How Do You Paint Water?

“This is the question often posed to me” says famed wildlife painter and author Bob White.

“It’s an interesting thing to ponder. In the case of water, one doesn’t actually paint the water. To render the water in this painting, for example, I had to ignore the physicality of water and ‘see’ both the stream bottom, distorted by the motion of the water, and the reflected light of the sky. It’s the dance between these two elements, distortion and reflection, that creates what we ‘see’ when we look at a trout stream from above.”

I think that’s a fitting metaphor for life, especially for men. Because we’re never truly what we see in the mirror.

“Both the stream bottom, distorted by the motion of the water, and the reflected light of the sky” — both are elements over which we have zero control.

For many of us, the turbulent and sometimes violent currents of life can beat us down and nearly suffocate us with fear even though there’s nothing there. It’s simply a foreboding mirage that most often never materializes.

For those of us fortunate enough to see ourselves through the lens of faith and God’s redemption and forgiveness, however, our lives can light up the sky for those around us, and for that ‘great cloud of witnesses’ (whomever they are, wherever they dwell in the unseen world).

Here’s my simple prayer this morning for you, my fellow TrailMaster friends and acquaintances…

God, help us to see — with new eyes — as we look in the mirror and face the day, revealing the “reflected light of the sky.”

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To purchase Bob’s prints and original artwork go to

Thank you, Mr. White, for the use of your amazing creativity.)

The Magic of Rapport

My friend Steve is kind of a big deal in the world of documentary films. His company produces and distributes some of the finest direct-to-consumer educational, inspirational movies on the planet.

Cigars and Rapport

He’s well know in factual entertainment circles. As such, there’s a never-ending parade of executive producers and showrunners knocking on his door eager to pitch their projects to him in the hopes of getting a distribution deal with Steve’s company.

Yesterday when we were talking on the phone, Steve told me of his recent exchange with a film producer who had spent a fortune in research, on-location exploration and filming of a lost civilization in the deep jungles of Peru. The documentary was a fully produced series, and the producer was pitching hard, doing his best to get Steve’s full attention to sign a lucrative distribution deal that would potentially put a lot of money and new audiences in both mens’ pockets.

Unfortunately, the conversation was beginning to stall out. Issues related to mutual compatibility, financial risk, liabilities – typical sticking points – began to emerge like a fast rising tide.

Just as they were approaching an irretrievable impasse something remarkable happened…that essential thing every salesperson or deal maker prayers for and hopes to establish in the early stages of dealmaking. That thing called…


In dealmaking, rapport can be like magic. It can forge an ironclad bond in an instant in the right situation, and can grease the skids of an agreement like nothing else.

Cambridge Dictionary defines rapport as that which “forms the basis of meaningful, close and harmonious relationships between people. It’s the sense of connection that you get when you meet someone you like and trust, and whose point of view you understand. It’s the bond that forms when you discover that you share one another’s values and priorities in life.”

For Steve and his instant new best friend, the lightning rod of rapport was cigars. Yes. Smoking cigars. Not just any cigars…expensive Cubans.

Do you smoke cigars? Heck no, neither do I. But there’s a tight knit cadre of cigar-smokers who treat each other like the closest of kin. If you’ve seen a few guys (or women) toking on cigars together along with a splash of rare scotch on the side, you know what I’m talking talking.

But when it comes to rapport-building, curiously, cigars have that extra special something.

EGM Cigars of Switzerland says this about the mystique of cigars:

“Tobacco has been used across all different kinds of cultures for various reasons. Aside from pure enjoyment, smoking has been commonly used for spirituality. All across the planet, you can find churches, temples or any place of worship burning incense, myrrh and joss papers to release smoke as a form of spiritual practice. For Native Americans, they saw tobacco as a sacramental gift that can also be smoked as a form of prayer. Smoking tobacco was seen as a connection from the ground to the heavens, as the plant’s roots go deep into the earth, and its smoke rises high into the sky. Therefore, it’s no surprise that smoking Cuban cigars is an amazing way to meditate and become mindful amidst the hustle and bustle of modern life.”

Clearly, sharing cigars can create a spiritual atmosphere and emotional connection. And even the mention of your cigar passion can ignite the flames of commonality and connection, as was the case for Steve and his new best friend.

For me, my rapport-building mojo usually is focused around my unique passions – outdoor adventuring, extreme sports, motorcycles, fishing and hunting, music, art, books, etc.

In fact, nearly every relationship of any significance of mine includes one or several of these connection points.

What might yours be? Your favorite vacation spot…playing cards, running triathlons, your pets, riding horses, raising chickens, playing golf?

Over the years I’ve gotten pretty decent at rapport-building. I’ve had to, it’s part of every business development executive’s job.

Here’s a few tips…

Do a little research – Before meeting someone important to your future, go online and snoop a tad. Social media often provides a treasure trove of clues to disclose someone’s true passions. Travel photos, stories, memes, quotes, and videos posted on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest are dead giveaways of a person’s interests and passions. Find one that’s similar to yours and use it as a rapport building tool, but only at the right time.

Remember people’s names – It’s amazing how simple it is to remember someone’s name and use it discretely in a conversation. When you repeat a person’s name you are essentially commanding their attention. Just don’t use it too frequently, and use it sincerely. Otherwise an oft-repeated name can seem contrived and manipulative.

Keep an open mind – You have no idea what’s really going on behind someone’s eyes. It’s important not to prejudge a situation or person too quickly. Time will tell whether the person you’re dealing with can work with you toward a mutually beneficial deal. And, if you have mutual personal interests that might add glue to your emerging partnership.

Look and listen intently — Be a keen observer of body language, tone and style of communication. It can often tell you more about the person than their words. And when it comes to rapport-building, mirror the person’s style. If they’re energetic and intense, seek to match it. If they’re humorous, be funny back, or at least chuckle when it’s right to. But don’t be fake.

Ask good questions – The more you can learn about a person’s interests the tighter the bond you can forge. Asking relevant questions shows your interest in a person which always translates into further bridge-building.

Don’t overdo it – I can’t tell you the number of times protracted rapport-building can actually backfire on you. I’ve found that even the busiest and most successful executives leave room in a conversation to get personal and chatty, but not until the latter stages of a conversation or negotiation. Busy people want facts and relevant details quickly in order to make informed decisions which is top of mind when entering most business discussions. They want to make progress in a conversation quickly, especially when making critical decisions that involve the 3 Ps of dealmaking.. people, product and price.

Similarly, they will most often want to engage in a bit of small talk and connect personally by talking mutual interests like hobbies or families, to get to know you. But often only after the heavy lifting of dealmaking is done. Not every time, though. One must always use discretion with rapport-building. Not too much, not too little.

Did my buddy Steve eventually saddle up with this producer and add his documentary series to the company’s catalog of films?

Even after the warm and fuzzy cigar talk, he tells me he’s not sure it’s the right fit. But maybe…

Time will tell, or maybe Steve will pull the trigger and sign the deal after opening the gift box of fine Cubans his new best friend sends him for Christmas this year.

Who knows.

About SmoothStone Partners

SmoothStone Partners is a business development firm that carefully builds brands in the sports, entertainment and lifestyle space. SmoothStone Entertainment’s Talent Division is led by Phil Herzog who provides marketing and social media support to recording artists, entertainers, fine art and photography talent. Phil’s most recent endeavor, TrailMasters, is a new social network for men of adventure. His role as Chief Trail Guide seeks to encourage men to live their best lives through acts of leadership, character-building and charity. Reach him at


When most people get to the end of their lives they often realize how much time they wasted — petty fights, resentments and worry.

Lesson 7 — Take more risks

That’s the conclusion noted gerantologist at Cornell University, Karl Pillemer came to after interviewing 1,500 people over 65 about what haunts them most about their life choices. In his book “30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans” Pillemer lists the biggest regrets and their advice on how to not make the same mistakes.

Here are their biggest.

  1. Not being careful enough when choosing a life partner

The elders agreed choosing a mate is one of the most important decisions a human being makes, but looking back over their own experience, they believe many people aren’t careful enough, Pillemer said. They’re too impulsive, perceive the relationship as a “last-chance leap,” or they slide into the inevitable.

One woman who had been in a bad relationship told him: It’s better not to marry than to marry the wrong person. Some learned that hard lesson from a first marriage.

Their advice: Take the time to get to know someone before committing. Really make sure the person is the right one.

2. Not resolving a family estrangement

Some of the unhappiest older people Pillemer met were those who had a rift with a child and no longer had contact with him or her. Almost all wished they had tried harder to reconcile, asked for forgiveness, apologized or tried to communicate before it became too late.

“The kinds of things that seemed worth saying ‘My way or the highway’ when you were 40 and they were 18 usually never seem worth it at 80,” he said. “Even if their relationships with their other children were great, the one with whom there was this irreparable rift still caused them a lot of remorse and anguish.”

Their advice: If it’s within your power to resolve an estrangement — whether with a child, parent, a sibling or a friend — do whatever you can to repair that rift. Explore opportunities for forgiveness and reconciliation.

3. Putting off saying how you feel.

Often, a big regret of older men was not expressing love frequently enough to their wife, Pillemer said. But it could be anything you feel strongly about, but hesitate to bring up.

“Unless you believe in séances, you can’t go back and ask for forgiveness, apologize, express gratitude, or even get information from somebody who has died,” he noted.

Their advice: Don’t wait. Say what’s on your mind now while the person is still around.

4. Not traveling enough

When your traveling days are done, you’ll still wish you had taken just one more trip, Pillemer said. Even people who had done a lot of globetrotting would finish their interview with him by leaning forward and wistfully saying something like, “But I never got to Japan.”

People often put big trips off until retirement only to find their health failing when they’re ready to go.

Their advice: Travel is so rewarding that it should take precedent over other things you spend money on. Travel when you’re able to. Just go — it doesn’t have to be luxury adventure travel. One woman told Pillemer: “If you have a choice between a kitchen remodel and a trip, I say take the trip.”

5. Spending too much time worrying

The elders deeply regret worrying about things that never happened or things they had no control over.

“Life is so short. What you will regret is weeks or months of the kind of mindless, self-destructive ruminating worrying that people do,” many told Pillemer. “You’re going to wish you had that time back.”

Their advice: Just stop worrying so much. Worry wastes your life.

6. Not being honest

Lying and being deceitful to others gnaws at older people when they reflect back, whether it was cheating someone, having an affair or being dishonest. Experiencing dishonesty from others was haunting, too.

Their advice: Be honest whenever you can — if not as a moral issue, then as a regret-prevention strategy later in life.

7. Not taking enough career chances

The elders were much more in favor of career risk-taking than Pillemer ever would have imagined. Many regretted saying no to opportunities because they were afraid of taking a chance or felt too comfortable in their current job.

“Our oldest generation is telling us that we need to live a life with ‘yes’ as our bias,” wrote Jeremy Bloom, the founder of Wish of a Lifetime, a charity that grants wishes to older people.

You’re much more likely to regret a career move you didn’t make than trying and having it not work out so well.

Their advice: Always say yes to a career opportunity, unless there’s a very compelling reason to decline it. Try something new and don’t be stuck in a box.

8. Not taking care of your body.

Older people who smoked, didn’t exercise or became obese were regretful about it, but the issue wasn’t only about dying.

“Many people will say to themselves, ‘I enjoy smoking’ or ‘I don’t like to exercise’ or ‘I just like to eat — who cares if I die a little sooner?’” Pillemer noted.

Is it possible to go through life without harboring any regrets? In my opinion, it’svery difficult if not impossible.

Yet if we look back at our lives — and the choices we’ve made — through the lens of faith, we can take solice in knowing that “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called to his eternal purposes.” That ultimately makes every choice a “no lose” situation. And that’s very good news, whether you’re 8, 18 or 80.

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(Taken from the TrailMasters – Faith blog)

On French Cuffs and Meeting the King of Norway

I’ve always had a bit of fashion sense. It started as a child watching my father don his bright red Italian ski sweater while shoveling snow in our suburban New York driveway.

And while watching my sister slide on her silk elbow-length gloves for prom (that pop bought in Milan…he was a Pan Am pilot whose main routes were London, Paris and Rome).

For sure, my eye for sartorial style mostly came from my sisters and pop. Mom and my brother Hal, on the other hand, must have viewed clothing – and those oh-so important accessories that can pull any outfit together — as mere utility. You wore stuff because you just needed to. Fashion was never about making a statement – about who you are, or rather who you wished to be.

I suppose our family could afford to buy upscale clothes, but we seldom did. Yet, pop occasionally schooled us in the rudiments of style by returning home from trips abroad with some seriously cool and classy and exotic things – an Hermès scarf from Harrod’s, a paisley tie from Carnaby Steet, an aquamarine ring from Rio — that gave us an eye for beautiful things.

On an entirely different plane mom instilled in us the notion we were not rich – which we were certainly not – by insisting most everything be purchased or negotiated at sale prices. I recall several times she took me to the local Goodwill to buy ice skates, an overcoat and snow boots.

Being a preteen in a tony New York suburb,  I remember sheepishly shuffling around the Goodwill storefront with my head bowed and sweaty hands in my pockets, slinking over my shoulder to make certain none of my friends saw me stepping inside.

But as time and experience and financial hardship seasoned me as an adult, I began to see shopping differently — buying clothes and belts and shoes and glasses in a whole new light.

I’m not gonna lie. I love shopping. No, I love a good deal. No, I love negotiating a great deal. As long as everybody wins when walking away.

Whether it’s houses (we’ve only ever bought foreclosures) or cars (never less than 50k miles) or computer accessories (direct from china). As a lifelong bargain hunter, especially for shoes and clothes, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way. I’ll bet you’ve learned the same…

#1 Quality need not be expensive

Most of the stuff in my closet, shoe rack and jewelry box is filled with items I paid less than half the retail price for: hefty combed cotton Kirkland Signature t-shirts, briefs from, monk strap shoes and leather sneakers from Nordstrom Rack.

And there’s my 13 vintage sport coats and dress raincoats from Value Village and Goodwill. Average market price at high end mens clothing store: $600. My cost: $40 (not including the first and only dry cleaning)

I’m up to seven watches now, though only 4 work. Average purchase price: $50. Market value average per similar looking luxury brand watch: $1,000.

Would I ever buy a Rolex Submariner for $6,000?

I already have two.

One I paid $90 for in a backroom on New York’s Canal Street. The other is an Invicta. Both are as accurate as the real McCoy.

#2 You don’t always have to get a killer deal

I have a side hustle that often requires being outdoors. I’m in Seattle. That means rain.

As such, I recently needed to buy a pair of waterproof boots. My daughter who lives in Anchorage said I should get XtraTuffs, which are as common around marinas, fishing boats and dog sleds in the PNW as flip-flops in Newport Beach or Birkenstocks in Boulder.

The best deal I found online was $90. I later discovered an off-brand for $50 with comparable quality. But frankly the brown and beige vibe seemed heinously unattractive … anti-fashion even. So I did more research and found killer rubber boots — Grundens, the choice of many a professional seamen. Only not boring brown and beige, but olive green and a pop of that signature Grudens orange. I got them only modestly discounted at Whistle Workwear. Halfway in the middle between the XtraTuffs and the offbrand boots– a $70 purchase that made me happy as a clam, plus dry feet and my style bumped up a notch (what’s not to love about a splash of blaze orange in the right places?).

# 3 Spend a lot to get a lot

When my daughter graduated from PLU with distinction I was so stoked to go to the graduation ceremony held at …. wait for it … the infamous Tacoma Dome! It was cool enough that Annie was being extra honored for her extra hard work, but what was more exciting to my alter-ego-driven brain (pls don’t tell her) was the notion of a chance meeting with the guest of honor in attendance … the King of Norway!

With two months advance notice my scheming brain went turbo. I went online and found the most upscale yet approachable custom shirt maker in the Seattle area. I booked an appointment, the following day met a hunky model guy dressed to the teeth at the Olympic Fairmont Hotel.

In an hour we had picked out the stunning white Egyptian cotton fabric from a massive sample book, chose collar style, buttons, and finally took painstaking measurements in a dozen places from the waist up.

Then I rode my ebike back to the ferry terminal and booked it back home … only to find my wife greeting me suspiciously at the front door with the dreaded question …”You were gone for most of the day. Where’ve you been?”

Out of respect for her — and our marriage — I will spare you the details. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty, nor were my explanations even remotely accurate, or christian. But we recovered, albeit with a tad of eroded trust.

#4 Tell your wife

About ALL your non-essential purchases, whether driven by practicality, vanity, mania, impulse, whatever. Better yet, get buy-in before the big spend, not after. I could write a book about all my misdeeds in this area, but you get the idea. Talk before you buy…in most cases it’s not your money, but both of yours.

#5 Sometimes you just need to feel like a king

There are precious few times when we feel like we’re on top of the world, or need to climb there. I felt it when my daughter was graduating. I was so proud of her. But the idea actually meeting face to face with the guest of honor, the King of Norway. Seriously? I had a better chance of having dinner with the Pope who was halfway around the world than getting within shouting distance of even his entourage.

How much did I pay for that handmade shirt? One hundred fifty dollars.

How much was it really worth…to me?

A thousand dollars.

Why? Because it made me feel like a king for a royal celebration of my daughter’s incredible achievement. And because I’ve since worn it a half dozen times in boardrooms when the stakes were extremelhy high. And I wore it with courage and confidence.

I don’t advocate spending ridiculous amounts of money on stuff you don’t need. But sometimes you just need to play the part, to own the space … at a wedding, a pitch, a speech, a special once a decade dinner.

Because you’re worth it, and so is your distinguished audience — of one or a thousand.

(Taken from the TrailMasters – Style blog)

Style video >>>

Shoot To Kill

Part 3 in the “Stalking the Wolf” series

Over the years I’ve watched friends and colleagues struggle with gnawing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar and insomnia. As a young man, the occasional nervousness and hyperactivity I experienced in my own life led me to ask the perplexing question, “Are these cognitive disorders traits hard-wired into a man’s DNA?” Or more importantly, “Is there any hope of breaking free of these bondages?

From my personal viewpoint my answer is yes and yes.

Yes, for most of us, our mental and emotional make-up has, at least in part, been passed down through our ancestral gene pool. In my case, it wasn’t until I reached my late twenties that I recognized some of the disturbing behavior of my father’s explosive and melancholic moods reincarnated in my own life.

And yes, I say resoundingly, despite the ebb and flow of our dysfunctional emotions, most of us can ride them out and keep these pernicious predators at bay.

I have chosen to address the topic of mental health in this blog series with urgency for two important reasons. For one, because right now our society in America is literally burning up. The George Floyd / BLM movement, urban terrorism, the Covid outbreak, unemployment and political upheaval have ignited stifling flames of fear and insecurity for nearly everyone. In August the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Tracking Poll revealed that an astonishing 53% of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted. And those numbers only reflect the survey participants who were candid enough to self-disclose their disorders.

Nothing has a more dramatic impact on our behavior and influence upon others like our mental and emotional state. But to carry on with our lives, despite the chaos, we must master these sinister forces and SEIZE control rather than BE controlled.

Secondly, because I’ve been chasing down the dark wolf of anxiety for several decades, and through trial and error, I’ve discovered some potent antidotes that have given me good success in the hunt.

(Notice I’m putting the emphasis on taking the offense, taking action, stalking, cornering, and shooting the predator to at least keep it pinned down, manageable, at bay.)

Here are the daily weapons I’ve learned to wield, habits that give me the upper hand and ultimately mastery over the mental disorders of acute anxiety, depression, mania, or insomnia. If you practice them long enough, I’m confident they’ll work for you.


The notion that God made you and has the power to help you through your problem — over which you are powerless — is a compelling reality if you will stir up the faith to believe it. It’s a basic tenet of Alcoholics Anonymous, the importance of giving over our cares and troubles to a Higher Power.

Praying while you’re in bed, while listening to soft music from apps like, can help your mind and body get the essential rest it needs, especially in times of acute stress.

Then, first thing in the morning before getting out of bed, pray again. Ask for help to get you through the day, and for the power to make decisions and take actions you feel incapable of making as the day unfolds.

Be Transparent

Transparency starts from within. You can’t help yourself, nor can others help you if you’re not completely honest. Confession of your struggles with a trusted friend, therapist or clergyman cleanses the soul and fosters encouragement from an empathetic listener.

Take A Walk

Sometimes you’ve just got to get out of the house or apartment. “Change your state” as Tony Robins says. Physical activity doesn’t mean you have to work out at a gym or run five miles. A brisk walk can do wonders for your spirit, especially if you listen to encouraging music or a Tony Robbins podcast.

Use A Scorecard

It is essential that we can prove to ourselves that we can have control of our thoughts, emotions and actions. If we can look back at the end of the day and account for even small successes, we’re on our way to recovery.

The first thing I do after my brief morning prayer is to create a list of the things I know I have the power to do, small things when I’m super stressed, and bigger things when I’m less so. I write down a manageable to-do list for the day that usually has around 5 things on it: call my sister or best friend just to say hi; make the bed; make my wife breakfast; write in my journal; tidy the kitchen; mow the lawn, etc.

When I’m wearing my professional hat and I’m functioning at a modestly efficient but still-stressed level, maybe I’ll list more ambitious tasks: contact a client with a courtesy call; write a hand-written note to a prospect; jot down a few ideas for future blog posts, check in with a co-worker, etc.

The point is not to overwhelm yourself with yet more stuff to do, but to simply be intentional so you can say to that inner man inside, and the wolf nipping at your heels, ”I was successful today. I made some plans, I stuck to my goals and I achieved them. I won the day.”

The best way to make your Scorecard even more motivating is to assign a weighted number to each task. Making a phone call may only get a score of 1 or 2, whereas writing in your journal may be more difficult and get a score of 4; or if you cook, assigning a score of 6 to the task of making a cake from scratch, or a 7 for writing a blog post.

At the end of the day, when you add up the numbers from the tasks you assigned yourself, if you can reach the number 10 you have had a perfectly successful day! You can say, “Depression didn’t define me; Anxiety didn’t control me, etc.” It’s what I call my mission for the day, “Getting To Ten.”

Love Someone

My friend, neighbor and occasional prayer partner, Delilah (the radio host), has built a nightly fan base of over 8 million listeners by prescribing simple acts of love and kindness to the people around us. When we give of ourselves to others something magical happens. I can’t explain why, it’s just something that God put in our hearts – when you give to others you get more in return.

Years ago, when I served as a missionary for YWAM and later with Mercy Ships, I embarked on a two week medical field outreach in Dakar, Senegal, along the West Africa coast. Seemingly out of nowhere I experienced a stifling bout of fear I will never forget. While in my cabin one fretful night, out of desperation I turned to a portion of scripture that’s always offered me comfort and guidance in times of great need. I read a passage that, thousands of years ago, the King of Israel declared to his inner man, and to the hosts of heaven and hell while in hot pursuit of his archenemy, the marauding Philistines. He declared, “I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them. I did not let up until they were utterly destroyed.”

There is so much I could say about this event, and the life of David in general. He remains one of the most beloved and inspiring authors of the Old Testament. Yet he was doggedly chased by manic depression as a host of historians and Bible scholars have documented. He remains one of the most successful leaders and military strategists in all of history. And he remains one of my most strident heroes.

To this day I have adopted that furtive passage as my daily life motto: to pursue the obstacles that would otherwise prevent me from success, to lay claim to a pathway of achievement and self-actualization that not even the hounds of hell can stop. During my missionary days, that obstacle was the enemy I called “Fear.” Since then I’ve never looked back.

As a fellow sojourner in this adventure called life, my highest aim remains to grow stronger, to keep fighting and help others along the trail that leads to their own conquest.

I pray it’s yours, too.

This series on mental and emotional health was written by Phil Herzog for TrailMasters, a new men’s social network to be launched in early 2021. For more details go to

Stalking The Wolf

One of the darkest moments in history provides a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of one of the world’s most celebrated leaders –Winston Churchill

Most of us recall Churchill as the Prime Minister of England during World War II. He was, unabashedly, the man who wielded Britain’s military might against Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, and ultimately saved his nation from the encroaching clutches of Nazism.

What most historians fail to acknowledge, however, is the incontrovertible secret weapon that helped Churchill ensure passage into the annals of leadership greatness. His secret weapon of warfare was not his mortal intellect, though it was formidable; nor his instinctive military strategies and acumen for launching counterattacks on Hitler’s vast army; nor his oratory prowess that inspired a nation to collectively take up arms to defeat the Nazi regime.

At the root of Churchill’s psyche was something beyond mortal fortitude. It was that thing — the fleeting, evasive, at times sinister, destructive and omnipotent gift — that continues even now to mystify historians.

What was it?

It was his chronic, unbridled bouts of manic depression, more commonly known as bipolar disorder.

Before you dismiss this dubious assertion, let me paint a clearer picture of this enigmatic man and what modern science and psychology have only recently discovered about the blessing – and curse – of what has emerged as one of the most invasive and ubiquitous pandemics of our time.

It is well-chronicled in numerous biopics and biographies that Churchill’s mood swings were legendary. As documented by one of the nation’s top psychologists and researchers on the topic of leadership, throughout his life Churchill was so paralyzed by despair that he spent time in bed, had little energy, few interests, lost his appetite, couldn’t concentrate. He was minimally functional – and this didn’t just happen once or twice in the 1930s, but also in the 1920s and 1910s and earlier. These darker periods would last a few months, and then he’d come out of it and be his normal self.

In an early letter to his wife Clementine in 1911, after hearing a friend’s wife had received some help for depression from a German doctor, he wrote:

I think this man might be useful to me – if my black dog returns. He seems quite away from me now – it is such a relief. All the colors come back into the picture.

But normal for Churchill was in a sense also rather abnormal: when he wasn’t severely depressed and low in energy and lying in bed, Churchill had very high energy levels. He wouldn’t go to sleep until two or three in the morning, instead staying up and dictating his dozens of books. He would talk incessantly in a tantivy of whirling thoughts. So much so that the then US president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, once said of him: “He has a thousand ideas a day, four of which are good.” These are manic symptoms, part of the disease of manic depression (which includes but is not exactly the same thing as today’s “bipolar” illness terminology).

After some time, Churchill would go back into months of not talking, not having any ideas, not having any energy. And then he’d be back up again. His mood swings were more than likely related to why Churchill drank so heavily.

To whom fate was entrusted

This was the life of the man to whom the fate of Britain was being entrusted. Britain couldn’t afford Churchill to become depressed and despairing and non-functional for months during the war. Thankfully, there was another man standing behind Churchill: his physician Lord Moran. Moran prescribed amphetamines for Churchill in later years for his depressive episodes and a barbiturate from 1940 to help him sleep.

Despite all this, historians haven’t wanted to admit it: how could a great man have severe depression (much less manic depression, which is likely more correct)? Even the great writer William Manchester in his posthumous 2012 biography, The Last Lion, rejected the evidence of Churchill’s psychiatric disease.

Deify and deny: great men cannot be ill, certainly not mentally ill.

But what if they’re not only ill; what if they’re great, not in spite of manic depression but because of it?

My recent research has suggested that in times of crisis, it is sometimes those who are seen as quirky, odd or with a mental disorder that show the greatest leadership. Mania enhances creativity and resilience to trauma, while depression increases realism and empathy. Churchill was a creative, resilient and realistic leader, and empathic to Jews at a time of common British anti-Semitism.*

Part 2 of this series, “Ruthless Predator,” will focus on the legions of today’s great leaders in sports, entertainment affected by the blessing and curse of mental illness, one in particular who’s had perhaps the greatest impact on the broadcast and media industry in our generation — Ted Turner.

Written by Phil Herzog, Managing Partner of SmoothStone Partners – a sports and entertainment marketing consultancy.

Ruthless Predator

Part 2 of Stalking the Wolf

As mentioned in my last post, Winston Churchill stands as a towering monument to the asset and liability that typifies bipolar disorder. But the former Prime Minister of England is far from an anomaly of leadership greatness.

In fact, today more than ever, legions of high-functioning artists, educators, musicians, and entrepreneurs testify to the notion that bipolar disorder may often prove more a heavenly gift than demonic curse.

Some of society’s most celebrated personalities claim elite star status as members of the bipolar fraternity – Dan Rather, Mel Gibson, Selena Gomez, Mike Tyson, Terry Bradshaw, Billy Joel, Ken Griffey Jr., Picabo Street, Conor McGregor, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chris Brown, Mariah Carey, Francis Ford-Cappola, Richard Dreyfuss, Mel Gibson, Demi Lovato, Rene Ruso, and Brian Wilson. And those are just the few courageous enough to come out about it.

For me, one man stands head and shoulders above everyone else in the fraternity. For one, because he has been so refreshingly outspoken about his own bipolar status than any of his peers, by far. Secondly, because I so admire his extraordinary career as one of the greatest media industry entrepreneurs in history. His name?

Ted Turner.

It’s no secret that his personal and business lives have at times collided like a spectacular train wreck. Three failed marriages and a disastrous corporate merger that cost him his job, his company, his identity, and billions of dollars, to mention just a few.

Curiously, however, he’s also been one of the most generous philanthropists in modern history, pledging a one-billion-dollar gift to the UN along with millions he donates annually through his Captain Planet Foundation and Turner Endangered Species Fund.

For his part, professionally, Turner has enjoyed more media industry success than anyone on the planet. Turner Broadcasting, Turner Communications, Turner Classic Movies, CNN, Cartoon Network – brilliant broadcast and cable entities which were conceived and launched by the man best known as a household catch phrase for two decades: “The mouth of the south” for his brash and bullying style as owner of the Atlanta Braves. And “Captain Courageous” for his stunning come-from-behind victory of the fabled America’s Cup yacht race in 1977.

Earning those titles did not come without a predator’s instincts — for the kill in business and a take-no-prisoners hubris. Plus a curious concoction of personality quirks – “flamboyant, volatile, charming, witty, handsome, outrageous, disrespectful, uncouth, irreverent, jaunty, courteous and rude,” as The New York Times once described him.

Newsweek Magazine once described Ted as part Mark Twain, Horatio Alger and Errol Flynn. Those iconic stereotypes may be a bit generous in describing this enigmatic man, but Ted would be the very first person to unabashedly declare that his inner bipolar man was at the heart of his most noteworthy achievements.

Harvard Business Review supports the assertion that bipolar has its advantages, but also a ghoulish side.

As history shows, manic-depressive leaders are great in a crisis, refusing to bow to adversity. They rush in where others feared to tread and can inspire others to follow. The downside is that due to their extreme sense of empowerment, energy and optimism, their thinking and judgment can be flawed. Caught up in their grandiosity, they overestimate their capabilities and try to do more than they can handle. The problems are often aggravated by an inability to recognize that their behavior is dysfunctional. While “high,” they rarely have insight into their condition. They like the sense of invulnerability that comes with the “high,” and are reluctant to give that up.

When the inevitable setbacks and disasters happen, they fall into a tailspin of depression.”

In my first two posts I described the seeming omnipotence of mania in stark contrast to the dark underbelly of depression, both of which I’ve personally encountered as brooding bedfellows at times in my life.

What I will endeavor to do in my next and final post of this blog series is offer simple, practical tips and tactics that nearly anyone can use to keep the wolf – my term for manic depression – at bay.

I firmly believe most of us can learn quickly to not only manage our mood swings with a modicum of skill, but take them captive, transition from prey to predator, hunted to hunter, by taking the offensive — stalking and cornering the wolf to keep him at bay.


What Should I Do?

Whether we know it or not, we all wake up with this simple question on our minds. For some the question is driven by ambition, conquest, or sport. For many others, sadly, it’s motivated by a spirit of fear. The fear of failure. The fear of rejection. The fear of man.

But that’s not really the question we should be asking as we endeavor to seize the day.

You see, at least for me, I believe there’s a driving force deeply embedded in our hearts and minds that took root in the womb, before we were even born…

(Check back tomorrow for the story, and to learn what much bigger question you may want to be asking going forward in 2020)

The First Guy Naked Wins

There’s an image I’ve played in my head for years.

It’s the most momentous event of my life, a vivid scene of reckoning that’s yet to come. But as sure as death and my entrance into the great hereafter, it will indeed come.

It’s that moment in time when, as the song “I Can Only Imagine” states, I meet Jesus face to face.

I have no clue what events will transpire besides the great judgement of my life — for the things I did, didn’t do, think or say.

Once that moment has passed (thank God), at some point in the hereafter my mind imagine’s I’ll have a chance to speak face to face with Jesus, and get the chance to ask a few questions.

The most important one I’ll ask is this…

During all the dark, painful, unfruitful times in my life, why didn’t you deliver me from my enemies…from the demons of my childhood, from crushing failure, from those who rejected me, from deception and stifling bouts of depression and anxiety?


My dear friend Mark helped prepare me for the answer, the explanation of the ”why?” of unanswered prayer.

In a brief conversation Mark paraphrased a passage of scripture that brought a whole new light to the “why?” and “what-for?” of unanswered prayer.

He paraphrased the story documented and scientifically validated in history, of a man whose son was possessed by an evil spirit.

The story goes that as the crowds were following Jesus from town to town, seeking for him to perform more miracles on the sick and diseased, a man in the crowd yelled “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by an evil spirit that throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes stiff. I asked your disciples to drive it out but they were unable.”

Jesus sternly replies “O you unbelieving generation! How long must I remain with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring me the boy.”

So they brought him, and seeing Jesus, the evil spirit immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus then asked the boy’s father “How long has this been with him?”

“From childhood, he said. “It often throws him into the fire or into the water, trying to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

“If you can?” echoed Jesus. “All things are possible to him who believes!”

Immediately the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that a crowd had come running, he rebuked the unclean spirit, “You deaf and dumb evil spirit,” he commanded, “I command you to come out and never enter him again.”

After shrieking and convulsing him violently, the spirit came out. The boy became like a corpse, so that many said, “He’s dead. But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up.

After Jesus had gone into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

Jesus answered, “This kind cannot come out, but by prayer and fasting.”

There’s so much meaning to this story I don’t know where to begin unraveling it.

But I’ll just say the thing that strikes me most is the notion that the disciples – whom Jesus was training to build his church upon his ascension after his resurrection – had no effect in attempting to cure this boy or cast out the vicious demon that crippled him so severely.

I’m convinced the disciples, after spending many months watching Jesus cast out evil spirits and healing the sick, saw a methodology that worked. So they tried to copy it, not knowing that the true power in the miracle of healing comes solely from the heart and mind, not a formulaic method or display of hubris or empty rhetoric.

I’m also convinced the other secret ingredient to miraculous healing and deliverance from our enemies, as with Jesus, lies in complete transparency of the person seeking the miracle.

The truly miraculous always finds its place in the hearts and minds men and women who — with transparency before God and others — pray early, often, and always. But that’s the problem, and the problem with the disciples’ feeble efforts — “the effectual prayer of a righteous man”, though it avails much, is nearly impossible to pull off. Because, unlike Jesus, we’re human and our distractions quickly take our focus off God and onto temporal things. The command to “pray often and always” is not for the faint of heart and mind, which is often why our prayers don’t get answered.

They say there’s healing in bearing one’s soul to another, to bear one another’s burdens – in all their ugly, ghoulish darkness – to a trusted friend.

This man trusted Jesus as a friend and healer, which boiled down to faith in the impossible.

In 2020 I’m hoping and praying for my own miracles – from deliverance from the enemies and obstacles of my soul that would like to bring my dreams to their knees.

But with simple, humble transparency and the plea of “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” I’m striving for greater transparency, to be a burden bearer for my friends, and to live in the naked truth in a miraculous life of faith.

(taken from Phil’s blog —


Vantage Road To Lead Media Production For SmoothStone Entertainment

For Immediate Release

January 15, 2019

Contact: Phil Herzog, CEO—360.621.2753 or

Seattle-based SmoothStone Sports + Entertainment is pleased to announce a new partnership with Vantage Road Media Production to provide live-event TV production and video services to SmoothStone’s sports and entertainment clients.

“I’m thrilled to be partnering with Phil Herzog and his SmoothStone team. We’ve been good friends for over a decade, and I’m so excited to finally get to work with him on some of his cool entertainment projects,” said Craig Kelly, CEO of Vantage Road.

Future media projects undertaken by Vantage Road for SmoothStone will include live event video and TV direction, video shoots and editing for entertainment, nonprofit and corporate clients.

About Vantage Road

Vantage Road is a media production company led by company founder and CEO Craig Kelly. Their media engagements have included live event TV and video production for global brands and organizations including Boeing, Billy Graham International Crusades, The Winter Olympics, Microsoft, T-Mobile, Rolling Stone, The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, President Barack Obama and many others.

About SmoothStone Partners

SmoothStone Partners is a boutique business development agency that carefully builds brands in the sports, entertainment and lifestyle space. SmoothStone Entertainment’s Talent Division is led by Phil Herzog who provides marketing and social media support to recording artists, entertainers, fine art and photography talent. Reach him at 360.621.2753 or

E-Joe E-Bikes Continues Dealer Growth With SmoothStone S+ E

November 14, 2018

For Immediate Release

Contact: Phil Herzog, CEO—360.621.2753 or

SmoothStone Sports + Entertainment Marketing has recently recruited two strategic Pacific Northwest bike shops to the fast-expanding dealer network of E-Joe Electric Bikes, the nation’s top-rated electric bikes in the affordable lightweight commuter and folding ebike category.

Silverdale Cyclery, located in central Kitsap County, now carries eJoe’s #1 rated and top-selling electric folding bike, the Epik Sport Edition. Through the holiday season Silverdale Cyclery will be selling the Epik SE with an attractive $200 off discount. Until December 16, any bike purchased with SC’s special online discount code or at the shop’s location in Silverdale will be drop-shipped and delivered before Christmas.

The Bicycle Repair Shop, located at 68 Madison Street in Seattle, will also begin carrying the Epik SE as of November 21, also on a drop-ship basis.

“What’s so exciting about these two new dealers is that they’re so strategically located within close proximity to the Seattle ferry terminals, and they both have stellar reputations for their bike repair and service expertise. We can support these two shops with a great, reliable ebike, a step up from many of the entry level bikes like RadPower and Prodeco. I think we’re going to sell a lot of bikes in the downtown Seattle and Kitsap County markets,” said Willy Suwandy, E-Joe’s CEO.

About SmoothStone Partners

SmoothStone Partners is a boutique business development agency that carefully builds brands in the sports, entertainment and lifestyle space. SmoothStone Entertainment’s Talent Division is led by Phil Herzog who provides marketing and social media support to recording artists, entertainers, fine art and photography talent. Reach him at 360.621.2753 or

About E-Joe Electric Bikes

E-Joe ebikes has been named the top-rated electric bike in the affordable light-weight commuter and folding category for over seven years. Several E-Joe ebike models have been nominated “ebike of the year” by Interbike, and given top-ratings by industry go-to publications such as Bicycle Retailer magazine, The Electric Bike Report, Electric Bike Review and Turbo Bob. E-Joe is headquartered in San Diego, CA where all ebike models are designed, warehoused and quality controlled. For inquiries regarding dealer opportunities and ebike purchases contact Willy Suwandy at

SmoothStone Entertainment Partners With I-AM Media For Mobile Event Marketing And National Silent Disco DJ Series

November 6, 2018

For Immediate Release

Contact: Phil Herzog, CEO—360.621.2753 or

SmoothStone Entertainment is pleased to announce its newest marketing partnership agreement with I-Alternative Media, a mobile out-of-home street marketing program utilizing converted box trucks with embedded DJs who play music to engage pedestrians and event-goers in the Seattle area. Each disco truck is supported by two-person street teams who simultaneously pass out VIP vouchers and coded coupons allowing recipients to redeem online discounts for sponsored products or exclusive access to venues such as the Hard Rock Café, the Edgewater Hotel and the Seattle Thompson’s Nest penthouse lounge.

Additionally, under the creative direction of founder and president Darran Bruce, SmoothStone will undertake an aggressive business development outreach targeting national hospitality brands and food and beverage businesses seeking a unique, more innovative way to connect their brands with hotel, restaurant, brewery and club guests–initially in the Seattle area, then scaling Eastward.

Aptly named “Silent Disco” offered by The DJ Sessions Event Services, this new-concept entertainment experience utilizes the latest wireless audio technology via headsets that allow guests to listen and dance to any of four separate DJ channels streamed under one roof—for example, hip-hop, disco, trance or house music—by simply switching neon color-coded music channels.

“The DJ Sessions’ Silent Disco has been great for The Hardrock Café. Everyone loves the silent disco concept, and we expect it will continue to drive more first-time guests to our venue who want to dance and party to Seattle’s best DJ tunes. You guys have a total hit on your hands…give us more!”

About SmoothStone Partners

SmoothStone Partners is a boutique business development agency that carefully builds brands in the sports, entertainment and lifestyle space. SmoothStone Entertainment’s Talent Division is led by Phil Herzog who provides marketing and social media support to recording artists, entertainers, fine art and photography talent. Reach him at 360.621.2753 or

Pitching Martha Stewart

A few years ago a business colleague and I embarked on a much-heralded “mission-impossible” business trip with the expectation (albeit woefully unfounded) of conquering the magazine publishing industry. More precisely, we were sent out by our fearless leader Gilbert Sherrer, the company CEO, to unveil what we believed would become the holy grail subscription model for the nation’s top magazine circulation directors, to help them acquire a treasure trove of new subscribers in the epicenter of magazine publishing—Midtown Manhattan.

Our quest, we were convinced, was the embodiment of Webster’s definition of mission: an important assignment carried out for political, religious, or commercial purposes, typically involving travel. My deep faith in our cause was indeed political (we were trying to convince the naysaying magazine leaders of America our company, Passage Events, had built a better acquisition mousetrap. It was religious (in my world there’s no invisible line between the secular and sacred…everything’s sacred if done with the right motive). And it was certainly commercial in the sense that we were storming the shores of the Isle of Manhattan like buccaneers hoping to plunder the riches of publishing’s biggest nameplates—Time, Newsweek, Business Week, Readers Digest, Men’s Health, Spin, Rolling Stone, Outdoor Life, Shape, etc.

Before we go further, a little about me and our company, Passage Events.

Though I’m sorry to say Passage is no longer the formidable company it once was (a shadow of its former self, Rally Marketing Group is the rising phoenix of the company), my boss, the VP of Sales and I were Sales Captain and Wingman for what was at the time the largest and most successful event marketing company on the west coast (with clients including Starbucks, American Express, DirecTV, CitiCard, etc). And while Larry was an extraordinary event marketing and marquee sponsorship expert, I was the cold-calling guerilla. We made a great team, and we got into places most marketing agencies would kill to get a seat in the boardroom.

Back to the problem with our mission of magazine marketing conquest…

With my dogged take-no-prisoners door knocking we found we could get through the hallowed halls of just about any major publisher to do our dog and pony show and win them over with our model that we were certain would acquire thousands of subscribers at events like Cochella or the Newport Jazz Festival or State Fairs. But a problem loomed large, and we sort of new it. Our model was flawed.

I won’t go into the details of why it was fraught with defects, I’ll just say it had “issues.” No, worse. It sucked. And the Circ Directors, one after another, let us know by the blank faces staring back at us and the unsigned contracts we stuffed in our briefcases as we hustled out the boardrooms on the 60th floor of the Time-Life building, the Chrysler building and other iconic skyscrapers.

The schedule I set for our magazine publishing blitz was punishing, usually 5 major meetings a day, running up and down 7th Ave, Broadway, up to Brant Park, down to Wall Street. I did it on purpose…it was part of the political angle of the mission—to show Larry that I could bury him, and Passage Events, with more opportunities and wins than they could imagine.

But after the first day, after the first five meetings with the blank stares, sweat dripping onto our blank note pads, my bravado swiftly turned into a deafcon bunker retreat mode.

Beyond our conundrum of an insane schedule and a lackluster product was the timing of our trip held over a four day period in August, the hottest weather of the summer for New York City. From the time Larry and I walked off the plane Monday night from the SeaTac to LaGuardia red-eye till we parted at Grand Central Station of Friday noon, we were dripping hot messes, to quote a favorite Tim Gunn saying.

Consider for example, if you’ve ever tried to hail a New York cab in a full suit on a scorching August afternoon, you get the picture. Now imagine you’re already 10 minutes late for your presentation because you got the wrong address. Then add another 5 minutes because of the insane 7th Avenue traffic. You walk off the elevator on the 60th floor, the receptionist greets you with a “Hello, gentlemen. Are you Mr. Herzog and Mr. Weil? They’re all waiting for you in the boardroom behind those double doors.”

To be continued…check back soon.

Selling Electric Bikes –The Bicycle Industry’s New 800 Pound Gorilla


The term “old habits die hard” has never rung truer than with the bicycle business, be it for the manufacturers, independent bike dealers (IBDs) or the cycling purists who ride them—especially in the United States. This clear and present reality first slapped me in the face several years ago when I gave a presentation at the infamous Interbike Convention in Las Vegas, North America’s largest annual bicycle gathering.

Prior to the convention I’d been hired by the International Light Electric Vehicle Association as a marketing strategist, to refresh the value proposition and key messages for the LEVA website ( and other member marketing materials. Once completed, I was given a plum opportunity to create the first-ever global marketing campaign to drag die-hard IBDs onto the shifting landscape of electric bike technology and embrace this new phenomenon on behalf of their customers—from Seattle to Singapore.

I was hardly a newcomer to the industry. My foray into what was considered a fringe bike segment began in 2008 when a former fitness equipment client of mine, Bill Hebb of Hebb Electric Bikes fame, commissioned me to a study of the emerging trend he’d witnessed first-hand in Asia. The question he wanted answered—with data to back it up— was simple: “Is it the right time to start an ebike company in the US?”

After my thorough conclusions led to a green light on Bill’s idea to start a US-based ebike company, we quickly set out in earnest to become—and succeeded in becoming—the #1 rated independent electric bike brand in the mid-priced category in 18 short months.

It was not easy work. I won’t get side-tracked and bore you with all the challenges we faced with Chinese manufacturing, shipping, customs, and quality control. Those were mere speed bumps in the road. The real Mount Everest challenge was selling the ebike category–and an untested brand–to the 4,000 IBDs in America, 90% of which had zero interest in carrying an electric bike on their showroom floor.

It took me the better part of a year– after many hundreds of phone calls, demo videos, and emails– to discover a deeply etched pattern of resistance carved into the psyche of the dealers we were targeting to join our distribution network. I heard the same belly-aching over and over. “Electric bikes are a fad, they’ll never catch on…ebikes are crappy and unreliable…they’re dangerous when it rains…they’re illegal in most cities…they’re too heavy.” But the one that proved the most daunting—the one that persists today, albeit in diminishing intensity, is this one: “Ebikes are for cheaters. Our customers like to get a workout and wouldn’t dare sit on an ebike for recreation OR commuting.”

I won’t dignify that last comment with a response because anyone who owns an ebike will tell you they get just as much exercise as they want, but with two exceptions—they either go way faster or way farther than their conventional bike-riding counterparts. Plus, they have twice the fun.

Even in Portland, bike capital of America, there was staunch resistance to ebikes. In fact, in the early 2010’s I found skepticism rampant, especially among the Chrome-branded, messenger bag-toting bike commuters who rode, rain or shine, to and from work and the corner coffee café. Like a modern-day John the Baptist crying in the wilds of the Northwest with a solemn declaration ”Get ye on an ebike,” I feared a day would come when I’d get stoned in one of Portland’s many elitist bike shops, or at the annual bike show where I was slated to speak:

Contrary to my fears, the presentation was a big success and paved the way for me to do additional work for LEVA and its ebike industry pioneer guru Ed Benjamin.

What I hear these days from manufacturers, distributors, dealers and their staff is clear and simple: “Our future is electric.” We’re now living in the bright, long-promised future for electric bikes.

Over the years I’ve learned a lot about how to successfully sell electric bikes to even the most skeptical prospects–including the shaved-leg, carbon-frame criterion riders and custom bike shop owners. Here’s what I’ve learned, the rules for engaging potential ebike dealer customers and their ebike riding consumer prospects…

1. Shake the dust off your feet when dealing with doubters and haters — My friend Seth Godin once taught me that some skeptical buyers who are immediately dismissive to a new idea will always say “no”. For years I beat my head against the wall trying to persuade naysayers to carry the ebike lines I represented for two of the nation’s top-rated brands. Over time I learned a vital lesson: Avoid “casting your pearls before swine.” With a few exceptions, I’ve  never looked back. Those two brands that earned their top-ranking in the ebike industry got there quickly, partially by me figuring out which dealers to recruit and which to avoid.

2. Go where you’re celebrated — Similarly, it’s also critical that you get unilateral buy-in from several key stakeholders in any traditional bike dealership–the owner/manager, the lead service tech, and the star sales person. Any of the three can be the one bad apple that spoils the whole bunch. When the star sales guy with massive quads, shaved legs and bike pants saunters up to you (if you’re making an unannounced sales call) and asks Can I help you with something?, be prepared for a bit of banter and bluster. Better yet, opt for #1 and move on quickly. Your time is too valuable, and there are too many other open-minded IBD teams out there who are looking to enter the ebike foray with a solid ebike line to add to their traditional bike brands.

3. Start with 10 bikes — The worst thing an IBD can do is commit half-heartedly to the ebike category. No, even worse is when the owner buys two ebikes, they never sell so he gives up on the category. Big mistake. If you’re going to take ebikes seriously you’ve got to make a whole-hearted commitment to 10 bikes on your floor (with at least three of those ebikes in the sub-$2,000 retail price point). Otherwise, you’re ebike footprint looks like an afterthought and will be buried with other inventory. Worst of all, if the prospect walks out of your store and into an ebike retailer like a Pedego-branded store, well, you probably just lost a sale.

4. Do demo events often — Every successful ebike retailer will tell you, you must get prospects on the bikes to get them engaged emotionally, and consequently appeal to their rational left-brain sensibilities when explaining the financial benefits of ebike commuting. They must go together —  the head and heart — when making an important purchase decision.

5. Give stuff away — I’ve never met a successful dealer who wasn’t willing to wiggle at least a tad on either pricing or accessories. It’s just part of the “art of the deal.” Everyone needs to know they got a great deal on a big purchase, especially when plunking down $2k on an ebike when the similar-looking non-electric slow-mo bike next to it is priced at $500. Prospects need to feel the rush, the fun of a demo ride, then pencil out the savings over a one or two year period, which then becomes a no-brainer.

6. Charge $125 per hour for service — My friend Mike Wolfe runs one of the largest ebike dealerships on the East coast. He charges service and maintenance fees similar to cars and motorcycles. Why? Because an ebike, once it’s properly integrated into a person’s lifestyle, becomes a car. And motorcycle.

7. Always upsell — It’s not about how much you can add to your average monthly ticket or boost of incremental sales. It’s about providing safety, utility and style solutions for the rider that could be worth another $300 in gross revenue per unit sold. Always think of the win for the customer, though, before your own financial gain.

8. Make customers for life — Do you know how much each new customer is worth to you? If you are thinking transactionally you’re probably thinking $1,000. The truth is that each customer could be worth $10,000 at a minimum in net revenue. Why? Because if you treat them with respect and dignity they will buy again…and again…for themselves, their family and friends. And they’ll send you referrals.

9. Have fun — No one knows more about how to make ebikes fun than Don DiConstanzo. As he constantly proclaims (like he did with me back at Interbike when we shared the podium together), “At Pedego we sell fun!” Maybe that philosophy is part of the reason Pedego is the # 1 electric bike brand in America.

10. Become a Pedego dealer —  By the way, if you aren’t an IBD but have toyed with the notion of opening your own ebike shop with a modest franchise investment, call Don. If you’re in a good local market and you’ve got a sensible head for business, hanging a bright neon Pedego sign in your shop window may be your quickest way to fulfilling that dream of yours, of owning your own lucrative business.

As most of us old-timers in the ebike business will attest, the US has for over a decade been woefully behind the Europeans and Asians in electric bike adoption. But as Ed Benjamin has so often stated — with fierce conviction (and data to back it up) — “In the past few years many dealers have finally discovered they can make good money on ebikes. And what manufacturers, distributors, dealers and their staff tell me is simple: “Our future is electric.”

Indeed, we’re now living in the bright, long-promised future for electric bikes.


SmoothStone Partners is a business development firm that carefully crafts brands in the sports, entertainment and lifestyle space. SmoothStone Entertainment’s Talent Division is led by Phil Herzog who provides marketing and social media support to recording artists, entertainers, fine art and photography talent. Reach him at

On Direct Marketing, Jeff Bezos, Seth Godin And Electric Bikes

Hunting for new ideas on my eJoe Epik Sport Edition

Continued from the post “What I Taught Jeff Bezos That Forever Changed The Marketing World…”

Freeman was DM’s hero in the 70s and 80s much like Seth Godin is today’s pop marketing rockstar (Seth gave me permission to say this). He was, as I described in a previous blog, “a brilliant mad scientist in an ad man’s body” ( He relentlessly schooled me in the theory of left brain-right brain functioning and where the application of creative themes, copy and graphics fits into the proper sequence of developing record-breaking direct marketing campaigns. Which by the way, is at the very tail end.

You see, what Jeff Bezos and his team do for every marketing test, tactic or iteration of offers is “keep the main thing the main thing.” That is, knowing your audience like the back of your hand, then offering them things they need, want, or want to need. Let me explain…

What Freeman and Jeff have so skillfully taught me, and legions of assistants, teams and students, is that any successful direct marketing strategy must follow the 40-40-20 formula for success. Which in its simplest form can be summed up by saying that ‘EVERY successful direct marketing campaign must be comprised of three critical components–and their respective percentages–that will ultimately influence the outcome of a campaign’:

  • 40 % Audience—Selecting your target audience with such criteria as demographics and psycho-graphics, geography, etc.
  • 40 % Offer—A combo of who you are, what you’re selling, and the price or deal.
  • 20% Creative—Themes, copy, photos and graphics.

Unfortunately, when developing a campaign most inexperienced marketers will immediately jump to the creative—what the campaign will look like, a pretty picture, a slogan or even a style or voice that defines the brand. And they’ll spend 80% of their time, effort and budget on such a losing proposition. This is part of the basic math equation that most poorly trained folks get wrong. But they don’t seem to care, because this is the fun part—the touchy feely part—of marketing.

The other two components speak for themselves. For example, if you’re selling a great electric bike at a great price with a special discount to an avid bike enthusiast who’s just had heart surgery, you can hand-write the deal on a shopping bag and the person will buy. I know because I did it. Not once but twice.

If you’re a marketing professional, there’s only one take-away I’d like to leave with you. The next time you’re planning a campaign pretend the 10 hours it will take you for  planning is represented by ten one dollar bills. Spend the first four dollars on figuring out your audience. Spend the next four deciding on the most compelling offer. Once you’ve done that the two bucks you have left will be spend very quickly and with confidence. Why? Because you initially invested your budget and time on the right things in the right sequence.

By the way, if you want to get to your destination faster and funner–whether it’s direct marketing success or the corner coffee shop, hit me up. My side hustle, eJoe Electric Bikes, is where I personally apply the 40-40-20 rule as VP of Business Development. Check it out…just be prepared to see me in marketing-action if you sign up for the newsletter! We have some very compelling offers!

SmoothStone Partners is a business development firm that carefully builds brands in the sports, entertainment and lifestyle space. SmoothStone Entertainment’s Talent Division is led by Phil Herzog who provides marketing and social media support to recording artists, entertainers, fine art and photography talent. Reach him at


On Big Game Hunting And Deal Making

Me with young 4 x 4 Rocky Mountain Elk rack bagged near the Cimarron River / Montrose Colorado

In my previous post I told the story of my exploits in the woodlands of upstate New York with my best friend and hunting-fishing-trapping partner Dale. As I explained, he gave me an Encyclopedia Britannica’s worth of outdoor knowledge in my formative years as a woodsman.

Those scouting and hunting expeditions back then gave me the foundation for successful hunts to this day. As such, I’ve made it my mission to keep getting better—better at hunting, studying nuance, body language and the art of closing.

Here are 10 things I apply to nearly every target I’ve studied, stalked and closed–be it fish, foul, man or beast.

  1. Research thoroughly—If you don’t intimately know your target–what’s important to them and how they behave–you’ll never get close enough for a shot, nor even a glimpse.
  2. Be properly armed—Match the right firepower with your target. Too much and you’ll have carnage. Too little and it’ll slip away.
  3. Get comfortable—Whether standing, sitting or stalking make sure you’re physically and mentally comfortable. Pee before you climb a tree. Wear proper clothing. In a boardroom that means dress like your audience, test your presentation technology, practice your pitch, that sort of thing.
  4. Plan your shot in advance—Know where the idea kill zone is. Shoot for the heart. Always. But if there are bean counters in the room go for a head shot.
  5. Plan the second shot –Always be thinking of closing and what happens after the initial close. Think in advance of how your target will react, then be ready for round two.
  6. Don’t call attention to yourself— Stay low and stealthy–whitetail can spot and smell you literally a mile away. So can potential deal-makers who quickly become deal-breakers if you’re annoying or exhibit flashy behavior. For many hunters the North American whitetail is a more prized trophy animal than the majestic Rocky Mountain Elk. Why? Because they’re smarter and sportier. It’s like comparing a salmon to a steelhead. (I’d fish for steelhead any day over salmon for the same reason.)
  7. Be quiet—Everybody talks too much. It applies equally to people in boardrooms and game trails. Silence is golden in most cases. Take your turn to speak—to shoot—only when the time is right.
  8. Watch for movement—Body language of a deer or elk can tell you everything about what it’s going to do. So can the body language of deal-maker in a boardroom.
  9. Choose the ideal shot—Wait for it. I can’t stress this enough. You’ll know when the time is right. When it comes, aim and fire with 100% confidence. With the deal pitch, there’s incredible power in brevity.
  10. Wait–After your kill shot, don’t move. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open and see what happens. Don’t impulsively chase after your game just because they’re suddenly startled or hyper-react. Pause in completely silence, then cautiously backtrack or follow the trail of blood. If necessary, sneak up again and fire for the close.

Of all the misdeeds of the average hunter—or deal-maker—the one most are guilty of is talking too much. It’s the reason I mostly hunt alone. Most guys want to talk and hang out. You don’t do that when you hunt. You hunt in silence when you hunt, at least on the game trail or in the blind. Hold your tongue. Save the chatter for the ride home in the jeep or on horseback.

There’s a saying that goes something like “Even a fool sounds smart when he keeps his mouth shut.” That’s so true–in the woods, boardroom and even the bedroom.

My friend/social media buddy Charlie Peacock, one of Nashville’s most  distinguished singer/songwriter/producer triple-threats, says it so well in his Mississippi Delta root- inspired tune Death Trap >>> The tune’s takeaway is simple and applies to wherever the winds of promise and opportunity might lead you, personally or professionally:

“If a man can’t hold his tongue…he’ll be walking into a death trap.”

The other ancient saying that relates to this notion of being quiet and measuring your words with the right timing is this: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver”

I know precious little about heaven, almost nothing. But if there are streets of gold is some say, there may also be golden apples hanging from silver trees in the boundless orchards of heaven. That would be a good thing. Because where there are lush apple trees there are usually deer. And where there are deer, and you just happen to be carrying a rifle, then, if you’re a hunting enthusiast like me you’ll know you’re in heaven.

SmoothStone Partners is a business development firm that carefully builds brands in the sports, entertainment and lifestyle space. SmoothStone Entertainment’s Talent Division is led by Phil Herzog who provides marketing and social media support to recording artists, entertainers, fine art and photography talent. Reach him at

Hunting Whitetail In Upstate New York


I didn’t want to make you crazy

I didn’t want to pitch a fit

I didn’t want to make you pack your bags and ready to call it quits

The devil’s got a hold on me

He’s hoping for a killing*

One of the most painful events of my adolescence came at age 15 when my parents yanked us by the roots from our comfortable New York bedroom community of northern New Jersey and transplanted us into the rural pastures of Upstate New York during my high school years. Three reasons were behind the move. One was my parents’ forthcoming retirement to the area Pop called home during his own youth (the Utica area). The second was his career as a Pan Am pilot that allowed him to deadhead from Hancock Field in Syracuse to New York’s JFK, where he’d depart on his monthly runs to London, Paris, Munich or Rome.

The biggest reason, however, was the increasing sleep deprivation my parents were experiencing due to my mounting deviant behavior. They were watching me slowly but gleefully glide down a slope covered with easy-access drugs and alcohol during my junior high years.

The move was torture on me. To the mostly backwater dairy farming and poultry producing kids who lived on farms in the rural Finger Lakes region where we made our new home in the country, I was the brash city slicker new kid, an alien from that terrible place called Manhattan. I dressed different, talked different, partied different, danced different, and sorely resented my parents tugging our deep 12-year roots from one of New York’s most comfortable “Mayberry-esque” bedroom communities–Glen Rock, in North Bergan County.

But as is often the case in life, my most heinous misfortune flip-flopped into God’s spectacular, perfect divine appointment. That divine appointment would come in the form of a brotherly bond of love and respect–a “David and Jonathan” friendship–that within a few short months catapulted me from social obscurity to one of the cool kids. It was if I’d gone from urban hipster to hokey country boy in the blink of an eye.

That divine friendship was with a boy named Dale DuBois with whom I initially became best buddies by clever mutual cheating in our Algebra 2 class—and who, next to the cool football and lacrosse stars like Bob, Brian, Roger, Bennett and Tony–was arguably the most popular kid in school.

Dale had the world by the tail…a raccoon tail (he never called it by its proper name, it was always a “coon”). In addition to being a strapping, ruggedly good-looking six foot four inch 260 pound tower of muscle, he was the only kid in the league who threw a 90 mile per hour fast ball with dead accuracy. And hit grand slams every so often, but only when he felt like it.

What Dale mostly felt like doing on weekends or while playing hooky was explore the woods of the Finger Lakes with me, his fresh-faced hunting understudy. It was that sacred connection, a mutual love for the outdoors that cemented an instant bond that lasted until Dale’s untimely death from lung cancer 25 years ago.

Though the Finger Lakes may have been a cultural wasteland for a boy like me who’d routinely hop trains and buses to New York’s Shea Stadium or Chinatown to buy illegal fireworks starting around age 13, it was an exciting landscape that held the promise of one thing I’d always dreamed of becoming—a deer hunter. As such, Dale made it his nearly daily mission to teach me about the wilds of the vast Finger Lakes woodlands, and in short order I became his de facto woodsman protégé and game porter.

Dale taught me everything about the woods. How to survive in a 10 degree blizzard with nothing more than a few pieces of warm waterproof clothing, snow shoes, a blanket for a lean-to and a pack of matches. He taught me to fish for pike and perch, bass, smelt, trout and even walleye through the ice. He schooled me on trapping raccoon, mink, fox and muskrat, hunting ducks and geese, pheasant and grouse. But we didn’t just hunt. We killed game. Lots of it. Dale was a born woodsman and hunter and had a knack for bagging trophy birds, fish and anything with fur.

But the most fun—and the object of my fantasy–was big game hunting. Every part of it–tracking, stalking, standing and occasionally shooting the Northeast’s most prized of all big game trophies—the wily whitetail.

I could go on about our many hunting expeditions and the excellent success (and luck) we had, but I’d rather share what Dale’s expert hunting skills and canny intuition taught me that has so profoundly affected how I do business: the need to keep quiet and still, which applies in spades to deal-making.

Almost all of our successful hunts over a period of five years (until I moved to Redondo Beach following my college graduation) took place on private land along the base of Song Mountain Ski Resort north of Preble and Little York. It was thick forest, the perfect place to be schooled in the art of patiently waiting, watching, waiting and watching. Sometimes for 30 minutes, sometimes for four hours. Sometimes in a tree stand near a watering hole, sometimes on a bluff, occasionally in a blind near a game trail. But always in stealth silence…watching and waiting.

To this day I credit Dale for instilling in me the discipline of listening for sounds, movement in the brush, and watching for a tail or ear flicker. Curiously, I’ve applied that same discipline to the art and science of national account sales and doing deals with all types of businesses–from big consumer brands to tech start ups. Listening, watching and waiting…it’s what often separates the men from the boys.

Here’s what hundreds of hours waiting for a shot at a trophy whitetail has taught me about patience and listening, and how I use it in deal-making situations…

Continued tomorrow…

*Lyrics from Death Trap by Charlie Peacock (further explanation to come) >>>

“What I Taught Jeff Bezos That Forever Changed The Marketing World”

Before we go further let’s establish two things. First, Jeff HAS changed the marketing world—not single-handedly but through that monster marketing portal called and by following several immutable principles of commerce. Second, though I’ve worked with some of his top people I don’t know him; I’ve never met him in fact. That’s not my headline quote.

But if I WERE Jeff’s marketing partner or consultant during the beta testing of I would have the legitimate bragging rights to such a claim in this headline.

Because Jeff learned and routinely practices the de facto formula for direct marketing success. What’s that? It’s the infamous 40-40-20 formula. Let me explain…

Before there was AI, big data analytics, geo-targeting, digital cookies and social media there was that thing called direct mail, the holy grail of direct marketing merely two decades ago.  As any marketer will tell you, however, direct mail is hardly the media darling it once was, but rather has become the underperforming ugly step-sister of today’s split-second digital marketing industry.

In its heyday there was a direct marketing advertising agency on the West coast that was pioneering the best practices of catalog marketing, frequency programs, membership programs to generate enormous LTVs (customer lifetime value) for their clients and space ads with bold 800 numbers pasted below bodacious LTOs (limited time offers). It was the nation’s largest independent DM agency (before it was sold for a fortune to Foote Cone and Belding), and the 10th largest agency of any kind West of the Mississippi. The name of the agency was a household word in the West—Smith-Hemmings-Gosden, or SHG for short.

As miraculous fortune would have it, at the age of 26 I found myself as the head of new business development for this venerable agency and, through baptism by fire, learned many of these classic tried-and-true marketing tools and quickly applied them with abandon for my clients—Bausch and Lomb, Sheraton Hotels, Western Bass Fishing Association, Princess Cruises, Safeco Insurance, JD Power and Associates and many other notable clients. More astonishing, I was one of the luckiest men in marketing serving as right-hand assistant to the legendary Freeman Gosden, Jr, one of the true forefathers of direct marketing who pioneered the principles that Jeff Bezos and his team now apply a million times a day.

So what is the 40-40-20 formula for success and why did Jeff stake his reputation and personal fortune on such a risky algorithm? More important, who was Freeman Gosden, Jr (we called him FG) and why was he such a brilliant marketer?

Continued on my latest post: On Direct Marketing, Jeff Bezos, Seth Godin and Electric Bikes