I laugh at the way some people think graffiti is all selfish tagging and vandalism. Thoughtful street art is like good fiction – it speaks out on behalf of everyone, for us all to see.

Carla H. Krueger, Author
From Blogging to Banksy, it’s all in the Message

From Blogging to Banksy, it’s all in the Message

Posted by martin.parnell |

There’s a scene in the 2011 movie CONTAGION, where Dr. Ian Sussman (Elliot Gould) says to conspiracy theorist, antagonist and blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) “Blogging is not writing, it’s graffiti with punctuation”. The comment was meant to be taken as an insult to bloggers. More often than not, the word graffiti will conjure up images of buildings, trains, subways, memorials etc. being defaced. 

Use of the word has evolved to include any graphics applied to surfaces in a manner that constitutes vandalism. In many places it is regarded criminal act. But, being a cup-half-full, optimistic sort, I decided to find out more that might reveal a positive side to the practice.

I turned to Wikipedia and was amazed at all the information on offer. Here are just some of the fact I discovered: Simply put, the word Graffiti means: “ Writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or painted, typically illicitly, on a wall or other surface, often within public view.” 

It turns out that graffiti has been around since ancient times. The term graffiti referred to the inscriptions, figure drawings, and such, found on the walls of ancient sepulchers or ruins, as in the Catacombs of Rome. The eruption of Vesuvius preserved graffiti in Pompeii, which includes Latin curses, magic spells, declarations of love, alphabets, political slogans, and famous literary quotes, providing insight into ancient Roman street life. 

The ancient Romans carved graffiti on walls and monuments, examples of which also survive in Egypt. Graffiti in the classical world had different connotations than they carry in today's society concerning content. Ancient graffiti displayed phrases of love declarations, political rhetoric, and simple words of thought, compared to today's popular messages of social and political ideals. 

It was not only the Greeks and Romans who produced graffiti. The site of Tikal in Guatemala contains examples of ancient Maya graffiti. Vikings graffiti survive in Rome and at Newgrange Mound in Ireland, and a Varangian scratched his name (Halvdan) in runes on a banister in the Hagis Sophia in Constantinople. Errors in spelling and grammar in these graffiti offer insight into the degree of literacy in Roman times and provide clues on the pronunciation of spoken Latin. 

The first known example of "modern style" graffiti survives in the ancient Greek city of Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey). Graffiti, known as Tacherons, were frequently scratched on Romanesque Scandinavian church walls. When Renaissance artists such as Pinturicchio, Raphael, Michelangelo, Ghirandaio, or Filippino Lippi descended into the ruins of Nero’s Aurea, they carved or painted their names and returned to initiate the grottesche style of decoration. 

There are also examples of graffiti occurring in American history, such as Independence Rock, a national landmark along the Oregon Trail. French soldiers carved their names on monuments during the Napoleonic campaign of Egypt in the 1790s. Lord Byron’s survives on one of the columns of the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion in Attica, Greece. These early forms of graffiti have contributed to the understanding of lifestyles and languages of past cultures. 

During World War II and for decades after, the phrase “Kilroy was here” with an accompanying illustration was widespread throughout the world, due to its use by American troops and ultimately filtering into American popular culture. Shortly after the death of Charlie Parker (nicknamed "Yardbird" or "Bird"), graffiti began appearing around New York with the words "Bird Lives". 

The student protests and general strike of May 1968 Paris bedecked in revolutionary, anarchistic, and situationist slogans such as L'ennui est contre-évolutionnaire ("Boredom is counterrevolutionary") expressed in painted graffiti, poster, and stencil art. At the time in the US, other political phrases (such as "Free Huey" about Black Panther Huey Newton) became briefly popular as graffiti in limited areas, only to be forgotten. 

Graffiti may also express underlying social and political messages and a whole genre of artistic expression is based upon spray paint graffiti styles. Controversies that surround graffiti continue to create disagreement amongst city officials, law enforcement, and writers who wish to display and appreciate work in public locations. 

Wikipedia covers graffiti in great detail and I found it all fascinating.  In some quarters it is regarded as a modern-day art form. In 1979, graffiti artist Lee Quinones and Fab 5 Freddy were given a gallery opening in Rome by art dealer Claudio Bruni.  Its value is highly contested and reviled by many authorities while also subject to protection. In fact in some circles, it has been positively encouraged. 

In 2001, computer giant IBM launched an advertising campaign in Chicago and San Francisco which involved people spray painting on sidewalks a peace symbol, a heart, and a penguin (Linux mascot) to represent "Peace, Love, and Linux." Due to laws forbidding it, some of the "street artists" were arrested and charged with vandalism, and IBM was fined more than US$120,000 for punitive damages and clean-up costs. 

Examples of graffiti can be seen in every corner of the world, from Brazil to Iran, from London to Tokyo. If you consider the aim of the graffiti artist, it tends to be to make a political comment or statement about the order of the day. Graffiti often has a reputation as part of a subculture that rebels against authority, although the considerations of the practitioners often diverge and can relate to a wide range of attitudes. 

I would argue that, in this respect the role of graffiti is very similar to that of the blogger, in today’s society. Wikipedia defines a blog as: “A discussion or informational website published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete, often informal diary-style text entries.” 

Graffiti is a means of prompting discussion in a different way, but it voices opinions which can be informal, engaging and thought-provoking, just as a blog might. As with graffiti artists, bloggers use their social media platforms to do the same and blogs promote perfect reader engagement. 

There are also many differences between the way in which the blogger and the graffiti artist communicate their ideas, messages and opinions, but I don’t necessarily think that the use of punctuation is the most obvious.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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A lot of high-profile companies are recognizing the benefits of power napping. . . . It's like kindergarten all over again.

Stefanie Weisman author
Why Sleeping on the Job can be a Good Thing.

Why Sleeping on the Job can be a Good Thing.

Posted by martin.parnell |

Every afternoon, if I happen to be working from home, I take a short nap. I find it reenergises me and revitalises my work and it’s especially beneficial if I have an evening meeting or professional engagement. 

Lucia Binding in the UK’s Evening Standard , 30th. April 2018, quotes a study, first published in the Telegraph, conducted by the University of Delaware. It considered the link between a post-lunch sleep and brain function in early adolescents. A total of 363 youngsters were included in the study and it resulted in the conclusion that nap times should be scheduled into the school day, in secondary schools.

The study, which was published in the journal Behavioural Sleep Medicine, also revealed that those who napped more often tended to have a better night time sleep. Xiaopeng Ji, leader of the study who has studied the natural sleep and wake pattern of cells known as the circadian rhythm, said: “Young people who napped five to seven days during the week had better nonverbal reasoning ability, spatial memory and sustained attention, they found.

The optimal amount of nap time was found to be between 30 and 60 minutes. Midday napping, night-time sleep duration and sleep quality was measured by the researchers, along with performance on multiple neurocognitive tasks. The study also revealed that teens who put down their smart-phones an hour before bed gained an extra 21 minutes sleep a night and an hour and 45 minutes over the school week. So this would appear to support my opinion that napping is a good thing.

However, on the Chron website, Lisa McQuerrey  tells us that on MayoClinic.com a study shows: “Napping in the workplace can have both health and productivity benefits, like reduced fatigue and increased reaction time”. McQuerrey then looks into why napping in the workplace might be challenging: “Even if you get employer support for a mid-day siesta, consider the logistical elements that come into play when it comes to catching 40 winks at your desk. 

Where to Sleep

Cat naps can be productive if they truly provide good rest. If you don’t have a dark, quiet place to sleep, your sleep is likely to be spotty, which can actually add to your tiredness and make it more difficult to sleep at night. If you’re the type of person who takes a while to doze off, you could find that trying to catch a nap in the middle of the day is more trouble than its worth, especially if you take 20 minutes to nod off and you’ve only allocated 30 minutes to a nap.

When to Sleep

MayoClinic.com indicates that the best time to catch a mid-day nap is between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Anything later has the potential to interrupt your regular nighttime REM sleep. If you can’t regularly carve out this portion of the day, erratic nap habits can make it difficult for your body to adjust to a beneficial sleep schedule. If you work by appointment, or need to be available to customers, clients or colleagues on a regular basis, napping at work can hurt your productivity.

Perception

Napping at work can be perceived as lazy or selfish. You might have colleagues who think you’re taking unfair advantage or getting special treatment if you’re allowed to doze at work. Customers or clients who walk in or call during a nap period may also question your professionalism, which can have a negative effect on your reputation, and your company's reputation.

Increased Tiredness

For some people, a cat nap is refreshing; for others, it can lead to daytime drowsiness and make you feel even less rested than before you took the snooze. If it takes you awhile to perk up after sleep, the latter part of your workday could be slowed down. You may find it difficult to get refocused and not be as productive as necessary.

In some countries, an afternoon nap is part of everyday life. As explained on Sleep.org. The tradition began due to the fact that temperature climbed to such a degree, in the afternoons, that it is becomes too hot to be outside and therefore difficult for certain work to be carried out.

Over time, different cultures have tweaked the napping habit to suit their preferences. For example:

In China: Workers often take a break after lunch and put their heads on their desks for an hour-long nap. It’s considered a Constitutional right.

In Italy: The riposo may begin anytime between noon and 1:30pm and run until 2:30pm to 4:00pm. Businesses shut down, and public venues like museums and churches lock their doors so their employees can go home for a leisurely lunch and a snooze.

In Spain: The siesta is deeply ingrained, as businesses often close for hours to accommodate the mid-day rest. While the siesta can span two hours, only a fraction of the time is actually spent napping; first, there’s lunch with family and friends, then a rest. Because of the mid-day break, people often work later into the evening.

Many people have advocated for the benefits of taking a regular nap. Albert Einstein claimed that his daytime naps to fuel that amazing brain of his. Other well-known “nappers” include Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Ronald Reagan, Aristotle and Margaret Thatcher. 

I’m no Einstein, but I do know that my afternoon nap leaves me feeling refreshed and ready for my next task. If you find that you are fading by mid-afternoon, why not try taking a few minutes to close your eyes and take a brief nap? 

You may find that, like me, it’s just the little boost you need to set you up for the rest of the working day.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.

Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
How to Make your Writing Reader Friendly

How to Make your Writing Reader Friendly

Posted by martin.parnell |

When I am writing, whether it be for a blog, the next chapter of one of my books or a talk I am preparing, I often have to conduct research. I read articles, check facts, read other blogs and try to get a wide range of opinions to compare. 

Something I have noticed is that, although being very knowledgeable on their subject, there are many writers who do not adjust their writing to make it “reader-friendly”. This applies, in particular, if I am looking at studies which have been carried out on the subject I am researching, or looking for alternative opinions. 

Obviously, some studies are meant to be directed at others who work or study in that particular field and one would expect them to be more technical in their approach. But, there are times when these pieces of writing are put out into the general realm of readership and would benefit from being more accessible to the reader. 

In his free weekly e-zine, available at www.mediacoach.co.uk."The Media Coach”, Alan Stephens recently wrote: “You have to be sure that people who read your posts understand what you mean by them. Does that mean you have to use simple words and ideas? Basically, yes.

It's no use using abbreviations, jargon, and references to people that few of your audience will know or comprehend. It may make you look or feel clever, but it isn't communication. It can happen by accident, simply because we all make assumptions at times that our experience and knowledge is commonplace.

The most obvious indicator that your posts are too complex is comments that say "I don't understand", or feedback that has misinterpreted the point you were trying to make. A more effective way is to ask a friend or colleague to read them. If they don't understand, a re-write is required. Keeping things simple doesn't mean dumbing-down. It's real communication.”

Note that he said “Keeping things simple doesn't mean dumbing-down.” You need to use everyday words to create basic, simple sentences, which is, mostly easy to do. However, there will be times when you may need to refer to a more complex theory or use a technical term. In that case, it’s important that you explain it fully.

If you are going to use an acronym, make sure you make it clear what those letters stand for (this applies in conversation as well as in writing). If you are known for writing on a particular topic, you may think you attract the same audience all the time, but this isn’t necessarily the case. You never know who might come across a piece of your work for the first time and you need to engage them.

Keeping your writing current is also important. You want readers to think about what you have written and hopefully take something away from it. It also helps if you are enthusiastic about the subject and a little humour never hurts. If you are writing a blog or article, try to give more than one opinion on the subject. There is one school of thought that shorter pieces are best and it’s true that you don’t need to waffle and cause the reader to lose interest. But, on the other hand you want to give enough information to support your idea.

If in doubt you can always refer to articles you have read, in order that the reader can gain more information on the subject. Always remember to give credit to other writers and state where you found a particular piece.

Whatever you are writing, whether it be a blog, an update to your website, a memo, letter or report, make sure you know what parts you wish to emphasise. Make your sentences and paragraphs limited in length and focussed on the subject.

If you’re not sure whether your piece is worth publishing, just ask yourself “Would I want to read this?”

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.

Warren Buffett
Value Yourself and Others will see Your Worth

Value Yourself and Others will see Your Worth

Posted by martin.parnell |

When I worked in the mining industry, I knew, from month to month, what my salary would be. There was a graded pay scale and, apart from hoping for an end-of-year bonus, I knew I would earn the same amount for the whole year. 

Things altered dramatically when I changed careers to become a Keynote Speaker and Author. Suddenly, there was no guaranteed income. I had go out and sell myself and decide what I was going to charge for my services.

So, what was I worth? 

The important thing I had to remind myself was that I chose this path because I am experienced in my field and know what I’m doing, my expertise can inspire and motivate others, I have a passion for what I do and I have an important message to share.

All of things are of value. I am value for money. Of course the nature of my engagements would vary widely. One week I might be giving a talk at a conference, in front of a large number of delegates, the next I might be addressing a group of workers in their business setting.

Not only did I have to decide how to temper my talk to fit the group, adjust to the constraints of time allocation and make sure my content was meaningful and relevant, I also had to decide what I would charge.

I have a scale to which I refer, as a general rule. But, I’ve learnt the need to be flexible. Now, I know that most of you reading this will not be engaged in the speaking profession or have to go out and talk about your latest book, but you may be a freelance worker in some other field. So, what advice can I give you to help you on the subject of selling your services on a freelance basis.

I found an article “Why Freelancers Need to Charge Based on Value” by Matthew Baker, on theEntrepeneur website, in which he references to Marion McGovern, author of Thriving in the Gig Economy, who states “The most common mistake free agents make is thinking there must be one rate for all clients. People think it’s somehow unfair to charge ABC company differently than XYZ company. This is absolutely wrong.” 

Baker then offers some tips for setting effective prices: “Consider the time you will spend on prospecting clients, unbillable hours, marketing costs and upcoming vacation time. There are many online calculators who help you determine a rate that makes freelance work sustainable.

Once you know the market rate and a rate that will support you as a free agent, you’re almost there. McGovern suggests five other considerations:

  1. The riskier a project, whether due to the scope or aggressive goals, the more you should charge.
  2. The more a project allows you to deepen or broaden your skills, the more leniency you should have on price. Consider it an investment in building your business as a free agent. In the long run, you become more marketable and potentially able to command higher fees.
  3. The tighter the timeline for a project, the more you should charge. It’s a convenience tax. For example, you may not realize it, but Uber is much more expensive per mile than a rental car. Convenience and urgency costs a premium.
  4. Your daily rate should be approximately 1 percent of your annual revenue target. A marketing consultant who feels $200,000 would be the going salary for her expertise should charge $2,000 per day for her services or $250 per hour.
  5. Your anchor client should get a deal. An anchor client is one that pays your rent, so to speak, by giving you recurring business. Having a project year in and year out from one client is a wonderful thing. Some free agents may want to increase the fees after a few years. Unless your costs have risen dramatically, resist that impulse.”

Baker explains that taking this approach will not only enable you to have an independent career that supports your needs, but, just as importantly, addresses the needs of your clients, which is essential and he adds: “In order to stay independent for the long run, it’s important to prospect your own clients and learn how to price effectively.”

Due to the nature of my business and the various themes of my talks, I do not have as many regular clients as some freelancers, but tend to be attracting new ones. For example, last month I was the after-dinner Keynote Speaker, my topic “Ordinary to Extraordinary”, at the Conference for the International Society for the Studying of the Lumbar Spine and a week later, I was presenting a workshop on “Goal Setting and Achievement” at a Rotary District Conference.

For this reason, my fees can differ more widely. But, the point is, I’ve learned the value of what I have to offer. Also, I always ensure I will be reimbursed for my expenses, travel, food etc. and I look for the opportunity to sell my books. I will ask for a testimonial, which I can display on my website and take every opportunity to engage with delegates, other speakers and organisers. Networking is key if you are self-employed.

If you have thought of becoming a freelancer, do your homework. Do you know your clientele? Do you have a feel for the market? Do you have something extra to offer? Going it alone can be scary and challenging, but it can also be exciting, rewarding and may help you fulfill a dream.

Just make sure you value yourself and your expertise and enjoy your successes.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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