The year of differenter

Some people have new year’s resolutions. I have a different practice. (Or should I say, differenter?) I create a theme that I use to guide me as a somewhat fuzzy beacon through the year. And I choose one or two words to stamp on a disc which I wear on my wrist as a reminder to follow the theme.

Why? Because resolutions usually fail.

Resolutions are a binary practice (you either follow them or you don’t). A theme is easier to deploy. For example, if you set your theme for the year to be the year of “bravery,” you can remind yourself to be brave in any given situation. To point out the unsaid or the uncomfortable, damn the consequences. Or dive in and take charge when needed. Or maybe just try a new, exotic food. There’s no wrong answer. It’s just a guide. Like a beacon that lights your way, yet it doesn’t dictate the path.

This year I have chosen a made-up word to light my path through 2022: 


I define differenter as 1. adj. even more different than different. 2. noun. a person who does things differently, works against the status quo, and also makes a difference when possible. The past 24 months were less than perfect. 2021 was pretty much a bad xerox copy of 2020 with a government insurrection thrown in for good measure.

Let’s face it, we don’t just need a new year. We need one that’s differenter.

One reason I put this information in a blog post is that it’s always good for one’s colleagues and friends to know about the year’s theme, so I can be accountable to everyone around me. If I’m not acting the part of a differenter, I’m hoping people will point it out.

“Grant, that’s not very differenter…”

Side note: This practice was inspired by a unique and quite differenter management consultant and author, Dr. Jason Fox; you can read about it here. His course of this “Ritual of Becoming” is free this year. Check it out.

2022 is the seventh year I have adopted a theme to guide me through the year. Here are the themes I’ve chosen since the beginning of this practice.

2016 Rebel Scum (The rag-tag underdog good guys in Star Wars)
2017 Catalyst (To stimulate a change in others)
2018 Astronaut (To train for things no one has ever done)
2019 Invent Water (A pivotal year when I took a leap of faith off the diving board and invented water on the way down.)
2020 Chef (A chef is the spiritual and creative leader of the organization)
2021 Resistance (Only through heavy lifting can we become stronger.)

My favorite reads of 2021.

Not all of these books were written and released in 2021, but they were read in 2021. By yours truly. Here’s my short book report. 

I’ve broken these 15 reads into three categories. Inspiration, entertainment, and information. Another 30 other books did not make the cut, but I enjoyed consuming them anyway. 


Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert — The sooner the reader can get over their own irrational hangups around Gilbert’s other work and persona, the quicker one realizes that this is a wonderful and profound piece on the nature of creativity.

The Messy Middle, Scott Belsky — Belsky talks with candor and intelligence about the part of the creative process few people focus on. And why it’s so important. 

Belong, Radha Agrawal — Community building is an art and a skill and this book will help those people for whom finding one’s tribe is critical to happiness and success. 

Honorable mentions: 

Consider This, Chuck Palahniuk

Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty 


Recursion, Blake Crouch — This mind-bending, dimension-jumping tale, at its heart, is just another boy meets girl story in which the nature of reality is challenged and vanquished. 

Zone One, Colson Whitehead — A thinking man’s zombie apocalypse. Maybe not enough arterial spray for some, but the writing is quite beautiful. 

Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir — Andy Weir has a gift for making you care deeply about normal people in rather weird situations. I never wanted this book to end. 

Honorable Mentions: 

American War, Omar El Akkad

Later, Stephen King


Ageless, Andrew Steele — For those of us who plan to live forever, or die trying, this book is required reading. 

Give and Take, Adam Grant — Interestingly, the “nice guys finish last” trope is both 100% true and 100% false. If you rely upon relationships to make ends meet, this is a good book to consume. 

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, Bill Gates — Say whatever you want about Bill Gates; he’s undeniably thoughtful. This book both scared the crap out of me and gave me hope. Your mileage may vary. 

Honorable mentions: 

Capital City, Samuel Stein

Think Again, Adam Grant

This plate campaign served up over 20,000 site visitors.

2020-2021 Nantucket license Plate Campaign Case Study.

One of the most gratifying moments in any given marketing campaign is when the client-creative team discovers a powerful hidden insight and then uses it to its full advantage. This campaign is a prime example. 

Nantucket License Plate leadership at the Nantucket Lighthouse School connected with SAND to promote the sale of these specialty license plates. The school and 17 other local non-profits which serve island youth are benefactors of plate profits, which can be considerable and add up year after year. 

Going into the project, we naturally had assumptions about why people chose the plates — they like the idea, we assumed, of supporting a license plate that brings needed funding to island non-profits. But after conducting a qualitative online survey of 120+ people both on and off the island who had a connection to Nantucket, we discovered that the reason people acquire the plate is both more personal and a great deal more complex. 


Not doing it for the kids — While the fact that the plate benefits island children’s non-profits matters to some — especially those few who bought early on — in reality, this bit of info has very little impact on the majority of current plate owners and potential buyers. 

It’s about self expression — Respondents with an emotional connection to the island, who feel good about displaying an NI plate on their car, turned out to be the plate’s best customers, by a wide margin.

Some won’t get it — There is a small minority of loud people in our survey and on social media that don’t like the fact that Nantucket is on a license plate at all — and it irritates them. They would never buy a plate, but perhaps they could help us sell the plate to others? We decided to use this to our advantage and call it out.

We discovered some good tension — Respondents revealed that having the plate on their car made them feel good (“it’s my happy place”). But at the same time, they expressed that having the plate on their car may send signals to others who likely view them as stuck up, privileged or elite. And they were okay with that. As a result, the plate meant that they belonged to an exclusive, “in” group.


Here’s where the powerful hidden insight of creative tension paid off. We chose to position the Nantucket License Plate around exclusivity:

Positioning statement: 
For Mass drivers who have a deep connection with Nantucket, The Nantucket Island plate is a powerful way to tell others — even the jealous ones — where your happy place is.  

Distilled version:
Tell the world (even the haters) about your connection to Nantucket. 

Our thinking? The thing about Nantucket is, people who know it and love it understand the importance/significance of it, and others probably view it as elitist snobbery, so we came up with a couple lines that we worked into all creative:

Some people just won’t get it. 
(You can see the double meaning there.)


If you love Nantucket, you’ll get it. 

We ran social media executions (Facebook and Instagram) to our followers as well as the friends of followers and we supplemented that “earned” media with paid social media to potential customers in affluent Boston suburbs. 

The creative was a series of “inside info” snippets about the island. Anyone who did not have experience here would likely not “get” the references. Which reinforced the wordplay in the creative.


After the campaign was concluded, the Nantucket License Plate project reported a revenue increase of 63% from both new plates and plate renewals.

A rather modest Facebook spend ($160) allowed the Nantucket License plate to reach 13,900 people outside of Nantucket who did not already have the plate, while actively engaging 2,311 consumers and 317 clickthroughs to the NLP site. (Additional clickthroughs occurred on earned posts and through links in the organization’s profile.) 

Videos posted to Instagram received between 45 and 75 views each. And all images posted generated a reach of 3,700 followers. This campaign also resulted in close to a 10% increase in IG followers to the NLP account. 

The NLP site created by SAND saw significant traffic for a specialty license plate offering. Site visits ranged from 1,118-2,249 unique visitors per month. Well over 20,000 visitors in less than a year. With expected spikes on the days creative dropped on Facebook and Instagram.  In addition we received close to 40 email inquiries.

Sunny joins SAND

There’s something new at SAND these days. Sunny Sanders has joined the team to offer full-service proofreading, copy editing, and editorial services. Sunny has been using her unique ability to focus on details to ferret out typos and grammatical mistakes for nearly her entire life. And for the past two years, she has expertly proofread all written work at SAND for clients like ACK•Now, Wheels of Delight, Nantucket Shellfish Association, National Space Society, Allies Air, White Heron Theatre Company, Grey Lady Galleries, Jane Condon, Early Education Ventures, and more. Plus, as someone on the autism spectrum, she is uniquely qualified to apply sensitivity readings to narratives regarding people with ADHD, autism, and other differences. Put her strengths to work for your written words. 

Contact for pricing, info on new client discounts, and availability. Visit for a bio and more info.

Frozen in place.

Fear + uncertainty and how they impact commuters and travelers in the era of COVID.

I am very fortunate. I live in a modest home on Nantucket Island. I can go to the beach any time I like. I have a nice detached studio in which I work, work out and play my guitars. I have the world’s nicest outdoor shower. I have a wood stove that warms the house when the ocean winds drop below 40 degrees. I have two wifi networks from which to choose. A well-equipped kitchen. A warm bed. A mahogany-decked back porch that my wife and I sit on when we drink our morning coffee. As a result, I remain at home a lot. In fact, I only venture out to shop for food or walk Hazel, our dog.

Our current situation is in stark contrast to the previous 24 years when I had been constantly on the move.

“Constantly on the move,” you question? Surely, that’s an exaggeration. Well, here’s a quick back-of-the-envelope accounting of my travel experiences in that time:

  • Over 670 ferry rides between Nantucket and the mainland.
  • 1,320 plane flights, most of which were in a 10-seat Cessna with my 6’4″ frame stuffed into the copilot’s seat.
  • Over 530 car rentals. (After spending $3,000 a month for 12 years for rental cars, I finally wised up, bought a car, and rented a parking space on the Cape.)
  • I listened to 471 books on tape. Approximately 3,200 hours.
  • Spent over 1,350 nights in hotels. I still have one or two dozen little bottles of shampoo stashed around the house.
  • I spent 10,275 hours in transit, to the best of my ability to estimate.
  • left the island 1,083 times and returned 1,083 times. Thank goodness.(Coming back was always easier than leaving, for some reason.)

So it’s safe to say I was comfortable with traveling. But COVID has changed that for me and for a lot of people. (How many people did I come in contact with over those 24 years? How many surfaces did I touch? *Shudder.*) Commuting has become one of the riskiest actions you can take in an era of over 200,000 people dead and more than 6 million afflicted in the US alone. Few people see this with more clarity than I do. 18 months ago, I started a strategy and communications firm that specializes in meeting the needs of public and personal transportation organizations. So I’ve had a ring-side seat to the mayhem.

According to the Gleam Project, most people are only 80–85% as mobile as they once were, and are making around 50% of the physical contacts they did in January, which is big jump over April. Commuting-to-work levels nationwide are at 50% and climbing very slowly. As of this writing, commuting levels in New York City, by contrast, are still only 25% of what they were in January of 2020.

A few months back in June, I did some informal research with my friends on social media (Facebook plus LinkedIn where I have more than a few contacts in the public transit space) regarding attitudes around public transportation of all kinds. One third of respondents were not willing to trust any form of public transportation including bike share and commuter ferries where they would essentially be outdoors during the trip. Of those that didn’t dismiss public transit out of hand, subways, buses and trains ranked at the bottom of the trusted scale. I will likely do a follow-up this fall to see if attitudes have shifted. But I suspect that fear is still a factor.

It’s not just that people are fearful of this virus. The problem goes well beyond fear. Psychologically, and physically, the uncertainty that comes with the Coronavirus makes the fear doubly paralyzing.

Let me explain that last sentence. A few years ago, when I was part of a great team working on the launch of a new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Connecticut called CTfastrak, we did some research on the impact of uncertainty. In a focus group, we found that people loved driving in their cars and that very little would get them out of those cars. But we also discovered something very surprising. Some people (not all) hated uncertainty even more than they loved their cars. By highlighting the reliability of the CTfastrak BRT schedule in contrast with sitting on I-84 for an uncertain amount of time, we were able to convince more than a few folks that taking the bus was a better idea than driving.

I wondered why this was true. And then I read some of the existing research on uncertainty and learned that uncertainty actually lives in the same place in the brain as pain. To the brain, it was theorized by more than a few researchers, uncertainty actually hurts. And people will avoid uncertainty in the same way they avoid pain, even if the reward of overcoming that uncertainty is great.

Fear is powerful. Uncertainty is its cousin. Together they keep people from doing the things they want to do.

This hit home a few weeks ago when I volunteered to help my son move from an apartment in Queens to one in Manhattan. When he accepted my offer, I then had to plan my trip and I was struck by the pain of uncertainty on a visceral level. How was I going to actually get there?

Normally leaving the island and going to my son’s NYC apartment was a true multi-modal experience. Boat, car, parking garage, train, subway, Uber. Well, that was completely out of the question. Taking that route, albeit less expensive, exposed me (and therefore my wife when I returned) to five or six high-risk environments for COVID, both coming and going.

Instead, I decided to fly. I took JetBlue from our little airport while wearing two masks and taking advantage of every opportunity to load up on hand sanitizer that the airline provided. They did their best to offer social distancing on the plane, despite the fact that the plane was as full as they could pack it and still maintain some empty seats for safety. I did my best not to touch anything. Including my two masks. When I landed at Laguardia, I had four options. Take a taxi/uber, take the bus, spend 45 minutes on the subway, or walk. I know what you’re thinking: “What kind of freak walks across 1/3 of NYC after landing at Laguardia?”

This freak does. Fear and uncertainty make us do weird stuff.

Fortunately, it was a beautiful weekend and walking was ideal. I was able to give my personal trainer the weekend off as I ended up lifting about 16 tons of my son’s books, technology, kitchenware, and furniture up a very steep and narrow set of stairs. As well as walking over three hours (calories were burned). The day after the move, my son rewarded me with a pastrami sandwich the size of my head from Katz’s (calories were consumed) and I walked back to the airport.

The flight back to Nantucket had, maybe, 15 people on it, so I felt a little safer. Despite all of the precautions I took, my wife (who has taken a year-long sabbatical from teaching due to COVID because she is a borderline high-risk case) still made me sleep in my studio until I was able to get a negative COVID test. Which I got. All is well.

But here’s the point. I was willing to pay more and jump through some unusual hoops to limit my uncertainty and maximize the parts of my trip over which I could be in complete control.

What this all means for commuters and travelers is profound. In a COVID-free world, helping commuters and travelers overcome inertia and garden-variety uncertainty was difficult enough. Add to that the fear and uncertainty that comes with an invisible disease that has afflicted millions and killed nearly a million worldwide and it’s amazing anyone ever leaves their homes.

Yet, I hasten to add, some people have no choice. First responders, hospital and food workers, people who need to be out in public just to keep their families fed are literally living with and swallowing their fear and uncertainty every day. And people who work in transportation are in the same boat. Of the top 50 occupations with the most risk, bus drivers and transit operators are listed at №30 and flight attendants are at №21. With estimates for a vaccine around a year away, the only certain thing transportation organizations can do to attract travelers and calm employees is to follow state health guidelines and assure everyone that they are doing everything they can by being extra visible about keeping equipment and facilities sterilized.

How will this all shake out? The answer to that question is uncertain, I fear.

This post was first published on Grant’s blog, Okay Here’s the Thing on Medium

Abstract photo created by freepik —

Meat Grinder Manifesto

“Grant, I feel I need to mention that some of the other employees have complained about the meat grinders. It’s making them uncomfortable.”

— The CEO of my former ad agency.


I began collecting meat grinders nearly three years ago after a conversation I had with an account exec I was working with on a new project. He was wondering when we could get some work in front of a client. Like all good AEs, he wanted to show some progress and give the client something to react to. But the work was not ready.

“We need to put this stuff through the meat grinder first,” I threw out.

He was puzzled. I explained that the thoughts and ideas we were messing with needed to be broken down, vetted, and minced — in every sense of the word. We needed to sanity-test every thought and follow every creative lead. We needed to dig for golden insights until one of three things happen: We are exhausted. We strike gold. We burn our hands on the molten mantel at the earth’s core. This satisfied my AE brother and we set a deadline for the outcome of this grind session. Good meeting.

One never forgets their first meatgrinder.

The next day, a Saturday, I was on India Street on Nantucket in the basement of an old home that now served as the local hospital’s thrift shop. I came across a nice looking meat grinder. It was likely as old as I am, give or take a few years. It had that glint of old-world utility. We don’t use these things any more thanks to the blender, the KitchenAid mixer with all of its swell attachments, and the ever-handy food processor. Who needs a hunk of metal that clamps to the countertop or farm table and featured a wooden-handled crank? Who has the time?

Having just talked about meat grinders with my colleague, I bought the piece for $2 and brought it to the office on my trip back to Connecticut that week. A visual aid. There was an exposed I-beam in my workspace that ran from the floor to the ceiling, so I clamped my new hardware to it. I stepped back. It looked good, but something was missing.

More meat grinders.

After that day, I began supplementing my antique cast iron pan purchases with meat grinders. On one trip, I bought nine. On another, four. They seemed to be available in every antique mall and second-hand store I entered. I even crossed state lines on a Wednesday evening to purchase two vintage beauties from a man on — one, a rather rare Griswold №2. On another occasion, I bought a massive grease-black beast of a grinder from a woman I met in an Olive Garden parking lot in Plainville, CT after 10 PM, giggling all the way back to my apartment. Before long, over 20 more hunks of metal and wood joined the original “Universal 1572” grinder on the I-beam.

Are you uncomfortable? Good.

That’s around the time the meat grinders started to make a few of my fellow teammates uncomfortable. (Which was partially the point.) Comfort is not the goal of the work we do. The goal, instead, is to uncomfortably force ourselves to do the hard work needed to uncover new creative thinking.

After I left that agency and lugged all of those meat grinders home to Nantucket — a good story in and of itself that will have to wait for another time — I installed the collection in my little 10 x 12 studio workspace and there I began to explore the concept even further. I put the concept of the meat grinder through the meat grinder! And the result is the following statement of truths.

One-quarter of my current Meatgrinder Museum.

The Meat Grinder Manifesto.

As creative professionals, we adhere to the following truths because doing so nets the best work. The most original work. The work that no one can mess with. The work that makes other creative people say, “Shit, I wish I came up with that…” As members of the Order of the Meat Grinder, we believe that the power of an idea comes from the energy we put into uncovering it. We, therefore, adhere to the following axioms.

ONE. Do the hard work. It always pays off. Anyone can buy 80/20 hamburger joylessly extruded onto a flimsy styrofoam tray and covered with plastic wrap in the supermarket. A true culinary artist selects different cuts of meat and finds the time to grind something special. It takes work and time to make a burger with 50% sirloin, 25% brisket, and 25% short rib, but day-um! The results speak for themselves (serve with shaved, raw, sweet onion, pickles, and American cheese on a fresh Something Natural® hamburger bun). In the same way, as creative pros, it’s important to recognize that the work we do is difficult and we can’t, and should not, phone it in.

50% sirloin, 25% brisket 25 % short rib. 100% bliss.

TWO. The cheap answer is always the wrong answer. Consider the Einstellung Effect which states that the more experience one has, the more likely one is to think that one’s initial, intuitive solution to a problem is the best one. Because it’s worked before. But there’s a term for this in our business: creative malpractice. Truth is, new problems require new, hard-won solutions. Why should a client pay for an idea that easily falls out of your brain during the input session? The first thing that comes to mind should be the answer of last resort.

THREE. The comfort zone is out of bounds. Insights come from getting out of your own head and into the heads of other people in other situations. It’s messy. It’s uncertain. It’s a pain in the ass. You have to get up out of your massive overstuffed chair and dig for novelty and cool. You have to break a sweat. No one ever got six-pack abs by watching Netflix on the couch (unless they started out with eight-pack abs).

Gem Food Chopper, circa 1928. It came with its own recipe book.

FOUR. Break it down before you build it up. A happy post-mortem for a given creative project is often preceded by a healthy pre-mortem weeks before launch. Scrutinizing every moving part of an idea and immunizing your solution against failure results in thinking that’s concentrated, brief and powerful.

FIVE. Crank out more than you need. When you take the time to set up the meat grinder, you wouldn’t then turn the crank three times and be done with it. Generating a full range of solutions means you will be sure the ideas that finally go to the client are the best ones possible because you’ve left no cut of meat unground, so to speak.

The rusty old Griswold with original attachments and cloth bag.

SIX. Learn to love the cranking. In our business, the best idea often wins. It might get an award. It might get us a promotion. Or even win us a new client. But, paradoxically, the value of what comes out of the meat grinder is far, far less than the value one gains from turning the crank. Put another way, we learn so much more from the process than we do from the result. Remember that the winning idea is just one arbitrary thing sitting atop an invisible, hard-won mountain of cranked-out possibilities and insights

.- – –

Grant Sanders is the founder of SAND which is a Nantucket-based firm that delivers Strategy, Art, Narrative, and Design to brands that move people. One crank at a time.

I solved the traffic problem on Nantucket

How I got through one of the busiest summers on record without ever getting stuck or wasting time in traffic.  

Most people who live on Nantucket like to complain. If there was a “Complaining Olympics,” Nantucket would take bronze, silver, and gold every four years. And the number one thing people on Nantucket complain about is traffic. 

But let’s be clear here. Traffic on Nantucket is different than traffic in America (as we like to refer to the rest of the United States). Here, if there are six cars stopped in a row at a stop sign, people complain. I lived in Boston before the advent of Waze or Google Maps and before the Big Dig was dug and the Lenny Zakim Bridge was suspended above the Charles so I know what soul-sucking, mind-numbing, nerve-inducing traffic is like. Nantucket is like the Indy 500 in comparison.

Still, we do have close to 31,000 cars on the island in Summer according to the Nantucket Data Platform. And when the sky clouds up, many people head into town to shop and stroll around instead of going to the beach. There is congestion. Finding parking spaces is difficult. Tensions do run high. People with Connecticut and New Jersey license plates drive their oversized vehicles with a mixture of entitlement and aggression. 

And despite working in town most days, I was not affected by any of it. I never once got a ticket. I never had trouble finding parking. I moved in and out of Downtown Nantucket four or five days a week as a ghost moves through walls. How? 

I was on a bicycle. 

It’s that simple. I got on my bike in the middle of the island and I pedaled into town and then out again. I took advantage of the bike paths and bike routes that we all paid for with our tax money. I moved with ease, passing cars that had to wait. I flew through rotaries. And when I arrived, there was always a spot waiting for me. And I never had to worry about some summer cop-in-training putting a ticket on my vehicle or chalking up my tires. 

These bikes are screaming, “ride me!”

How was I able to make this lifestyle change away from having a car to preferring my bike. Here’s how:

  1. We decided to become a one-car couple. It wasn’t easy to give up a car here on Nantucket. But when you consider all of the time both cars would sit in the driveway unused, it just made sense to consolidate. Plus it saved us a ton of cash. We still have a second car, but it’s off-island, waiting for us when we need it. 
  2. I have a bike that fits me. And my style of riding. I am a very large man. Larger than some pro defensive ends. Most bikes feel like toys beneath my hulking frame. But My Cannondale Jumbo Adventure hybrid bike is like a speedy two-wheeled indestructible tank. It has the gears to get me moving with traffic (and in some cases faster than traffic) and it can handle the occasional dirt road or cobblestone street with ease. 
  3. I invested in some handy panniers (saddlebags) to go on my rear-wheel rack. For me, this is a better option than a backpack or sling bag because there’s nothing heavy against my back to make me sweaty or pull on my muscles. And I can carry a laptop, a steady cam, a tablet, a notebook, extra water bottle, twelve pens, assorted papers and all of my biking gear: pump, lock, helmet in a single pannier. Plus, two panniers allow me to carry up to four bags of groceries. The ones I got were from IKEA and they are not sold anymore. But they are simple canvas totes, very similar to these.
  4. The weather cooperated on most days. That was nice. Even on days when it was a little misty, biking wasn’t a big deal. I keep this lightweight jacket in my pannier if I need it.
  5. I set up meetings out-of-town when possible. Not every workday had to happen downtown. So I mixed it up. I also did a fair amount of work in the home office. Flexibility is key. 
  6. I have two of each of the crucial bike accessories. Two helmets. Two locks. Two panniers. So if anything is dirty or wet or missing, I can grab the spare. I also have two bikes, although one is a slow fixie cruiser that I only ride occasionally. It came in handy the day the rear tire on my 24-speed blew. 
  7. I have a bike client. So I was often reminded I had to talk the talk. And pedal the walk, so to speak. 
  8. I get my bike serviced regularly. No excuse to take the car if you have a bike that works well and is a pleasure to ride. 
  9. On those days I couldn’t bike, I had other options. I could always walk. Except for one day when the heavens opened up and there was so much flooding, I had to turn back. And as a last resort, the keys for the car are in the cupholder. 
  10. When we do drive, we park just outside the downtown area and walk into town. People don’t realize that there are plenty of spaces four minutes away from the Atheneum by foot. (I’m not going to tell you where my secret parking spot is. You can find your own.)
  11. I overcame my internal preconceptions about biking. I recently heard a comedian joke about seeing a guy in his community who was over 50 on a bike and wondering if he was getting in shape or had a DUI. In a place like Nantucket where the millionaires mow the lawns of the billionaires, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that a man of a certain age on a bike and not in a $60,000 Range Rover is either poor or has had his license revoked. Either way, there is shame associated with traveling simply. I got over that. And I suspect this will be the hardest thing for most people on-island who contemplate such a lifestyle change. 

Since this is Nantucket, I’m sure that there are more than a few cynical people who want to complain that biking is too hard for them. Maybe even impossible for them. Let me try to anticipate your objections if you’re one of those folks.

“I can’t bike into town. I have kids.”

Kids can ride bikes, you know. Last time I checked. And if they are too small, there are kid carriers and trailers that work great. Need to pick up groceries? There are a number of great solutions for moving a whole lot of stuff at once. I’ve been jonesing for one of these for years.

“I’m not physically fit enough to bike four or five times a week.” 

Okay, I get that. I have been not physically fit at various points in my life. But maybe, for some, biking four or five times a week is exactly what they need to get on the road to physical fitness. And if you need a little help, there’s always an e-bike.

“I’m too old to ride a bike.” 

How about one of these? More your speed? It’s electric and will not fall over. Doesn’t even need a kickstand.

“I need to carry lumber and tools. There’s no way I can bike.”

I’ve seen those job sites with five pickups and six workers. You would think that one or two of those guys could bike when the other folks take their trucks (yeah, I know, the dog rides shotgun in all of those vehicles)? Also, there are cargo bikes. (I was looking at one of these the other day and when I get a dog or start that pie delivery business I’ve been considering, I’m getting one.) These things are rated for 200 pounds of stuff. Unless you’re hauling concrete, it can do most jobs that are too small to bother the delivery guys at Marine lumber over.

“I don’t want to mess up my clothes before work.”

We all know that the average islander’s idea of business casual is “a clean t-shirt” So it’s really hard to mess up Nantucket work attire on a bike ride, but if you need to wear a three-piece suit or fancy dress at work, maybe riding and then changing clothes is an option? If not, consider that millions of people bike to desk jobs every day around the world. There are lots of ways to ride, be safe and still look good when you arrive.

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit, Biking is not for everyone. But if just a fraction of the people on Nantucket took their bike more often instead of their car (say one out of 12), the so-called traffic problem on the island would be as good as solved. If the estimated 750 downtown workers each picked one day a week to bike there would be a minimum of three dozen additional free parking spaces per day. It’s getting better. I see a lot of two-wheeling, smiling islanders out there. But we need more. We can solve this problem together. And set a good example for the people from Connecticut and New Jersey. 

Take your best (moon) shot.

Tackling an audacious and difficult project has its merits.

I recall watching the moon landing on a black and white Motorola TV in our basement. The images were so poor and the sound was so intermittent and I had the attention span of a seven-year-old  ( because I was seven years old) that I don’t truly remember seeing Neil Armstrong actualy step foot on the moon. But I remember how it felt. It was exciting.

A man was walking. On the moon. Cool.

NASA engineers and scientists had to be innovative to get a self-aware machine made of meat up there. They had to create new technologies and processes. (And the taxpayer was footing the bill, so they could afford to dream. And dream big.)

The residual result of that dreaming, besides making history and fulfilling the vision of an assassinated president? A ton of residual, cool, new stuff that almost single-handedly changed the face of the world economy.

Everyone knows about Tang (I drank my weight in the stuff every week as a kid) and freeze dried food, but did you know the CAT scan machine was developed from Apollo technology? How about the thermometer that reads the temperature inside one’s ear? Scratch resistant lenses? Satellite TV? Memory foam mattresses? And smoke detectors? And dozens of other technologies that we all take for granted today?

NASA dreamed. And they spent. And we all benefitted. This is what makes moon-shot-like projects so important. And they don’t have to be executed by government agencies. Any company can commit to a moon-shot.

Years ago, I worked for a well-known loudspeaker company, Boston Acoustics — a company that had just executed their own moon-shot program. They hired a maverick engineer and told him to design something amazing — a family of speakers that outperformed everything they had ever made — regardless of the cost. At the time, it was thought that only big tower speakers could deliver the range and fidelity required by audiophiles, so part of the challenge was to create a tower system and then a bookshelf system with the same sonic qualities. The result of his efforts was the Lynnfield Series. They were beautiful. Compact. They sounded amazing. They were crazy expensive. And they likely lost money in the process of creating them. But one of the things they gained was a deeper knowledge of how sound operates in small spaces and some very cool intellectual property. They learned how to make tweeters in a new way, with very small and powerful rare-earth magnets. They learned unique ways of suspending woofers within reinforced enclosures to transfer the maximum amount of energy into sound. Almost everything they learned on Lynnfield, they were able to pour into the creation of every other product they made, from inexpensive dorm room speakers to popular car audio components. And it gave them the ability to leapfrog the competition for the 15 years I worked with them.

Another good example of a company that believes in the moon-shot mentality is Tesla. They have poured massive amounts of money, engineering brainpower and time into developing the ultimate electric car. And the cars themselves are amazing. Every feature of the automobile has been reimagined. About a year ago, they did something NASA also did (even though they didn’t need to, as a privately held company). They released all of their IP and patents to the public. The thinking of Elon Musk, the company’s founder, was that if Tesla was to move forward as a company that innovates in the area of electric cars, it couldn’t do it alone. So it released all of its closely held information so that other car manufacturers could help them create what is essentially a new industry. Everyone benefits if electric cars become mainstream. And it took a moon-shot project to do it.

How about a non-tech example of an organization that is taking a moon-shot mentality in order to change the world? Witness my current client, White Heron Theatre Company on Nantucket. Most arts nonprofits operate in a very small sphere — they are local, almost by definition. But White Heron applies a global scope to the work they do. They built a multi-million-dollar theater and campus to bring world-class theater to Nantucket island, while simultaneously developing and producing projects that can play all around the world. It’s very exciting, mostly, because it’s a model that no one has attempted. And the time, money and effort they put into their craft will undoubtedly touch a much larger audience as they expand to other media. Everyone wins.

Any organization can take on a moon-shot project. And if yours wants to compete on a higher plane, you should, too. Here are the basic traits of such an initiative:

1. It should be hard. This, you would think, goes without saying, but it’s worth underscoring. A moon-shot has to be so hard that it stretches the capabilities and the resources of the organization. Put another way, “no pain, no gain.”

2. It shouldn’t have a (real) budget. This is the part a lot of business people have a hard time with. At its purest, a moon-shot project should be one that you pour resources into with only the goal in mind. The cost is not nearly as important as the results. Granted, you should not risk the business’ solvency on such an effort, but to really benefit from a moon-shot initiative you actually have to shoot for the moon, and that means spending money and resources with your eye on the ultimate finish line, not the bottom line.

3. It needs to have a big-ass-audacious goal. Something that others in your industry, or out of it have not done. The goal has to be achievable in theory, but somewhat impractical in practice.

4. A moon shot results in valuable IP. Moon-shot projects throw off valuable IP in the same way steam engines eject water vapor. IP is not the goal, but it’s an inevitable bi-product of the initiative and it can sustain an organization for a long time.

5. It doesn’t just benefit you, it benefits everyone around you. Maybe even everyone, period.

6. It results in a great narrative that meshes with your brand in a strong way. Every organization can benefit from a strong story to tell. One that sets them apart from everyone else in their industry. And the best way to develop such a narrative is to do something different than everyone else in one’s industry.

Moon shot initiatives are not for everyone. In fact, only a very small number of organizations are brave enough, innovative enough and, frankly, crazy enough to want to take one on. As we at SAND embark on our own moon shot to create the ad agency of the future, we are not just advocating it, we are endeavoring to live it.

Does that sound like something you want to take on? If so, take one, small step.