Building a Quiet Brand

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At the height of the of popularity of Calvin & Hobbes , creator Bill Watterson made an unprecedented decision: he rejected all merchandising offers.

No licensing for stuffed animals, cartoons, lunch boxes, shirts, or stickers. He wouldn’t even talk to Pixar about an animated film. To this day, there is nothing for sale but reprints of the original comics.

When compared with brands like Peanuts & Garfield, it’s likely that Watterson turned down at least $400 million in deals.

His focus was the integrity of the art. He didn’t want these products to distract from the storytelling. He wanted his characters to live in just one format, with one voice.

Most industry experts predicted that when the newspaper strip ended in 1995, Calvin & Hobbes would disappear from public consciousness. Without new content or outside licensing, it would vanish. Conventional wisdom says that’s how you build brand recognition.

But Watterson intended it to be a self-contained work, within his control from start to finish. And he built exactly the brand identity he envisioned.

Calvin & Hobbes remains among the most successful comics in print. The collected editions of the original newspaper strips have sold more 30 million copies.

Today, many believe that Watterson’s refusal to license created a purity that keeps us intrigued with the original work. There is only one version of these iconic stories and that strengthens our love for them.

In our noisy world, sometimes the best branding isn’t about getting louder. Sometimes, it’s about quietly growing in your craft, obsessively pursuing the work, building real connections one person at a time, and focusing on the long-term legacy you are creating for your life & your career.

Be willing to LOSE so you can WIN

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These days, being myself feels like a dream job. But there were times when it was torture. 

I was misunderstood. I was afraid. I was lost.

Being myself required me to walk into the fire. Into places that were uncomfortable & unknown. 

There were many logical reasons to compromise & fit into someone else’s vision of success. 

But I was willing to LOSE in many ways - sometimes for years - so I could ultimately WIN at being myself. 

The ‘real me’ eventually intersected with opportunities that have led to a beautiful place. A place where I am able to share my heart through inspiring films & speeches to audiences across the country. 

But none of that would have happened if I had accepted the typical career, the quick payout, or the simple answers. 

I’m grateful to be me. Even more, I am grateful I chose to stay true to my own process & my own version of success, even when it felt like failure.

It takes time, but eventually the world catches up with you.

The Magic You Are Carrying

The director of the new Aquaman movie watched my 19-minute video about his film.

He tweeted about it. And it stirred up a whirlwind of inspiration.

I feel a little insecure every time I post one of these videos. Showing this kind of emotion about superhero stories puts me in a vulnerable position. There are always people on the internet who make fun of me.

But, today, I’m reading hundreds & hundreds of messages from people who were helped by the video. It showed them a new way to be a hero to others. They feel more empowered to make the world a better, more loving place.

My life continues to be filled with wonders. I don’t plan these moments - they are always beyond me. Most of them happen because I’m willing to show my heart and risk looking silly.

Sometimes, I create things and nothing happens. Sometimes, they start a beautiful whirlwind. Either way, today I feel encouraged to continue sharing my authentic self.

And I’m reminded of the magic you are carrying within you. Maybe you’re holding back because you think the world won’t understand. Perhaps you think people will show anger or hatred. And perhaps they will.

But I know for certain that there is something in YOU that the world needs. Please share it with us.

 

Here’s my video about the Aquaman movie:

2018 was beautiful!

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This year, I spoke at 42 events across the country. 

One day, I talked to 5,000 people in an arena. 
On another day, I traveled for 8 hours & no one showed up for my session. 

Sometimes, I stayed at luxury hotels. 
Sometimes, I had to change clothes in the airport bathroom. 

I received some standing ovations. I also had people criticize me in the lobby after my keynote. 

I traveled nearly 150,000 miles this year. Some days were easier than others. 

But every moment was beautiful. 

I loved all of it. 

I’m grateful for every opportunity to share my heart & help others see the inspiring truth about themselves.

Next year will be filled with speeches all over the U.S. I can’t wait to hug the new friends I will make in 2019!

Special thanks to my wife Tricia, my family, & the team at Keppler Speakers. I couldn’t have done it without you!

Feel the fear. Don’t let it stop you.

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My son Judah has a blood test today. He’s nervous about it.

He asked me, “Will I stop being afraid when I get older?”

I said, “You never really outgrow fear. But, if you face it with people who love you, you get stronger inside. You feel the fear, but you don’t let it stop you. That’s how you become a warrior.”

He replied, “Do you think I’m doing that right now?”

“You are doing this every day, my son,” I said. 

EVERY DAY.

Opportunity in the Unexpected

During my keynote yesterday, a bee got in the room. It landed on a guy in the 3rd row who is allergic to bees.

As I was telling a story on stage, he started shouting “Bee! Bee! Bee!”, but he sat totally still.

It took me a few moments to figure out exactly what was going on. I calmly explained the situation to the 1,200 people in the audience as we waited.

The person next to him slowly pushed the bee off with the printed program.

When it flew away, I asked if he was ok. 
Then I asked the audience if they were ok. 
We all laughed together.

I invited everyone to applaud his bravery. 
They smiled & clapping.

And I finished the story.

Every day is an adventure. Nothing goes quite as expected.

Don’t worry. These unexpected moments are opportunities to help, affirm, and applaud the beautiful souls around you.

Here’s an ARTICLE about this keynote at Heidelberg University.

Inspiring young people through Boys & Girls Clubs

I spoke at the national conference for Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Afterward, 300 clubs requested screenings of my uplifting film LOOK TO THE SKY.

My heart is about to explode with joy!

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The film is available to them at no cost. Honored to support these heroic leaders!

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Thanks to everyone who helped make this beautiful moment possible. I love you.

And special thanks to my friends at Sony for inviting me.

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My new film is on Hulu, Amazon, and iTunes today!

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I'm so excited!  My uplifting documentary film LOOK TO THE SKY debuted today on HuluiTunesAmazon and other digital platforms. 

I can't wait for you to see it.

The film shares the uplifting stories of young people who have demonstrated the iconic spirit of Superman by becoming real-life superheroes.  Stories include: a teen who overcame homelessness, a boy who saved his friend’s life, and a young woman who turned her experiences of being bullied into a positive world-wide self-love movement.

LOOK TO THE SKY screened in 50 cities with proceeds benefiting charitable initiatives.

 For many of us, the world seems very dark.  It’s easy to feel that noble heroes like Superman have vanished from the earth.  I believe this heroic spirit is most clearly seen in the hearts of the young people who are shaping the future.  Our goal with LOOK TO THE SKY is to help renew our faith in tomorrow, for ourselves and our communities.

For LOOK TO THE SKY, we filmed in 20 cities, capturing the stories of young people and experts on superhero stories, psychology, and literature. 

Official Website:  RisingHero.org   

It's OK to get your hopes up

I got some criticism on one of my recent posts. 

The post said: “It’s OK to get your hopes up”. 

I understand the criticism.  I realize that this idea sounds emotionally dangerous. 

One of the comments on Instagram allowed me to go a little deeper into this idea.  Here’s the question & my reply:

QUESTION:  “I’m waiting to hear back on a job interview I really care about.  I’m trying not to get my hopes up because I don’t want to be crushed if it doesn’t happen.  If I allow myself to get my hopes up, how do I deal with the hurt?  I wanna be hopeful.  I wanna be excited.  I just don’t want to be hurt by the rejection or feel like I’ve failed myself & my wife.”

MY REPLY:  “Keep your hope that there is good ahead for you.  But let go of your attachment to what the solution will be.  Don’t pin your hope to that specific interview or situation.  Let your hope rest in a deep belief that something good is coming.  Stay with the process, and trust the journey.”

Grateful for the Moment

After one of my recent speeches, a man stood in line for 30 minutes to see me. He was in his 60's, wearing a conservative suit & tie.

He immediately hugged me. He whispered "thank you" and started crying. We stood like that for at least a minute.

Then, he looked me in the eyes, thanked me again, and walked away.

I will probably never know what our experience together meant to him. I don't need to know. I'm just grateful I could be with him in that moment.

Mentors Matter

In 2004, I was profiled in eMedia magazine. The article began like this:

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“As they grow up, most sons want their dads to get out of the way. Then, there’s Brett Culp. He admits that his business thrived once his dad got involved. It was an involvement Culp says he both needed and welcomed.”

The best thing that happened in my career was having my Dad work with me for over a decade.

So much of my work is built on the insights, attitudes, and values he showed me.

I am grateful every day.

If you’ve had a mentor that has helped you succeed, take a moment to say THANK YOU.

The Joy of the Journey

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Today is my grandmother's 91st birthday.

We spent several hours chatting at her home yesterday, just the 2 of us. We talked about family, health, joy, & pain. We shared stories & laughed a lot.

We agreed that life is pretty wonderful and that we wouldn't change a thing.

In the moment, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger, wider picture.

Your story is the sum of a lifetime of choices, circumstances, success, and loss. Don’t get so tangled up in the struggles of the moment that you lose the joy of the journey.

One experience at a time, all of us can create a beautiful legacy.

Choose LEGACY before CURRENCY

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In the 1980’s, "Weird Al" Yankovic turned down a $5 million endorsement offer from a beer company because it didn’t align with his values.

For perspective, Michael Jordan’s spokesman deal with Nike in the 80’s was $2.5 million.

In a recent interview, Al said he has no regrets about the decision.

At a time when that money would have changed his life, he valued his long-term legacy over a short-term payout.

Don’t be afraid to embrace your beliefs.

Focus on the impact you want to make over your entire lifetime above the achievement of a single moment.

Do what you think is right & have faith that it will lead to the best things for your life & for others.

The Hidden Story of "Look to the Sky"

Our new film Look to the Sky has now screened in 40 cities benefiting charities!

But there’s also a HIDDEN story with this film that brings me such joy:

This year, I’ve been speaking at events all over the U.S. I’ve shared my heart with huge audiences, inviting them to use ‘Look to the Sky’ at no cost, as a tool for hope & inspiration in their world.

And they’ve been doing it.

There have been countless private screenings of the film in school classrooms, shelters, youth programs, and community centers. At this point, there are so many we can’t keep track.

I wish I had time to tell you all of the stories coming from these showings. They are beautiful.

And I’m certain there are many, many encouraging experiences people are having with this movie that we will never hear about.

If you have supported our journey with this film in any way, please know that you have helped a lot of people.

THANK YOU for believing in this project & for helping us make it a reality.

YOU continually remind me that the world is filled with real-life superheroes.

Stay tuned! There are more thrilling adventures ahead for this film. 2018 will be heroic!