I want to start by thanking my friends and family. I couldn’t ask for better. Frankly, you’re all better than I deserve. Your kind words of support (and your anger at your TV’s!) have helped me escape this bizarre experience relatively sane (or as sane as before anyway).
I write this for a broader audience, and so I start with an explanation of who I am and how I approached this. I’ll start with some of what you already know: I can be a pretty serious guy. Based on my portrayal on the show, not exactly shocking. So, fair enough. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed that I took the show seriously, because I approached it as a job interview. That every minute we were there, we were going to be judged. Judged not only by Donald Trump, but also by our parents, our best friends, loved ones, ex-teachers, everyone. So I made certain promises to myself: I wouldn’t talk behind people’s backs or resort to petty personal attacks, I would attempt to be intelligent in how I approached all situations, and I would try to not get caught up in the intenseness of the experience. I boiled it down into 3 words that I repeated when the experience got especially intense: Integrity, Intelligence and Grace. All in all, I’m proud of how I stuck to this.
Going back to my “seriousness”– that all stemmed from a responsibility I felt. Generally in life, I feel obligated to make the most of all the opportunities afforded to me. The Apprentice felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity. I vowed that I would tear myself to shreds, and work as hard as humanly possible to do the best I could. And I felt a responsibility to all the people who had sacrificed so much for me to get to where I was: My family (especially my mom), teachers, friends, etc. I’ve been blessed with so many amazing people in my life who care for me deeply and without who’s help, I would not be anywhere in my life today. So I’ve always felt pushed by a deep desire to never look in the mirror and feel like I’ve let them down. And that fed my seriousness in certain situations. For those of you who know me, the fact that I’m explaining why I’m “so serious” is pretty entertaining in the face of my constant group hugs, terrible nick-name giving, and my general stupidity. OK…this ends the long introduction to me.
In the interest of not writing a book, which this could easily turn into, I’m going to focus on one or two points from each of the last four horrifying episodes. Consider it your sneak-peak behind reality TV:
Ep 5: Honey
On the craaazy marketing jargon: from the emails I’ve gotten it’s clear that everyone gets that my comments from an hours-long brainstorming were spliced into a 15 second rant. All of the words I used probably made sense. Here’s a marketing 101 in 30 seconds– of all the crazy stuff I said and why:
“Who buys honey/Household (HH) penetration”: the reason I asked about HH penetration is because it’s helpful to know if the people coming through the door of that supermarket already have a jar of honey in their homes. So if HH penetration is high (which it was), our marketing job was to convince them that they need a second jar (not to buy a first).
“Barriers to Purchase”: The basic job of marketing is to make you want something. Often to get close the deal, you need to first overcome the reasons people are resistant to buying it. One barrier we knew about because of the above question was “I already have honey”. So I start talking to them about “versatility”, and showing the shopper all the uses of honey. In marketing, this could be considered a “benefit”. And if you talk about benefits, you need to give people a reason to believe those. And that’s where our sales talking points of “freshly harvested”, etc came from. Basically, convince them that they should be doing all kinds of great things with this honey so that they’d buy a second jar.
Channels that honey is sold in/Unique Selling Proposition: I got as much of a kick out of hearing this on TV as you did. And it actually took me a second to figure out why in the world I would ever say this (even I was convinced I was a robot!). But then I remembered, I wanted to use “sold exclusively here; you can’t get this anywhere else” (by phone, by Internet, catalog, etc) as a marketing selling point.
But, my teammates were not convinced, and Aaron listened to his friend James who he trusted more in making packaging and marketing decisions. I can understand wanting to listen to your best friend in the process, but naturally I was frustrated because I do this for a living. Later, I was also pissed because after ignoring most of what I had suggested, the two of them would say “I was in-charge” of marketing.
Ep 6: Priceline Mall Task
I said I’d pick one thing to focus on so it would have to be “walking the mall aimlessly.” In the beginning of the task, traffic was super-light. We already had 5 high-octane sales people pouncing on everyone who walked by. The toughest job would be to move away from the spectacle of the booth (shockingly, everyone was drawn to the cluster of cameras and people) to the far corners of the mall, and attempt to drive people downstairs. While walking the mall I’d drop into the stores and give the other stores flyers to spread the word. I even told Tim and Nicole that if we lost, that whoever did this job would be seen as contributing the least directly to the task. Since you should lead by example, I assigned myself the hardest job. Once upon a time, the show was about leadership lessons like this (when you won)– today it’s about making fun of them. A little strange, but even I agree: It’s funnier this way.
Ep 7: Lexus
The whiteboard? I actually didn’t write anything that complicated on the board. Just the vision for the task. We had been told the criteria that our “guests” would be judging us on. So I listed these things out and wrote in big letters– “this is all we’re judged on.” I then listed all of the things that we were doing, and made sure that they were somehow linked back to one of these three things the guests rated us on. Doing this kept us away from hiring go-carts and magicians for the task. For any of us who work in business, this is basics. And, oh, I don’t apologize for my love of the whiteboard. If I could make the walls of all my offices, just consist of whiteboards — I would. I’m kidding…sort of.
Random other stuff: We only had 2 phones. Of course Frank and Stefani were the only 2 making phone calls. They also repeatedly said they didn’t need help. Despite their “words” about me, I think they did a great job on the actual event logistics and I told Trump this during the boardroom. I gave a great few minute introduction to the event, complete with corny jokes. One such joke: “Before you all got here, we got a chance to learn about this car and drive it. And let me tell you, I was quite shocked when I learned that the car parks itself. It was kind of scary, because I realized the car was actually smarter than I was!” And yes, people actually laughed at that. And, yes, I realize you’re not laughing.
Oh. And the “Snoop Edit” went waaay too far. I can handle people thinking I’m a marketing-jargon-spewing-whiteboard-writing-robot but not that I would stand against the wall the entire time instead of talking/singing with Snoop. I played the drums with Snoop (one word: ridiculous!), talked to Snoop about how “Gin and Juice” used to be my favorite song when I was in 8th grade, and James, Frank and I recorded the chorus to our song w/him. Not talking/rapping with Snoop would be like not shooting jumpers with MJ. That contestants would say whatever they’re told just for a few seconds of airtime has been a constant disappointment to me throughout.
Ep 8: Half-Time Vitamins
There’s a lot to say here, but it’s no big deal. I’ll leave you with something hilarious. Read about what people who were actually at the game thought: Link 1. And Link 2. Insane.
My Final Thoughts
This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I can say that and also say that it was also incredibly disappointing, can’t I? I thought I was going on a job interview with The Apprentice and instead I found myself on a cross between Real World and Survivor. When I watched Real World growing up, I remember that they had to get jobs working somewhere. What’s crazy is those 18 and 20 year-olds seemed to take that job more seriously than business professionals on a purported job-interview. But as I’ll post more next time, I’m not a victim. My mistakes were my own and were what caused my end result. I literally have explanations for about a 1000 things they showed on the show…but I’m not going to sit here and explain everything. Because no one cares and it totally doesn’t matter. I’ve tried to explain only those things that I’ve gotten the most emails about above.
And to clarify, I’m not upset at my “teammates” for some of the pretty wretched stuff they said about me. To each, their own. I’m proud of the fact that I never personally attacked any of them, even when they were disrespectful and aggressive to my face. That’s not who I am. But the experience of rapping with Snoop, hearing Bocelli on the beach, having dinner with Trump, putting on amazing tasks (which are actually a lot of fun– inter-personal dynamics aside) were the kinds of things that most people never get the chance to do. For that, I’m blessed and thankful. I have a lifetime of stories from a short period, and I’ve grown as a person (mostly through the process of having to watch the episodes!). I’ve received hundreds of emails from people I didn’t know offering me encouragement, respect, etc. That alone made this experience worthwhile. I’ll be posting a few more entries about my thoughts– specifically answering the other most commonly asked questions I get in my inbox. Until then, be well, thanks for everything, and feel free to email. Even you guys who are oh so harsh on the message boards/blogs (I still love you guys too.)
3/6/13 – Wow, what a blast from the past. It’s so easy to forget how seriously I took all this then. It was a super-intense period to watch myself on TV and feel the weight of others’ eyes constantly on me. Thinking about it now, I find it all a little hard to believe. Of course, just the experience it self and almost that I was ever on the show. It’s a bit surreal. But also how acutely I reacted to others’ opinions of me. Between The Apprentice and running for Congress, I’ve definitely thickened my skin a bit. But when this all hit, I was pretty unprepared and way too sensitive. Oh well 🙂