100 Happy Days Update

photo This March, I wrote about starting my journey of #100happydays. Well, I'm *happy* to report that I'm now on day number 68 straight of the challenge. What they say on the website is true:

I have noticed what makes me happy. (The four F's: family, friends, flowers, food. And dogs. Lots of dogs.) Well, this sounds pretty obvious, but it's fun to look back at the pictures and notice a common theme quite quickly.

I have been in a better mood. How could I not, when I started the challenge in Maui and now it's the most beautiful time of the year in Seattle!

I have realized how lucky I am to have the life I have. Life is great! I am in constantly reminded how beautiful this city is and everything around it.

I have become more optimistic. I think this challenge has also compelled me to say 'yes' more. I have since joined an Underdog kickball team, discovered a bocce ball court by my apartment, ran a 12k and an 8k, gone ziplining through a forest, and biked a 26 miler just because. I'm rarely ever sitting at home anymore!

I've also learned that I didn't need this challenge to become happy, but rather to realize that I have happy moments every day.

In case you were wondering, those who accept the challenge can either post on social media, or just send in a picture each day to myhappyday@100happydays.com. I personally chose the latter, but as proof, the photo collage above are some of my favorite moments so far.

You can check out what makes other peoples' days all around the world at the hashtag #100happydays. Anyone else out there doing this challenge? Tweet me at @megelisekam.

 

Technology changes, behaviors don't

Scott blog pic Today is a writing day for me. When I started my career, days like today were always my favorite. I'd fuel up on coffee, shut the door, and write.  A plan, media materials, long form thought content, whatever—it always feels the same. The day feels too busy to be able to concentrate, but then you shut the door and get in a flow.

Today I'm working on an RFP, and had the pleasure of writing the forward to my mentor Ron Elgin's upcoming book. Today is also my day on the blog calendar so between the three — and two strong Americanos — I've been writing all day.

A few days ago, in anticipation of today, I was brainstorming topics for my post and ran across this picture from a tweet from Social Media Insider (@socialmedia411). I loved it. One of the things we talk about at Curator as we ideate for a new campaign is that technologies and platforms change but behaviors don't. And that is what we try to tap into. People still need to love and feel loved. They want to belong. They want to enjoy a meal with friends. They want to capture a moment and create a memory.

The selfie wasn't created by the iPhone. It was created by a common human behavior. I wonder which filter those guys chose.

 

Inspiration Day

We don’t have a lot of policies at Curator, by design.  But we did institute a new one yesterday: Inspiration Day.  I was recently given a compliment by someone I respect at one of the big agencies in town who told me Curator is viewed as one of the more innovative PR firms in the market.  It made me very proud.  And nervous.  Innovation is such an intangible thing. It is spurred by those who are curious and growing and experimenting.  I don't want that to ever change at Curator.  I want our agency and all our individual team members to constantly be in a state of growth.  To be trying new ideas and approaches that result in an incredible idea for our clients.

So, we've instituted Inspiration Day.  One day each year, we are giving our team members a free day, on top of their vacation and sick time, to go do something that may inspire them.  Go to a new art exhibit.  Go try their hand at glass blowing.  Anything.  Anything that may stimulate a part of their brain to come up with a new way of doing things for a client.  All that we've asked — as part of this new policy — is that they share their experience with our team.

Our industry is changing by the day. The way consumers take in information changes just as fast.  I want us to be in front of it.  So stay tuned on how our team members spend their day. Perhaps they'll blog about their experience and inspire you too.

For me, I've signed up for a one day cooking class in Charleston, SC where I'm going to learn how to create modern low country cuisine from a chef who is innovating an entire category. I very much want to learn new cooking skills — but more so, I'm interested in learning his motivations, why he's sticking his neck out to recreate something that is already so great, and the risks he's taken to open new restaurants.  I can't wait.

If you have ideas for us on how to spend the day hit us up on our Twitter: @curatorpr.

 

*Photo credit: Don Giannatti

Play Makers

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated  

It's a rare day when a campaign plays out exactly as we wrote it in a plan.  Life just has too many variables. Social context or a natural event or something else distracts the attention of our audiences.  The channel we developed—the reason to care—becomes muddy, too loud, or it's blocked altogether.  And, I believe, it's in that moment that the program fails or succeeds. It may not be immediate — but the ripple effect of either overcoming or not overcoming the situation means everything in the ultimate success of the campaign.

Every year in January I share with our team members a vision document. Our overarching vision for Curator never changes, but each year, based on market and internal conditions, the paths we need to take to get there are different.  We identify areas where we are going to place significant focus and then bring the team together to develop a plan for each initiative. This year, one of the three areas of focus I identified was a theme called Play Makers vs. Game Managers.  Perhaps I was inspired by the run our Seahawks were on and all the talk analysts use to describe quarterbacks. They always break them down into two areas: play makers and game managers. There is nothing wrong with game managers. In the right organization they can be fine.  But you're likely not going to win a championship with game managers.

Play makers are the thing. When Russell Wilson calls a play in the huddle, every member of the team knows what to do — they have a plan. As they're walking to the line they are envisioning the play resulting in a touchdown. But then the play starts and blocks are missed or holes are clogged and Wilson needs to find a way — to make something from nothing.  Play makers keep plays alive.  They win championships.

It takes us a long time to hire at Curator. We look for very specific things in our team members. Are they a cultural fit?  Is there a work ethic and drive there?  Is it layered with talent, curiosity, and a clean POV? And lastly, we're looking for an X factor.  Do they find a way?  When the play breaks down — and at some level it always will — do they find a way?

I love play makers. Are you one?

Here Comes the Sun, Seattle

Warm spring days in Seattle are rare. So, when the sun shines and the temperature creeps above 65, Seattleites know how to take advantage. They know the sun and all of its glory will be gone, likely the very next day. Case and point: yesterday it was 70 degrees in the Emerald City and today, a mere 58 and cloudy. My fellow Curators and I have compiled a list of our go-to locations and activities to embark upon when the weather is warm.

In my opinion, there is no shortage of beautiful parks in Seattle, but two of my favorites include Green Lake Park and Gas Works Park. Both locations always promise great people watching (one of my favorite hobbies), and tons of grassy space, which is great for kids. My husband and I love impromptu picnic-in-the-park dinners (thank you Whole Foods Market prepared food department!) with our daughter on warm spring and summer nights.

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Matthew –

My patio! Ellie and I have a bistro table just outside our front door on the west side of the house that’s perfect for sunny days. A good book and a good beer on a sunny day is all I need to forget about Seattle’s five months of cloud cover.

Paul –

My boat. It’s getting to the point where it’s held together with duct tape and hope, but on a nice day, nothing beats it.

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Megan –

I could name a million places! I still love Alki Beach and Kerry Park as much as the next Seattleite, but when it’s a perfect sunny day, I always try to head over to Ray’s Café in Ballard. They have a patio over the water and a great happy hour. Plus, there’s always boats, paddle boarders and sometimes the odd jellyfish or otter to watch.

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Chelsey –

Anywhere outside, preferably with a view, and a drink in hand! On a boat or a rooftop seem to be my go-to's.

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Annie –

In a kayak on Lake Washington or South Lake Union! Although, my newest obsession, on a nice day, is spending time at the Marymoor Dog Park with Pat and our dog, Kirby.

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Brooke –

On a sunny day in Seattle, I refuse to eat inside which is why I am always on a hunt for a good patio. Most of the time, though, you’ll find me on my apartment rooftop where there’s a gorgeous view of the Space Needle and South Lake Union!

My colleague, Noelle, who resides and works in San Diego, CA, had this to say about how she prefers to make the most of those sunny days, which happen far more often in her hometown, than Seattle – lucky lady!

Noelle –

One of my favorite places to enjoy the sun in San Diego is La Jolla. A stroll along the beach to check out the sea lions, window shopping in the cute boutiques, or even dining al fresco at tasty open-air brunch spot all make La Jolla a great place to soak up some rays while taking in some lovely scenery.

 

Brands Play April Fools' Tricks Too

April 1 is the one day a year when seeing isn’t necessarily believing, especially in the online world of branding and marketing. More and more, brands are playing practical April Fools' jokes on the public with fake product launches, random press announcements and zany social media posts in an effort to set the Internet ablaze and get consumers talking. While a farce, the pranks can build brand buzz and brand affinity among consumers if executed with enough tongue-in-cheek flare. Check out our curated list of some of the most eye-catching April Fools' Day pranks from this year:

FRITO-LAY NORTH AMERICA CHEETEAU

Cheetos

Love Cheetos so much that you want to smell like the orange snack food? Frito-Lay’s press release announced the entry of brand mascot Chester Cheetah into the perfume space. The press release slapped on the extra cheese, calling the perfume Cheeteau by Chester and describing it as “a prestige fragrance that celebrates the irreverent, intriguing and playful nature of the iconic feline with a scent bold enough to excite and delight.” The release was accompanied by a YouTube video, which has received 1 million views to-date. Cheeteau’s integrated “campaign” included a giveaway of 100 bottles of Cheeteau on Twitter. Fans who Tweeted a cheesy selfie with the hashtag #CheesySelfie could enter to win the perfume.

Domino's

Domino’s

Pizza lovers everywhere were disappointed to hear that the world’s first edible pizza box was simply an April Fools' joke from Domino’s UK. Billed as the world’s first in “snackaging,” the “Edibox“ was borne through surveys that revealed that customers “crave extra crust once they've finished their meal.” And the best part of the Edibox? It’s eco-friendly of course.

American Eagle Outfitters

American Eagle Outfitters

What started out as a prank looks like it’s actually coming to fruition. American Eagle Outfitters announced a new line of matching outfits for dogs and their human parents dubbed American Beagle Outfitters. The joke included a “dogumentary” lamenting the current selection of duds for dogs. Intended to raise money for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) through the sale of gift cards, the retailer pulled our tails with a website full of canine couture. However, after receiving an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response, AE is now planning to actually launch a limited edition collection for pooches this fall.

Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market

Even some Curator clients got into the jokester spirit this year. Whole Foods Market in Cambie, Vancouver played a practical prank on shoppers by posting “parking tickets” on 15 lucky shoppers’ cars. Hope the shoppers read the fine print – the citation stated that the shoppers would receive a $10 gift card for posing with the ticket and posting it on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #WFMcambie.

hoffin

Google

Google is known for its April Fools' pranks (anyone remember Google Nose?), and this year was no exception. Included in the surprising suite of jokes up its sleeve was Google Maps' video (which received 9.5 million views as of this morning) advertising an augmented reality Pokémon game run through the Google Maps app that allows users to scroll across Google Maps using their smartphones to catch different specific of Pokémon by tapping on their icons.

Google’s blog post stated: “We value employees who are risk-taking and detail-oriented, have deep technical knowledge, and can navigate through tall grass to capture wild creatures. It turns out that these skills have a lot in common with another profession—that of the Pokémon Master. With that in mind, we’ve worked with Pokémon and Nintendo to develop a new training tool to help people hone their Pokémon-capturing abilities using Google Maps.”

For Gmail, April 1 brought the introduction of the “Gmail Shelfie” or sharable selfie, which allows you and your loved ones to replace your old Gmail background with a glorious photo of your face.  According to the company’s blog post, “Gmail Shelfie is built on the idea that you shouldn’t be selfish with your selfie. With just a few clicks, your mom, your aunt, or that girl you have a crush on can set your Shelfie as their Gmail theme so they can enjoy checking, reading, and writing emails while seeing your friendly face in the background.”

But perhaps my personal favorite Google rollout was Google+ Auto Awesome, which allows you to take those selfies one step further with a celebrity photobomb. Want David Hasselhoff to join you on a hike or a leisurely stroll on the beach?  Auto Awesome Photobombs makes that happen.

Do you have a favorite prank from this year? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter!

The Three C’s of Curator: A Year in Review

Time definitely flies. With this week marking my official one-year anniversary with Curator, I’m taking a look back at the key components I’ve observed over the last year that make Curator such a unique place to work. Check out my “Three C’s” of Curator below! Culture

Curators with their Jawbone UP bands

 

One thing that sets Curator apart is the emphasis on culture within the agency. Curator’s culture is that thread of camaraderie that ties us all together.

Over the last year, I’ve learned that Curator likes a little friendly office competition. Whether it’s Bachelor and Bachelorette brackets in which we pit hopeful contestants against one another on their journey to find love on TV (and hope that our contenders are victorious), Oscars Ballots in honor of one of the biggest nights in Hollywood (which by the way, resulted in an epic selfie, which I discussed in my last blog post) or our current running March Madness bracket, Curator is all over it. And then there’s Curator’s summer outing, which helps us all connect as team members and celebrate our hard work over the last year. There were a lot of “I’m on a boat” references last year. There’s also a cultural focus on health and wellness. Last fall, all Curators received Jawbone UP bands to help us track our steps, sleep levels and what we eat. The bands also provide reminders like alerting us that it’s time to get up and move around, which is an especially helpful reminder for those times we’re sitting at our desks focused on turning out great work. I admittedly get little reminders that I need to sleep more … I’m working on it. But beyond the Bachelor brackets and summer outings, there is an underlying culture of success. From the way we communicate with clients to the manner in which we ideate and support each other on account work, culture permeates all aspects of Curator.

Content

Fashion Valley showcasing Spring trends on Wake Up San Diego

 

We learned in Brooke’s recent post that content is queen, while customers are king. Merging high quality content that makes sense for your brand with what your customers want is what Curator strives for. We love to tap into the social conversation when it is organic to your brand. When working with Simon Property Group, that often means tapping into fashion trends, seasons and the pop culture fodder of the moment, through events, press announcements, photo shoots and more.

Throughout my time working with Fashion Valley in San Diego, we have worked with local broadcast stations to create interesting and fun content meant to bring awareness to the fashions, gift options, entertainment and events available at the center. Our segment topics have run the gamut, from New Year’s glam to Spring styles, and fall fashion shows to appropriate attire for Opening Day at the Del Mar Racetrack.  The content is stylish, fun and personifies the caliber and variety of choices that Fashion Valley brings to its shoppers, while tying into the trend or theme of the moment. Check out our latest Oscars-themed segment here.

Creativity

Villa Group on The Ellen DeGeneres Show's 12 Days of Giveaways

 

Creativity is another aspect that is inherently infused into the work Curator does. Curator strives to deliver smart, thoughtful and effective campaigns that allow the brands we work with to reach their audiences in innovative ways. “Will Vote for Food” on behalf of Whole Foods Market and LiveLifeLocal on behalf of Safeco Insurance are excellent examples of the thinking Curator puts behind our clients. You can read up on those two campaigns here.

During the holiday season particularly, brands face strict competition in capturing the attention of consumers. With consumers being bombarded with countless brand messages, how can brands garner attention during what is a peak period in the year? During my time with Curator, we grappled with this challenge for our client Villa Group, which owns a handful of top-flight all-inclusive hotels and luxury resorts in Mexico. One way we were able to capture widespread consumer attention was through a partnership I helped forge with The Ellen DeGeneres Show during one of her highest rated episodes of the year, the 12 Days of Giveaways. Audience members are over the moon to be a part of this show, as are brands. On Day 10 of Ellen’s 12 Days of Giveaways, we were able to provide 4-night stays at either of two of the Villa Group’s gorgeous properties, Villa del Palmar Cancun and Garza Blanca Preserve and Resort in Puerto Vallarta for all audience members. In return, the Villa Group was able to be associated with the number one daytime talk show in the nation. The result was phenomenal exposure for the brand.

As I embark on year two with Curator, I look forward to new and exciting adventures within the Three C’s, and beyond.

Why You Should Trade Your Hotel Bed for a Stranger’s Couch

St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. But not because of the green beer (only light beer can be dyed green, so no thanks), the corned beef and cabbage (both of which are gag-inducing if you ask me), or even the St. Paddy’s day parties that take place at pubs around the city (because frankly, I’m too old to enjoy that many people crowded into a bar that’s too small, singing songs too loud, while pushing their livers too far). No, for me St. Patrick’s Day is an annual reminder of my wife and I's life changing European Couch Surfing adventure through that took us from the pubs of Dublin, to the shops of the Champs Élysées. If you’ve never heard of (or have but have never considered) Couch Surfing, get ready to have your idea of foreign travel turned on its head. Dublin's Samuel Beckett Bridge

 

The term Couch Surfing comes from couchsurfing.org,  a global community of travelers that want a more authentic cultural experience in the places they visit. They facilitate this by connecting travelers with locals who can provide city-specific travel advice and sometimes even a place to stay while abroad. Yes, I’m talking about staying with people you’ve never met, in places you’ve never been.

Now, before you freak out and start conjuring up images from the movie Hostel, let me say from experience that I’ve never felt safer while traveling than I did while Couch Surfing. We got to know our hosts online beforehand and always met in a public place first. My wife and I stayed with eight "surfers" (as they’re called) in seven countries, and all of them were great people. One of our hosts had “surfed" in dozens of countries on four continents without incident. Think about it: what kind of person invites total strangers into their home for free?

For Ellie and me, the answer to that question was the best part about Europe. These folks loved their cities, and loved sharing their knowledge, time and often even home cooked meals with others. We made a lot of good memories over our the four weeks in Europe, but most of our best memories are of the times spent with our Couch Surfing hosts. Thanks to them, we found authentic pubs in Dublin (filled with Irish rather than tourists), hidden beer gardens in Munich (we literally had to hike through a giant garden to get to one of them), took impromptu day trips to the Baltic Sea, and discovered incredible views of Prague from plateau-parks you won’t find in any guidebook. Don’t get me wrong, We loved the British Library, Musee de Orsay, Prague Castle and the Rhine, but the sights rank a distant second to the friends we made along the way.

Our friends Leo and Ilka who we stayed with in North Germany, and who have stayed with us twice since then here in Seattle.

 

Couch Surfing puts you in a completely different frame of mind. We normally keep to ourselves when we’re on vacation, but suddenly we found ourselves out all night at a pub on Portobello Road with Mark and Katie (our London hosts who we had literally just met), wine tasting on the Rhine with Li (a Chinese tourist we met on the train), and getting a ride from Mikkel and Anna (German and Russian honeymooners we met on a day cruise) from the dock in Boppard to the train station in Koblenz. We still had plenty of time to ourselves to explore each city on our own and hit all of the major sights on our list. The major difference was that we cut our list of “must-sees” in half to make room for “must-experiences,” which ended up being better than anything we could have planned.

Couch Surfing is not about finding a free place to crash for a night; it’s about having authentic, intercultural experiences. It’s about getting to know a country and culture through its people, rather than through a $20 guidebook. It’s about helping your host with their English, and in turn learning about Czech drinking etiquette (you're apparently supposed to cheers when you get a new drink. Who knew?). It’s about learning the custom of the apéritif from an Englishman living in Paris who grew up in Ireland and is married to a Russian.

I realize Couch Surfing might be a little out of the comfort zone for some, but I would argue that staying with a local is the ONLY way to really experience a culture. Think about it this way; if someone visited Seattle from another country and spent a week touring SAM, Pike Place Market, the Space Needle and EMP, along with some Woodenville wine tasting and a day trip to Rainier, would you say they’ve experienced American, or even Seattle culture? I’m not knocking Seattle sights, but none of them remotely define the Seattle ethos.

Next time you travel, I encourage you to give Couch Surfing a shot. Instead of seeing a new city through your camera lens, see it through a raised pint glass with some newfound friends. I guarantee it will be the highlight of your trip.

The Best Thing We Have Created at Curator

Paul and Shawn, reenacting a pivotal scene from 'Titanic.'  

January marked our four-year anniversary. And in that time I could not be more proud of the clients we’ve been blessed to work with and the campaigns we’ve created. But neither – though extremely close – match the thing I think we’ve done best here.

Just last month we won Best of Show at the PRSA Totem Awards for the campaign we created for Domino’s Pizza.  That was wonderful and so fun to share with our client. We partnered with FOOD & WINE Magazine to create and produce their first Latin American food and wine festival; attracting some of the nation’s most celebrated chefs and sold out venues.  We got to go to Mexico every few weeks, eat incredible food and drink incredible wine and call it work. We get to create grassroots, social, PR, thought-leadership and advertising campaigns for a client with whom we enjoy personally and share their mission-based values: Whole Foods Market. I have had the pleasure of calling Simon Property Group a client for more than a decade and what a joy it is to work with a client that also becomes a long-term friend.  And the list goes on. But all those things stem out of the thing we placed the largest amount of focus at the start of the company.

Our culture.

The culture we have created at Curator is "the thing."  It binds us and guides us.  It’s predictable and egalitarian. Every year I write a Vision Document that I share with our team members. The overarching vision never changes, but the areas of focus each year, based on market and internal issues, change. For the first three years I made the number one priority of focus on culture. I believe you can’t create culture in reverse – meaning, you can’t place the focus of running your business all about the product or service, and then, once you create a critical mass of team members, attempt to enact a forced culture. When Curator was just two people, we were defining and living by the culture we were attempting to create for the long-term.  At times it was awkward, when we did things better suited for a team of people, but we knew it had to start early and be engrained in our DNA as a company. Now that we have a full team of wonderful people – here in Seattle and in San Diego – our culture permeates in all things. We have coffee together every morning with no agenda. We have happy hour together each Friday. We have a summer event each year with just our team members and a family holiday event each year with our significant others. But even more than just the fun overt culture things, our culture dictates our performance standards and the way we give feedback. The way we communicate with clients and the focus we put on creative and execution. Everything matters. And our culture defines it all.

We had Richard Tait, the creator of Cranium and now founder of Golazo, in our office recently. Richard is one of the most inspiring and talented people you’ll ever meet. And given his massive success for building incredible companies I asked him to share his take on culture with our team members. He said, incredible cultures act like families. They have traditions and rituals and they focus on something bigger than themselves.

I believe that is what we’ve created here. And because of that, everything else is possible. To our culture, Curators! Well done.

Curator With a Lowercase "C"

I am a Curator. We have a kick-ass office culture here and deliver excellent results for our dynamic, lifestyle clients. Part of this success involves expertly 'curating' things, both tangible and intangible, like compelling conversations, creative content and beyond. And at Curator, we believe that there are no shortcuts to delivering the best. I am lower-case curator, too. What I mean is, I 'curate' my closet, my fridge, and my status updates to be the most unique ‘me,’ collected and borne from far and wide: whether it’s that one-of-a-kind pair of sandals from last summer’s overseas trip or that certain brand of yogurt only found at that one place. I collect these things deliberately. I don’t want to settle. I mentioned in my last post that I recently moved. I 'curated' a collection of pieces for my new apartment, picking out each one-by-one with great care to create a space that I love coming home to, and makes me happy. Isn't that what life is all about? It got me thinking, the things I learned while curating things for my new digs can also be applied to the workplace. I thought I'd share my tips with you.

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 3.08.01 PM

Never settle -- Apartment hunting is exhausting. You get to that point where you're on the brink of giving up, or just settling for what's easy, rather than waiting for the perfect place. We all know it takes a lot of leg work, research, comparisons, and planning. I almost ended up signing a lease for a house that I knew in my heart wasn't ultimately what I had been dreaming of. Instead, I pressed on and eventually ended up getting a place I absolutely love. In the business world, sometimes it can be tempting to take the easy road; never, ever, do it. Your lack of caring shows, and neither you nor your client will be truly satisfied.

Elbow grease is key -- To furnish my bedroom, I needed to find a piece of furniture that would fit and look just right for the space next to my closet. There’s a heater near the floor and a knob halfway up the wall, so the piece had to fit specific dimensions. I went to home furnishing stores all up and down Seattle and the Eastside, but couldn’t find anything that I was happy with. Instead, I found this refinished, custom antique sofa table online that just so happened to have the perfect measurements for that awkward spot in my room. Someone was selling it out of their home in a small town about an hour away. I drove there in the rain one Sunday, loaded up the heavy thing in my barely-big-enough car and took it home. The long drive to the middle of nowhere and extra elbow grease pale in comparison to how great it looks in my room and how many compliments I’ve gotten on it. I'm not trying to brag, but it's a cool table. On the job, elbow grease goes a long way, and will make the difference between a mediocre project and a stellar project.

Infamous bed in progress.

 

Think independently -- Long story short, I found myself building my own IKEA bed at 10pm on a Tuesday night. At that point, there was no going back. It was either build the bed or sleep on the floor. I've built several pieces of IKEA furniture in my day, but never alone. The manual even has a picture of one person working alone with a big 'X' over it. But, I was determined to defy the nay-sayers. And, an hour (or two) later, I had built the bed on my own. It was a nice little feeling of accomplishment. At Curator, we talk about being game-changers. While brainstorming and teams are essential, there are times when thinking independently will lead you to a brilliant idea and an end result you can be truly proud to share with the world.