheuser Busch, Darden Restaurants, ESPN, HBO, Pepsi's Lipton partnership and Unilever.

Mark talks about who he follows in the agency world to keep up with the industry and how he does it. Find out his Twitter strategy, how he creates and manages his blog, MarkSilva.com and his take on social media. Mark says "every agency should include customers' social maps as an agency best practice." Clearly Real Branding is taking market segmentation and persona development to a new level.

Susan and Mark discuss an online video by Loic Le Meur, the CEO of video site Seesmic. Seesmic lets you record video right from your computer's camera in your browser and then uploading it to your Seesmic account, your blog or your website.  In Episode #115 on loic.tv, Loic quotes a NY Times writer who says "if the news is important, it will find me." It's a remarkable video that shows how much the manner in which we consume news content is changing. Loic's point being that if it's relevant to him, the information will come to him via one of his feeds and that he no longer must go to news sites as news comes to him.  This is a big, directional demarcation point in the evolution of the web that did not go undetected by Mark. Mark is a watchdog for these shifts, informing his client strategies through these insights. 

On this episode, you also learn about the "New School of Beer" where the Americans are making funky, yeasty beers in Chardonnay and Pinot casks that even the Belgians are imitating. Mark gives his a complete list of what to buy (Dogfish Head, Allagash) and where to find the rare bottlings on the DishyMix.com blog. Find out what Mark's "greatest truth" is about marriage. Learn about his holy grail of the liberation that comes from getting beyond fear, and why it's so important in the sphere of loving and being loved. And speaking of love, Mark talks about rediscovering his love of painting. You can see some of his work on the DishyMix blog, including some photos from his Flickr stream. 

This show has some great insights, ideas and recommendations from a man you will hear more and more about in the future. Get to know Mark Silva on this episode of DishyMix.

Transcript

This program is brought to you by personallifemedia.com

Susan Bratton:           Welcome to Dishy Mix. I’m your host Susan Bratton. Hey, thanks so much for tuning in this week.  As always I’ve found a really interesting, wonderful person from the media industry. On today’s show you’re going to get to meet Mark Silva. Mark is the managing director of an agency based in San Francisco called Real Branding and he has some very unique attributes to his business and his expertise that we’re going to have a lot of fun talking about today. He’s an ad veteran, he’s a dedicated new media entrepreneur, loving the social media and, of course, he’s a beer maven so we’re going to talk about beer on the show, and he’s a delighted daddy. So we’ll cover beer, social maps, the Holy Grail, poetry, assuming personas for other people online, and of course a bit about the latest happenings in the agency world.

Mark Silva:    The real emphasis and 150% of my time is building one of the leading digital marketing agencies here, Real Branding, and so it’s nice to have all the, I guess you can almost call it gravitas and credentials that comes from building original CMS programs and building from scratch the application stack. I think the best business you can possibly have is something that’s sustainable and at some point if people come knocking and like a number of my colleagues who have independent agencies, everybody is, if it becomes compelling enough you have to consider that option but at this point we think it’s still premature and we think there’s at this point there’s so much work to be done just defining the space for real brands for us that we’re loving it and don’t intend to do anything differently. The idea of mapping any single brand or any single individual should be a starting point of every endeavor and any agency out there worth its salt should start with a social map. That was pretty much my blog post and I brought it in today as a best practice for the agency that we’re going to be rolling out to every single client, to every single brand. Was a reaction from a bunch of kids in a copyrighting class who made a brilliant statement which is that brands are alive and they need to act more like people which means they can’t just be a webpage that never gets updated; they’ve got to be living, breathing, updating daily and people have to be able to comment on them and open it up and make it part of popular culture and discuss it and feel like they’ve got a role in it.

Susan:             Please welcome Mark Silva. Hey Mark. Thanks so much for coming on the show.  I think it was Brad Beren that said, “Hey! You should have Mark on the show. He’s a very interesting guy.”

Mark:              And he should know.

Susan:             Have you bared your soul to him?

Mark:              Everybody bares their soul to Brad Beren.

Susan:             Well, it’s funny, I don’t know why he’s taken on this mantle of being my Dishy Mix crusader, where he’s always on the lookout…because he knows what I want are interesting high profile people in media, marketing and web 2.0. But they have to be quirky, fun, unique. There’s lot of people out there that are kind of famous or well-known or have big jobs that aren’t’ actually that interesting because they’re kind of just workaholics. So early on I learned that my filter is they just have to be fun and unique. So you fill the bill.

Mark:              Most of the folks in the 2.0 space actually may have a little of that workaholic as well and not so much sleep, but they seem to have the other side, which is just a fascinating array of other interests. You just can’t put them into a single box.

Susan:             That’s right. Because so much of it is user-generated content in the social media space, it tends to attract the people who are creative and quirky I think. So you have some fantastic clients at Real Branding. You’ve got ABC Disney, Anheuser Busch, Darden Restaurants -- you’ve had a lot of restaurant clients over the years -- ESPN and HBO. You manage the Pepsi-Lipton partnership and you’re doing some fabulous work for Unilever.  You’ve got really high-level clients but one of the things that I know about you is that you started out almost exclusively, if I understand it, as an agency for the adult beverage category. Did I get that right?

Mark:              Actually it was a little bit of a reaction. I actually started off as a publisher for the adult beverage. Back in 1994 I helped Omnicom launch Career Mosaic as one of the first 100 commercial sites out there and while I was coming up with a way for them to create a monster of a plan, which they simply didn’t want to do, they wanted to extend the transactional business they had at the time, we basically laid out a proof of concept that was for the adult beverage industry called realbeer.com. It still runs today. We ghost write it. We basically spend about ten minutes a year on it and then a full day at the Great American Beer Festival having our Air Quotes corporate retreat, we keep that our fun investment. But it’s about half a million guys go to it every single month. It’s become one of those fun parts of our history, never ends up being the IPO train we were hoping it to be when it was being compared with wine.com and wine shopper and everything else but it certainly has been a basis of incredible knowledge, it’s part of the DNA of what we do and it also gave me the opportunity to travel around, meet with 500 breweries and brew pubs and tell them where the digital space was going and take that specific vertical and get some real revenues immediately. We’ve made money since day one, in 1994.

Susan:             So you have realbeer.com and I noticed even this morning that your forums are very active. There were people posting all morning on realbeer.com

Mark:              I mean it’s still a very active…In fact, about five years ago as a way of being able to focus on Real Branding, our digital marketing agency, we put structures in place to basically open it up to the community 100% so it was an early 2.0 and social media play. It isn’t a true 2.0. In fact we’re talking about right now even dynamiting the application base and putting an application stack in place that really opens it up to anybody and anything and any other application to use as well. But that’s the future of realbeer.com and again, just to re-emphasize, we keep that our fun investment and don’t spend a lot of time with it.  The real emphasis and 150% of my time is building one of the leading digital marketing agencies here, Real Branding, and so it’s nice to have all the, I guess you can almost call it gravitas and credentials that comes from building original CMS programs and building from scratch the application stack and that knowledge really that got us into a lot of the CPG clients of that consumer. That intimate knowledge of talking to them every day. I don’t know if you saw the Forester Connected Agency report that just came out last month?

Susan:             No. I’d like to see it. Send it to me.

Mark:              Definitely. Good one to read. But one of the things they’re suggesting is that by 2010 or so, and I think it’s too fast of a timeline, that agencies will actually be part of the community. We actually started that way. We started with a community site that we built an agency out of. We spun Real Branding out of it early on to unlock the shareholder value because people didn’t understand why a media company was holding an agency. It’s not questioned as much today as it was then but it made a lot of sense for us to spin it out and now we have 150% focus on building a great shop.

Susan:             So you’re a single shop in the Dogpatch area of San Francisco. You’ve got fabulous warehouse space. How many employees do you have now?
Mark:              We’re at 65 employees with another half dozen or so full-time contractors that the government will soon ask me to call full-time employees. And we’re independent and loving it down here.

Susan:             And what’s your plan around that independence? Do you have someday the hope that you’ll get rolled up into one of the agency conglomerates or are you a stalwart independent and you need your freedom? or where are you with that?

Mark:              I don’t know if anybody ever aspires to sell their business or to get acquired. I’m not sure if an entrepreneur actually even starts off with that kind of formulation.

Susan:             Oh, I think plenty do. Plenty people build to flip.

Mark:              And actually you can tell the ones that have and that do. Certainly in the professional services space you can tell that. In professional services I think, when you’re talking strictly IP I think you’re right. But in professional services you have to build something to last. So anyone who’s building to flip will end up having that stink on them as far as I’m concerned.

Susan:             The stink flip!

Mark:              I think the best business you can possibly have is something that’s sustainable and at some point if people come knocking and like a number of my colleagues who have independent agencies, everybody is, if it becomes compelling enough you have to consider that option but at this point we think it’s still premature and we think that there’s at this point there’s so much work to be done just defining the space for real brands for us that we’re loving it and don’t intend to do anything differently.

Susan:             So who do you watch in the space and learn from in the independent agency space? Who are you taking some queues from?

Mark:              I’ll actually give you a beer metaphor for this one too. There’s this new school of beer. It’s almost like Picasso, where he said rendering’s been done so well by photography we have to do something else and he went to Cubism and then suddenly there was a whole school of Cubism that erupted. In beers there’s this same thing happening around products that have funky yeast and they’re wooded and they’re started by this guy up in Russian River in our neck of the woods, up by Napa Valley, who is putting the most amazing beers in the world on chardonnay casks and pinot casks, etc. and suddenly he starts talking, believe it or not using the 2.0 tools, with five or six other brewers, the folks at Dogfish Head, Avery, down at Firestone and Pizza Port and these guys now are creating a school the Belgians are starting to imitate. So the best work in the country is coming right out of these individuals that are changing the world of brewing in that way, in a significant way and really, I think, are going to displace wine in a significant way for a number of people. That’s exactly the kind of people I actually follow in the 2.0 space too. People who are practitioners. There’s a handful of us that actually share twitter streams. You can actually follow using Terra Mine the @marksilva or the @brianmorrisey I think has done an amazing job of tapping into, for instance, using twitter as a form of connecting with guys over at Barbarian Group or over at EDB or Ian over at Deep Focus and so there’s a number of us that are partially sharing with each other what’s going on, but also really respecting the practitioners that are out there doing it. So we’re head down, making change, not so much by talking about it but by leading by example. And those are the folks that I watch and stay connected with.

Susan:             So you’re twitter.com/marksilva and your blog is marksilva.com, so that’s easy enough. And I want to talk to you…First I want to go back to the funky yeast dudes. Can you give me a list of all of those breweries so that I can put that on the DishyMix.com blog so the listeners who are interested in sampling those beers can try them?

Mark:              You got it. And they may just go to realbeer.com and become converts there too.

Susan:             I’ll put a link to realbeer on there.

Mark               In San Francisco, in fact in every pocket of the country, in Seattle there’s a place called Bottle Works.  In San Francisco there’s a City Beer store. And these are just small shops that have the equivalent of the K&L Liqueurs but for beers, really obscure beers that you can’t find anywhere else. But anywhere in the country you’ll usually find one of those kind of bottle shops that actually has that, where you can actually get it available and then there’s some trading going on online which I can’t advocate or endorse.

Susan:             Oh really. Why is that? What’s wrong with trading beers online? Because it’s illegal or something?

Mark:              I’m not an expert on how to comply with those laws. I simply don’t dabble in those as a guy who’s got a professional stake in that industry.

Susan:             Because it’s liquor. We have five minutes before we have to go to the break and I want to use those next five minutes to talk about this video that you blogged about on marksilva.com from Lowick Lemur who is the CEO and founder of Seismic which is essentially a site that allows you to use your computer, the camera on your computer, to record video and then to post that on Seismic or your blog or YouTube and allows people to comment about your video. So it’s creating your content and then video sharing and a lot of social media and Lowick has lowick.tv and he does a show and he just had a really interesting video episode about the social map, his social map and you blogged about it. So describe what Lowick said and your opinion about it because this is extremely directional content.

Mark:              Well there were two things he said. One thing he started off with was if the news is important, it will find me. And there’s a reason for that. It’s that, I’ve heard that as much as 50% of a national newspaper’s content is distributed through RSS today. I don’t know if that’s surprising to you but it blew me away and pretty much anyone else I talked about it was an eye opener that that many people aren’t going to the homepage but are getting it through their Google or the net vibes or whatever their start page is. The idea of mapping any single brand or any single individual should be a starting point of every endeavor and any agency out there worth its salt should start with a social map. That was pretty much my blog post and I brought it in today as a best practice to the agency that we’re going to be rolling out to every single client, to every single brand. You can add a lot of texture to this social map which is, for instance, based on my communication objective what’s a CEO’s role in terms of having a social map, what is the brand’s role in terms of having a social map. But the basic concept is that, it’s not just about having a website and it’s not just having a media campaign or a banner campaign. It’s that your content also should be micro-sized and automizided and distributed across all the different vehicles. The pain that we have today, which I believe some innovation is going to come up and solve within the next year or two, is that we have to go to five to ten different places in order to do that. So for instance, my bookmarking I have to go to dig or stumble or delish as a way of doing my bookmarking. I need to have my micro blog, which might be twitter or pounce or jaicoo. Which might be or my facebook page or MySpace or myfive for my social net. I got to have my blog going. And what was interesting about what Lowick was laying out was he was saying how they all pipe into each other. And if you go to marksilva.com you’ll actually see how I do that. I bring in my flicker feed, actually I just bring in a random tag for advertising on my flicker feed. But you’ll also see the twitter stream, both of what I’m twittering, but also what the people I follow are twittering. Which is really interesting. So suddenly my content has other context around it. Then my blog is pushed out to my twitter stream because there’s 400 people following me there that are completely different than the 400 people following me over on facebook. So it’s about piping things and distributing things and then the reason why you need a social map is because you need an overriding vision to say how we continue to feed and pipe contents into this. The blog post right before this look post for Seismic was a reaction from a bunch of kids in a copyrighting class who made a brilliant statement which is that brands are alive and they need to act more like people which means they can’t just be a webpage that never gets updated; they’ve got to be living, breathing, updating daily and people have to be able to comment on them and open it up and make it part of popular culture and discuss it and feel like they’ve got a role in it beyond just the ability to just consume it. That’s ultimately why…that’s the significance of the social mapping and you can expect to see that from us consistently and we’ll probably even present that more broadly as a best practice or a discipline we do at one of your future events or shows.

Susan:             I want to cover a couple of points, put some detail on a couple of things you just said. The first one was you used the word automatize or atomize, I hate that word because it’s hard to say, but it’s the atomization or the micro-encapsulation of bits of content spread across the web and it’s actually a word I first heard Seth Godin use from Meatball Sunday. Did you get it from that or did you get it from somewhere else?

Mark:              Actually, we developed an [agra] game because is what takes to communicate in social nets today. So it’s some of the base intel on it. But we developed this [agra] game for Mellow Yellow and for the ads we created an atomic version of it so that you could actually play the games.  We call it distributed media but we basically could distribute the content. today, five years later, we would simply make it a widget that people could add to their homepage or start page or blog or whatever. But back then it was the idea of actually just getting some media spin behind distributing it out there and and getting people to just have a taste of playing with it and then they would come over to the website to have the larger engagement with it. So we’ve been automatizing large website interactions but we’ve also considered it essential, not to throw around too many terms, but to catch the long tail and to actually search optimize by putting so much content out there in an atomic way that would have high relevance depending on how you’re searching and what you’re looking and would be a different way into a brand. Let me give you an example. For Darden Restaurants, for Red Lobster, if we were to talk about their sustainability practice, which is phenomenal and hasn’t been highlighted, or if we talked about the Omega 3’s in fish it couldn’t be less compelling from a brand marketing advertising messaging, right? You couldn’t be very motivated by that. However, you’re searching on anti-oxidants or you’re searching on Omega 3’s, suddenly it has high relevance and now I’m introducing the brand in a much more compelling and relevant way.  It gives me more windows into the brand. That’s ultimately why we call our agency Real Branding. A lot of people doing identity work for the last five to eight years who are ignoring the digital space and more importantly ignoring the way that you get consumers involved in a brand simply are not doing real branding. They’ve got their heads in the sand and they’re not where real brands need to go.
Susan:             So we’re going to go to a break now. And when we come back I want to talk about this concept. We’re talking about atomizing the web. We’re talking about taking these bits and putting them in all these places: stumble upon, facebook, delicious, flicker, MySpace, ad nauseum, Viddler, Seismic, whatever, our blogs, all this stuff, but I want to find out if you think that the, not the tech people like everyone listening right now, but consumers. Is there a place where they’re going to want to aggregate all this stuff or are they going to be happy going out to all these different websites and dabbling? So let’s save your answer for when we come back. We’re going to take a break and thank our sponsors. I want to also mention for you listening today that there is a Dishy Mix facebook fan club. If you join the Dishy Mix fan club you get access to insider promo codes for new web 2.0 services, you get free products that my guests give away and you can get autographed copies of books from the authors that I have on the show, like Seth Godin with Meatball Sunday, like Patricia Martin with the RenGen, the Renaissance Generation. So if you go to facebook and search on Dishy Mix you’ll find me. Join my fan club. I’d love to give you some freebies. So let’s go to my sponsors because they have some good freebies for you too. So stay tuned and we’ll be right back with Mark Silva, the Managing Director of Real Branding.

Hey. This is Sean Daily, host of Green Talk radio. Green Talk helps you navigate the maze of green and eco products on the market today and make smarter lifestyle choices at home and at work through informative and entertaining interviews with industry authors and experts, as well as executives from innovative companies around the world. Find Green Talk radio on iTunes or at personallifemedia.com Green Talk radio. Environmental stewardship through smart consumption. Green Talk radio.

Susan:             All right we’re back. Hey Mark this has been a really fun conversation so far. I want to hear your perspective on the my yahoo version of web 2.0. Do you think there’s an opportunity there? Or no way? People don’t mind going everywhere now and there’s no more need for a homepage or a start page or a feed page for all this?

Mark:              No I think that’s actually one of the killer apps that Google’s identified already with the iGoogle page. So yes, the my yahoos, the net vibes, etc have high relevance. I actually love flock as a social browser, as a way of making my browser do some of that heavy lifting for me. I don’t think that’s broadly adopted and consumers don’t know much about it today. Your question was are consumers satisfied with us?  And I think that’s actually the core question.  When we launched the Captain’s Blog, which was sort of just a cute name for Captain Morgan for Diaggio. What we found after 30 days of running it was number 1 the consumer absolutely loved the ability to engage in that brand’s and to develop its mythology with it. Absolutely loved it. In fact decried it when he stepped over the line and we pushed a little bit, when he stepped over the line one time on a blog post and all the negative responses to us said “okay. Let’s bring it back in” so I think the consumers will actually tell you where your branding print can and can’t go. But the big aha we had was they actually loved the really cheesy graphics we put in there because it was coming in through Google image search and they could put it on their…they loved  the interaction, they loved all the different ways…but they didn’t really care that it was a blog. That was our construct that we were forcing on them, calling it the Captain’s Blog. That was our concept taking over. In fact what they liked was that they were able to get it by email or by text or that they were able to find it by search. So consumers will be satisfied by the tools that are out there that they’re actively using and I think that’s a solution that’s already being developed. In fact, I’ve said for a long time the only reason why Google existed is because we never got usability really well and so for companies and people to find something on they actually need a search engine to find something 20 layers deep. So I think the consumers are going to be satisfied by the ongoing development of web 2.0 and 3.0 search engine solutions that help them find content better and serve it and organize it better, then it becomes more incumbent on us than ever to make sure that we’re serving up content that can be atomicized, that can be micro-sized, that can be consumed at any place any time anywhere that they are.

Susan:             So one of the things that I just want to point out is that we transcribe every episode of this show.  And I think some of the things that you’ve said are things that people would like to cut and paste and put in emails to the people they work with or their customers or their friends. You’ve made a lot of good points about what consumers might want, where the world is going.  And I just want to remind people that we have transcripts on the show if you want to do that. I want to move from the -- I hate to leave social media. I could talk about it all day long.

Mark:              Likewise. I love it. Why don’t we carry on with your comments on your blog?

Susan:             That sounds good. I’ll post that Lowick thing or else link to your blog and people can see that story that Lowick talked about where he used himself as an example of all of the places that he goes online. I’m convinced that we need a place to roll that up. I’m tired of going to linked in and then facebook and then… I’m going back and forth to places all day long. The twitter homepage…

Mark:              Do you use flock yet?

Susan:            No.

Mark:              There you go. First start at flock and again that’s just a solution to 1.0, it’ll keep getting better but what it allows you to do is have all your personal stuff, all your bookmarking, all your rss feeds all in one place.

Susan:             Alright. I’m going to give flock a try and I bet a lot of people listening will too. So you are a writer. You are a poet. You love and have been involved in that from a very early stage. Tell us about your background in that.

Mark:              You’re probably overplaying the poet. I’m probably a better painter than a poet. And I’m probably a better prose writer than a poet. But a great appreciator of both.  The painting side of it, I felt pretty much since ’94, soon as I picked up the mouse and really got very serious about being in the heart of the digital revolution that was going on, I stopped painting. So I just recently picked it up mainly as a way of expressing great love for my kids and there’s huge paintings going around our house now and I haven’t been as happy and wagging my tail in 14 years. It was a long absence and I’m assuming that’s pretty much what my retirement years are going to be occupied with.

Susan:             And I notice you have a really fabulous painting in the foyer of your office. I was in your office the other day. And I saw a gorgeous painting, I found it’s not yours but I really liked the aesthetic Who is that of?  But I really I took a picture of it.  I’ll post it on Dishy Mix so everyone can see it.

Mark:              I was actually working on a similar composition, myself.  It was a similar somatic composition and I walked into the SFMoma rental gallery -- they actually rent art pieces for you before you actually buy -- and I saw it and I said, “Okay. Hang it up.”  and I got rid of the painting I was working on and I bought this one, almost as a humility piece and a reminder of what happens when you paint and you dedicate yourself to five or six hours a day to something. And there’s so much maturity and power and conviction to the painting and the stroke there and what’s actually being communicated for me at least and the artist whose client and I spoke quite a bit about it, he based it off of a Francis Bacon piece which was his irritation on it was basically this irrepressible need to communicate which, by the way, I would consider Dishy Mix and blogging and a lot of social media anyway.

Susan:             An irrepressible need to communicate. It’s a vocal piece. It’s a painting that to me looks like it could be a man screaming or communicating or just yelling it out. That’s what I got out of it.

Mark:              We do that incredibly well and hopefully relevantly and provocatively for our clients.

Susan:             Well right next to that was the cursing jar where if you cursed you had to put in money and I gave that bad boy wide swath. Just empty my dang pockets out, put ‘em in the jar.

Mark:              That’s the Budweiser swear jar. We actually created a widget and translated the swear jar advertisement into five different languages for Anheuser Busch and I guess that was their way of saying “thanks for keeping it on f-ing time and budget.”

Susan:             So you are married. You have how many children?

Mark:              I’ve got two children.

Susan:             And how old are they?

Mark:              My daughter’s seven and my boy is five.

Susan:             That’s nice. That’s good ages. They’re getting fun, fun, fun. One of the things you told me is that, you wrote to me, you said “on this planet, in this lifetime what I’ve learned about marriage is the only enduring truth I’ve found. And I fought this discovery for a long time. I tried it other ways but found the greatest truths, wisdom and beauty have come through my marriage.” Tell me one of the greatest truths that you’ve learned through your marriage.

Mark:              I’m sitting here looking at a picture of my wife right now, who is probably the most patient and wise person I’ve ever met and that’s how she’s been able to deal with me. And was absolutely convinced that a life of travel and unencumbered by a single relationship was the path I was going to have and at each step I’ve had to surrender to the greater wisdom of our relationship is that when something’s important for either of us, for instance if it’s important for me to do a start up or to go off and create something then she supports it 100% and when she’s wanted to come together and create something, it’s also been my wholehearted endorsement. That was our decision to get married was pretty much that way. In fact, it’s a pretty funny story. We were traveling around the country, introducing realbeer.com to all the beer marketers. And somewhere around Chicago I said to her, “if for any reason you think I’m withholding anything from you by not committing to an institution of marriage, I thought the institution was unnecessary, let me know.” Somewhere about Portland Maine she said “good.”  I said, “great, great. it’s about time.” Even though there’s a four alarm fire going off in my head. I didn’t hesitate and somewhere around Key West we finally got married and I’ve never seen her happier or just more brilliant as that day on the beach. And it’s just been an amazing journey ever since. One of quiet humility to all the rational supports I had for not getting married and not connecting previously.

Susan:             So you succumbed and you’re glad.

Mark:              I used to read Milan Kundera and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s got this beautiful little short story about the old man with wings and they used the angel to represent the spirit, right? And a lot of times the repressed spirit. And I did a painting, thinking it was about wings of desire or whatever, of a beautiful seven foot piece of an angel, breaking forth, bursting forth, chest in air, straight forward and at the bottom its leg was shackled to the ground. So it was almost like a Sisyphean feat that could never be undone.  What I thought it was was about the spirit trying to be free. What I realized was, ten years later after I’d found great happiness in the exclusivity and the monogamy and the beauty of our relationship was, no. Beyond fear there’s liberation. That shackle was simply the fear.

Susan:             Wow. I just went through the fire walk again. When you said “beyond fear is liberation” it really reminded me of that. I went to “Unleash the Power Within” for my second time with Tony Robbins and I walked across a bed of hot coals last weekend for the second time.  And it wasn’t any easier to step out on those coals the second time but I knew I could do it this time. And so, breaking through, getting beyond the fear to the liberation. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

Mark:              Susan, think about what it took you to get that hyped up, to get there. And I think you either need a crisis or you need simple absolute commitment in some way to get there and that’s what I needed in my relationship too. But a lot of people simply don’t get there. They don’t choose to make change, they choose to continue to deal with the path of least resistance which could be the path of greatest pain.

Susan:             I think that your point about absolute commitment, I think my relationship with my husband for the first ten years, I wasn’t absolutely committed to it. I was married and I was living in marriage but I wasn’t absolutely committed to him and the deepening of our love and how much love I could get out of a relationship and pushing it and pushing it and pushing it and being… moving through the fear of loving. And I think it is that absolute commitment that deepens the bond in a relationship too. It’s scary. It’s scary. It’s really scary to love people!

Mark:              It is but anything else is a distraction from that, right? It could be work. It could be people who you want to socialize with, whatever. And all those things I think if they’re used to externalize what you really need, what path you need to be on personally are all distraction and noise and you get to the real truth through that focus.

Susan:             Being a workaholic. Or finding the love in your children rather than your relationship, all that stuff. So I want to close out because we have to be mindful of our listener’s time, they’ve got work to do. One of the common themes that I hear…the people who come on the show are people who have their shit together, successful, interesting, unique perspectives on the world, vibrant and almost everybody tells me the one thing that is their greatest power. And you called it “shoulda, coulda, woulda”. And you expressed it that way. So share that as your inspirational good-bye to our listeners. What’s your shoulda, coulda, woulda situation?

Mark:              I guess I don’t have a shoulda, woulda, coulda.  I actually believe in the truth and wisdom of the life that we’re living. And that includes the people that are here for better or worse that are in your path and are there for a very specific reason. And there’s lessons from every single one of them. I’ve learned as much from my poor advice and decisions as from all the successes I’ve had, and maybe even more from those. And the one thing that continues to be validating for me is that my gut is pretty dead on. It’s pretty much the truth.

Susan:             So you believe in your intuition and there is no shoulda, woulda, coulda for you?

Mark:              There should be none. There should be none.

Susan:             When you feel like you should be doing something, what do you do?  You think “oh, I should do this…”

Mark:              You do it. And if other people around you aren’t doing it, you get them to do it. Basically help them also get clarity on what needs to happen as well.
 
Susan:             Don’t you want to play small? Aren’t you worried that you’ll make people feel bad?

Mark:              I don’t understand that question. I guess I don’t.

Susan:             That’s good. Well a lot of people think, well I think we should do it but I’m not sure, so I’m not going to make other people do it. You will drag everybody with you.

Mark:              No. You know what I think? Somewhere around the mid-90’s and I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere around the mid-90’s, there was this thing in corporate culture that started to become this culture of nice. And it had nothing to do with competency and I’m not sure if it was because people were afraid of, they couldn’t hire people, they were afraid of losing talent or whatever but there’s this whole prioritization on being nice to people. To me, I think you have to respect people, but nice?  One of the best ways you can respect people is by respectfully disagreeing with them. The quality relationship is one on how well can you disagree than how you can agree. And so, to me, it isn’t necessarily about being nice and so I don’t concern myself with it, if indeed I am working on a pure agenda and I am being truthful.

Susan:             Nice. Let’s keep focusing on our pure agendas and bringing people along with us. Mark, it’s been great to talk to you. I appreciate it. I’d like to see some of your paintings. Could we have some images for the Dishy Mix blog too?

Mark:              I think I sent you one over. There’s one on flicker I sent you.

Susan:             Oh great. All right. Good. I’m going to post a link to that and to all the beers and the City Beer Store and all that. We want to try all those beers. That sounds very interesting.

Mark:              All right. We’ll do a tasting next time you’re over.

Susan:             Oh that sounds like a really fun time. I’d like to do that. You do your monthly beer 2.0’s, don’t you?  I’ll come to that. That sounds good. And for everyone else who’s listening and you have some show ideas or comments about the show or you just want to talk to me, send an email to me. susan@personallifemedia.com or call 206-350-5333. Thanks for tuning in today to listen to Mark and I. I hope you got some good stuff out of it.  And I will talk to you next week. Have a great day.

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