BACKSTAGE with Jon D’Amore

30 09 2013

Today on CSReview, author and screenwriter Jon D’Amore is making a come-back talking about a year of an incredible spin-off that followed the release of his book THE BOSS ALWAYS  SITS IN THE BACK.

CS: When we spoke last year, prior to your book THE BOSS ALWAYS SITS IN THE BACK was to be released, did you know you’d quickly get your own fan base with thousands of copies sold?

Jon D'AmoreJon D’Amore: Because the story of THE BOSS centers around a group of mob guys from Hudson County, New Jersey (the county directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan, quickly accessible via the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels),it was only logical that a good percentage of my “fan base” would come from that area. Much of the book’s initial success was due to two Union City, New Jersey, Facebook pages.

Union City was where I was born and spent the first 12 years of my life. When the book was released, and after living in Los Angeles for nearly 15 years, I went back to New Jersey to promote it…and the people came out en masse. It was amazing. Very heartwarming and humbling. The night I returned to Union City for a reading of THE BOSS at the William V. Musto Cultural Center, I was speechless when Mayor and State Senator Brian Stack, Police Chief Brian Barrett and Commissioner Lucio Fernandez came up to the podium and honored me with a proclamation naming May 24th “Jon D’Amore Day” in the city of my birth.

It didn’t take long for things to explode from there. Using the accumulated radio and TV segments, promotional materials and articles, THE BOSS snowballed. It also helps that my readings and responses to questions are entertaining, informative and humorous.


The car in this picture was used in the infamous Godfather.

I recently returned from a four week tour of Florida, and I’m already being asked to return by the bookstores where I appeared. But what’s most rewarding are the emails I get every week…every single week…from people I don’t know telling me how much they’ve enjoyed THE BOSS and that it made them laugh while keeping them on the edge of their seats, or simply because it brought back memories of people and places they knew. Readers appreciate the respect, honor and love I showed for the characters…compelling characters who also had terribly violent and criminal sides to them.

CS: Jon, I think getting a day named after you is a total blast! The recent news of you securing a major NYC literary agency – what can you tell me?

Jon D’Amore: A major literary agency was something I’d been waiting, working and striving for. Early on I could have signed with a number of agencies, but I felt they weren’t high enough on the literary food-chain. I knew THE BOSS needed to be promoted and distributed in a big way…on a large scale. In order to do that, I needed an agent who shared my vision…and an agency with the power to make it happen.

the boss official coverI wanted an agent who can walk into any of the best publishing houses and put THE BOSS in the hands of the person who’s going to get it, the person who has true belief in the product, the person who knows the genre and the target audiences, not just one target audience, but the many this book appeals to. That is paramount. Anything less means THE BOSS would simply languish in the mediocrity of so many other poorly marketed books. So I had to wait until the right agency came along. It took longer than I had hoped…but doesn’t everything that’s truly worth doing successfully?

When I lecture at colleges and schools about writing, marketing, sales and self-publishing, I tell the story of when my literary attorney and I sent copies of THE BOSS to agencies to get it represented and shopped to publishing companies…and how the rejection letters, interestingly enough, contradicted each other. The responses were everything from, “There are too many mob titles in an already glutted market,” to, “There is no longer any commercial interest in Mafia stories,” and each one was signed by someone who allegedly knew what was happening in the marketplace.

It became apparent that no one really knew exactly what was happening out there. The publishing industry was changing faster than “the decision makers” were able to make decisions. After enough of those letters came in, I decided it was time to do it myself and create a market for THE BOSS.

And that’s exactly what I did.

Once I self-published the book in every marketable medium (e-books for Nooks, Kindles, iPads and Kobo readers, an audio book for, and the hard cover and paperback versions), I put myself out there so the public could hear a slice of THE BOSS and be entertained at the readings. I also went on every radio and TV show that would have me. That’s when several agencies started to take notice.

My friend, Pamela Des Barres, along with being a best-selling author and a big fan of THE BOSS, mentioned it to her agent. He liked what he saw on THE BOSS website (, so we spoke for a bit on the phone and I sent him a copy. He read it within two days, liked it a lot, and we spoke again. A few days later I went to Manhattan and put everything in front of him.

Conversely, I also made it a point to interview the agent and the agency. I asked as many questions of them as they did of me. I made sure they weren’t taking on my book strictly to fill a niche in a sliver of the marketplace. The agent got it. He loved the story. The arcs. The characters. The respect of the culture and the love between the primary characters.

The agency wants to make the book a best-seller…not just on a national level, but internationally. A few days later the agent, the agency and my attorney were working out the terms for our contract. It was signed within a couple of weeks.

CS: You gotta give it to those guys, they know what they are doing and what then need to do to get you where you belong. So, Jon, what does standing at the top of the mountain feel like?

Jon D’Amore: I don’t know…yet, but I’ll certainly let you know when I get there. Right now, you can say I’ve left the base camp and I’m climbing. Fortunately, I have a great support team in my agent, my attorney, the investors and the countless people who’ve enjoyed reading THE BOSS.

I really believe the apex will be when the book is published by a quality company, it’s selling well and the screenplay has been sold to a studio. Until then…it’s an uphill climb no matter how well it appears THE BOSS and I are doing.

CS: Can you put a dollar-amount on what it cost to independently publish, print and promote your book? You’ve done national tours, interviews, radio, television, lectured, released the audiobook…is it all worth it?

Jon D’Amore: That’s easy to answer. From the day I decided to publish THE BOSS until I recently returned from Florida, between the principal amount put up by the investors, plus the interest on their investment, not counting what I owe my attorney, it’s a little over twenty-five thousand dollars.

Is it all worth it? From my point of view, I can’t let it become not worth it.

J3THE BOSS ALWAYS SITS IN THE BACK has never been a vanity project like some self-published books are. I didn’t borrow that kind of money or put my credibility on the line for it to fail. I believe in THE BOSS. The people who invested in it believe in it. My attorney and agent believe in it. The masses that purchased and read the first edition love it. Even people who planned or expected to find fault with it…loved it. So I’m working very hard to make sure it’s worth it. Besides, I have investors, and for their loyalty in this project alone I need to make sure they get paid back.

CS: While speaking to the media and telling the story of your book, did you re-live the events you wrote about? Were there moments when “The Kid” (one of three mob-aliases given to you in the story) spoke in your place?

Jon D’Amore: My hanging out with da guys ended a long time ago, but the great times we had and the life lessons we all learned (well, at least the ones who are still alive)…those stories had to be told. The audience certainly sees my pleasure as I read to them, so most certainly I re-live it as I’m reading it…no matter how many readings I do.

My early years as a musician gave me the ability to comfortably perform in front of large audiences, followed by a few years as a studio musician which honed my confidence level. Of course, the things that went on in Vegas with my Godfather also had a great effect on the way I lived my life during and after those years. Later, my life in the corporate world enabled me to take those talents and skills and use them in what the suits call “the real world.”

As for “The Kid” showing up at any readings…From the beginning of the book to the last page I describe how several great eras ended. The era of The Kid is the last of them. As much as I love talking about that slice of my life when I was called “The Kid” and the great days and nights of the mid-to-late 1970s, The Kid went away a long time ago.

CS: Who is your ideal reader?

Jon D’ Amore: Anyone who enjoys a great mob story that tells about the history of the New Jersey and New York crime families, how a boy grew up in a family involved in Organized Crime, a very slick Las Vegas scam that eventually goes bad and people turn up dead, honor, respect and a deep love between a young man and his Godfather. Of course, there’s also the pure entertainment factor. I connect a lot of things in the story with memorable and historic events and locations. Things many people can relate to and recall where they were and what they were doing at that specific time.

Interestingly enough, I was able to monitor a large percentage of those who purchased the book based on sales through THE BOSS website and at live appearances, plus by the emails I receive from those who bought the e-book, the audio-book or the printed versions on-line (where I’d have no idea of the demographics)…and the majority of THE BOSS purchasers and readers are women between 35 and 65. And to make the numbers even better, women buy additional books for the men in their lives to read.

CS: Curious stats, Jon. If a publisher is acquired, do you expect them to have you re-write the book or change the cover?

Jon D’Amore: Coming from a thirteen year background in the Hollywood screenwriting community, it’s not uncommon for a producer to praise the writer to high heaven with accolades of how great their script is and that it can go right from the page to the screen because the producer is “…just the person who can get it done.” But once the deal is cut and the producer has the rights to the script, the first thing they do is change about twenty-to-forty percent of the original script. I’ve seen it and have heard writers joke(or cry) about it all the time. It’s usually the reason some great scripts become some bad films. Though, once in a while it does work the other way around.

That being said, I’m sure the chosen publishing company will want to exert some power. Will they? Who knows? Let’s see what they come up with. If it makes THE BOSS a better book, I’d be a fool not to follow their advice. If I don’t think some things make sense…that’s why we have agents and lawyers.

Personally, I think the cover is right on the money and has become a brand for the title and story. If they want something else, it had better be great!

CS: It seems you’ve done it all – and all that you could to promote THE BOSS nationally. What can you tell your fellow authors out there considering whether to self-publish (which in today’s world is just a click away), or knock on the doors of publishing companies which can, let’s face it, take forever and a contract may or may not ever happen?

Jon D’Amore: As far as knocking on doors or mailing your cover letter and chapters to a publishing company, I’ll say this…Unless you have a blood relative in a very decent position in a quality publishing company and who also owes your parents money or a favor, do not try to walk into one or mail in your manuscript and expect any kind of positive response. Yes, there are the exceptions to the rule…but the odds say it probably won’t be you. It wasn’t for me! You must get an agent. Trust me, I thought it could be done without one…and I was wrong.

As to self-publishing…If you sincerely believe in your project to where you’ll put your bank account along with your personal and professional credibility on the line; If peoplenot closest to you (that’s right, I said not closest to you) are supporters and hard-core believers; If people who’ve achieved a notable level of success in the field of your project praise, promote, support and believe in what you’ve done; If you have the ability to put yourself in the marketplace and spotlight to speak about your project with the highest professionalism, humor and ability; If you have it within you to accept praise with humility, and criticism with appreciation and respect…DO IT!

If not, whichever one of those things you’re lacking in…learn to do it…and learn to do it very well.


CS: Excellent tips! Now, is the future looking bright for Jon D’Amore?

Jon D’Amore: The future’s so bright…I gotta wear shades.

CS: That’s a good one! Nice talking to you, Jon. Come back with more success stories of THE BOSS.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

BACKSTAGE with Kenneth Kemp

14 09 2013

Today on CSReview, Hollywood actor and director Kenneth Kemp is sharing a behind-the-scenes story of an exciting upcoming TV series Attaché.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Kenneth. Let’s start with a quick look at your career in entertainment. What achievements are you most proud of?

KEMPKenneth Kemp: I ran Kenneth Kemp Productions for over 20 years, worked with numerous Fortune 500 clients, and produced over 100 projects. I won two Best Director Cindy Awards (Cinema In Industry). I was a producer at the Olympics Games in Salt Lake City and Greece. But the thing that I’m most excited about is this International TV series, Attaché.

CS: Attaché is your first network series – how does it feel embarking on a new adventure in a new, and a very different and serious role?

Kenneth Kemp: I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge. In fact, I thrive on it.  Creating and writing a series is certainly serious work, as you put it, but serious fun bringing it to fruition. Attaché is an international crime drama about a branch of law enforcement that’s never been seen on television,  and I’m thrilled that we’ll be featuring cultures, countries, and actors from around the globe.

CS: I am curious, what’s the story behind Attaché? How did the idea come about?

Kenneth Kemp: I was working the Olympics when I first encountered a Legal Attaché. I had no idea the FBI maintained a presence in foreign countries. My curiosity got the better of me and the more I dug, the more I thought, “This is a great premise for a television series”.

Astonishingly, Legal Attachés have limited authority, no jurisdiction, usually aren’t allowed to carry a gun, yet their job is to solve or prevent crimes against Americans abroad. Having no jurisdiction, they must work with a local law enforcement liaison, who’s in charge of the case. Despite these impediments, they still manage to save Americans every day.

For the series I raised the stakes even further.  A typical Legal Attaché stays in a specific country for about three years and develops these liaison relationships to help investigations run smoothly. In Attaché, our protagonist John Roemer is a specialist, sent to a different country in each episode. Beyond cultural differences he must work with someone he’s never met before and lead from the back seat. To make matters worse, limited resources seem to doom his missions to failure.

At home things aren’t any easier. Roemer is unwilling to move on from his estranged wife and he’s challenging custody of their son, who means everything to him.


CS: Sounds like an awesome plot. What’s the hardest thing you had to do so far on the project? What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you on this project?

Kenneth Kemp: I’ve worked diligently over the past two years to develop my relationship with the FBI. I wanted to make sure the series was couched in reality – even though I take creative liberties to make it more dramatic. The great thing that’s come out of this relationship is that the Bureau is excited about the series and has agreed to open their Legat (Legal Attaché) files to us to mine for future episodes.  That’s something networks want to see.  Not only are our episodes based on real cases; there’s virtually an endless pool of stories.

The funniest things were some of the stories I heard while interviewing current and former Legats. I can’t tell you the stories now, but you can be sure they’ll be featured in the series.

CS: Now I am intrigued! Let’s talk about the money. Isn’t producing an international series expensive?

Kenneth Kemp: It depends on how much we actually shoot in the foreign country.  Covert Affairs, (USA Network) for example, take their lead talent to several countries over a few weeks, with a skeleton crew, and shoot the recognizable exteriors they need from several scripts in order to mitigate costs. Everything else is shot on a sound stage or in local locations that double for foreign ones.

CS: Oh, Covert Affairs has been really awesome, very dynamic and real. Do you plan on having FBI consultants on the set to ensure authenticity?

Kenneth Kemp: The Bureau’s been on board with this project since the beginning. The Public Affairs office is used to working with Hollywood. They’ve been a tremendous help to me as a writer, ensuring my pilot script’s realism permeates descriptions, scenarios and even dialogue. Once we’re in production, we will want a consultant on set, however that will be a retired agent who’s no longer working for the FBI.

CS: That makes sense. Now, since this is international, what countries are involved in the story?

Kenneth Kemp: We start off in Greece. I have the rest of season one outlined and we’re already in talks with film commissions from countries around the globe that are not only excited about the series, they’ve expressed interest in possible joint ventures. You’ll have to watch and find out where Roemer goes next.

CS: Looks like you got it all covered. What’s next for Attaché?

Kenneth Kemp:  We’re attaching above-the-line talent, aligning with producing partners, and meeting with networks.

CS: On that note let me wish you to break a leg doing the leg work for this incredible upcoming series, and we here certainly will welcome news of Attaché‘s release. Thanks for being on CSReview, Kenneth.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.


BACKSTAGE with Jade Valour

23 06 2013

IMG_5849Today on CSReview, is Jade Valour, a native New Yorker, a professional actor and classically trained singer who has worked in theatre and music for several decades, both on stage and behind the scenes. Jade’s new book Salomé is an exploration of a myth, a religious belief and a cultural fascination with a female character.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Jade! You are a public person, active and very busy. What prompted you to become a writer?
Jade Valour: Strangely, my desire to write developed out of my fascination as a young music student with Richard Strauss’ opera Salome with its exotic music and its evocative text from Oscar Wilde’s drama of the same title. I have always loved mythology, and Salomé captivated me as only a myth can. But the Salomé we know is usually depicted as a femme fatale: wanton, depraved, lusting after a prophet who rejects her and whose head she finally demands on a silver platter. Although I adored both opera and drama, I found these images deeply disturbing – an interpretation of this mythical figure that I felt compelled to rectify. It was then more than thirty years before I could define how I wanted to do this. ‘My/Our’ Salomé was envisioned as a film, and I began writing the screenplay with my co-author Sharlie Pryce in 2001. Two years later, during my first visit to New Zealand, I spoke to a publisher about the screenplay, and he suggested we write the novel. In January 2004 we began to do just that – and now it’s published!
CS: Publishers, they love keeping their authors occupied. So, in all this, how would you describe your journey so far?
Jade Valour: It’s been an amazing adventure. Sharlie and I have had some fantastic and even hilarious times, just in the actual writing of Salomé. We’ve been to the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Berlin Film Festival together. As a result of the film festival, I ended up going down to Cologne (Germany) for the premiere of the film Klimt, where I actually met its totally charming star, John Malkovich, and gave him our script (we originally pictured him as our villain)! Salomé took me to Wellington, New Zealand in 2003 for the world premiere of The Return of the King, a journey on which I not only met Elijah Wood, the young actor who inspired our male protagonist, but also two people from the production who have been incredibly kind and supportive of the project over the past nine years – Sir Richard Taylor, director of Weta Workshop and producer Barrie M. Osborne (The Lord of the Rings, The Great Gatsby). Their encouragement has often kept us going through hard times.
I was privileged to be in contact with Prof. Helmut Ziegert, professor of archaeology at the University of Hamburg whose excavations of the palace of the Queen of Sheba in Aksum-Dungur in 2008, to my astonishment and delight, mirrored an important ‘historical’ element of our story. It was incredible hearing about the excavations – literally like talking to Indiana Jones!
I’ve been living in Wellington for five years now and I’ve had some wonderful opportunities to meet people in the film industry, to hone my skills in screenwriting workshops with a Hollywood script consultant. The Emerging Artists Trust here has provided me with a wonderful mentor: a producer who has been advising me with regard to putting the project together. I’ve directed two film shoots for a promo-film we’ll be putting together to pitch the screenplay version of Salomé (something I never anticipated doing!) and worked with a very talented artist, Matt Donnici, who did the beautiful illustrations for the novel cover and promo-film.
Now the novel is available to the general public – a milestone in an ongoing and inspiring journey.
Salome - Novel cover e-book
CS: Fascinating. Hard work pays off, and I bet you’re feeling very proud of yourself. Do you have a special message to your readers?
Jade Valour: If I have a message for my readers, it is connected to what set me to writing in the first place: to be able to give young people different role models. Salomé and Elijah are not your conventional protagonists. Particularly Salomé, whose name means ‘the Peaceable One’ (from the Hebrew and Arabic root of ‘Shalom’ and ‘Salaam’). She is not your typical heroine. She never uses her power to destroy only to defend and protect. That she must watch as the consequences of some of her well-intended actions result in death – this is part of the tragic element of her character. Without having to be an aggressor, Salomé is still incredibly proactive, driving the action of the story all the way. And although she comes from the upper castes, she has a deep-seated and all-encompassing social conscience – she cares. She is willing to risk everything for what she believes in. Angelina Jolie speaking at the recent G-8 on behalf of women in war zones comes to mind. These are the kind of women our society needs.
CS: I can see where you’re coming from with this. Indeed, positive role models are much needed at all times. We’re all connected, we breathe the same air, walk the same earth. Where do you see yourself in the cosmic mosaic? Do you know your purpose?
Jade Valour: I prefer to see this simply as where my passions have taken me. Perhaps the following story will answer this in part: in 1977-78, when I was singing at a theater in Germany, two things crossed my path that were to have a major influence on my life and interconnect years later in an unexpected way: 1) I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time and, 2) a new recording of the opera Salome was released. I was immediately swept away by both and they have remained my great loves – literary and operatic – over the past several decades. The recording drove/inspired me to want to write Salomé in the first place. In 2001, when we began to write the screenplay, the first of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films, The Fellowship of the Ring, came into the cinemas. My love for these films would eventually take me to New Zealand in 2003 with an early draft of our screenplay – a journey that was to change my life and influence the development of Salomé profoundly. Thus, two events that happened in 1978 formed a single thread that brought me to New Zealand – where our Salomé was completed some 35 years later.
Joseph Campbell – who is certainly one of my own heroes – called it ‘following your bliss”. I believe this is no seldom occurrence. It is, in the end, our passions that guide our lives, transform them and make us grow.
CS: 35 years… Very impressive. Now to geography – New Zealand vs New York… That’s quite a change of setting. What is special about New Zealand? Do you miss New York? Do you have a favorite place on the planet that you’d love to be in the most?
Jade Valour: It’s actually New York > Germany > New Zealand. Germany, mainly Hamburg, was a huge chunk of my life. I went to Germany to be an opera singer and came to New Zealand 35 years later because I wanted to be involved in the film industry. Easier said than done. I don’t miss New York, but it does feel like ‘home base’ when I visit. Germany was cultural bliss and most of my close friends are there. New Zealand is my love of nature – mainly the proximity to the ocean. A favorite place? As long as it has empty beaches to take long walks and decent weather to take them in, I’m in heaven!
CS: Jade, this was a lovely walk on the beach, quite refreshing and what a wonderful, deep story that you’ve shared. I wish you and Salomé the sucess that you two deserve. Thank you for being on CSReview tonight.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.

Project Salomé

Salomé on Twitter

Salomé on Facebook


19 06 2013

Our Love Could Light the WorldOur Love Could Light the World
by Anne Leigh Parrish

A wonderful opportunity to read an amazingly touching book presented itself a little while ago.

Our Love Could Light the World by Anne Leigh Parrish is by no means an ordinary novel. In fact, it’s a novel in stories, and as such is a trendy phenomenon in the book world. Each story tells about practically same events with a little personal twist, sometimes going a bit into the past, sometimes fast forwarding into the future. Stories read well, read quickly, and fascinate with their seeming simplicity – simple they are only on the surface. You can expect a breathtaking ride into the human heart.

The actuality of the theme is ever so apparent – the novel revolves around a dysfunctional family that is falling apart over a mother’s career and a father’s depression, and children who need constant care and attention. These are people whose struggles many of us can recognize and relate to. Anne Leigh Parrish made it her task to explore human relationships during an unfolding crisis. We’ve been there, or we know someone who’s been there, and that’s what makes this book such a slice. It’s like reading the story about people next door. But do we really know our neighbors? And do we actually love them, humanely, sincerely, supportively, or do we want to look away when they are in trouble because we don’t want to get our hands dirty?

See, this is what Our Love Could Light the World is about – the village, the community, the relationships between the people in the community, their interaction. And then Anne Leigh digs deeper. She wants to show us people’s motives, people’s inner dialogue, people’s dreams and what comes out of those dreams, a road to maturity, a road to sanity, a road to personal freedom, if such a thing exists….

If you think this is all too gloomy, think again. Anne Leigh Parrish dares you to think with her, on every page, speculating as to what kind of an ending this book will have. Heck, living and sympathizing with the characters. And thinking. Because, it could be anyone. And perhaps even yourself.

Not wanting to raise a spoiler alert, I’d refrain from details of the plot any further, but suffices to say you won’t be able to put this book down until you’ve followed through to the very last letter. And you can definitely expect light in the end.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.


16 05 2013

Today on CSReview, Joris Merks, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion and one of Google’s finest marketers talks about his professional path and his new book Samurai Business.Joris Merks What professionals can learn from Martial Arts

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Joris. Why did you decide to write Samurai Business?
Joris Merks: End 2011 I did a five minute inspirational speech on Google head quarters in San Francisco before the global marketing team that at that point in time was 800 people strong. I had put on my blue judo suit for the first time in years and talked about what marketers can learn from fighters. I had observed how people in business are often confronted with topics that are so complex that answers are never straight forward. At the same time particularly in big companies it can have huge consequences if you make mistakes. At best you just waste a lot of money. Where some people keep making the right decisions under this combined pressure of complexity and risk, others freeze and dare only make small changes to earlier decisions taking as little risk as possible. Of course that attitude does not get you there in a fast changing world. In fighting you also have simultaneous risk and complexity. You can lose any fight in one second and get injured in the process, yet how you can win is never clear when you start that fight. Launch and iterate is the way to go both in fighting and marketing. Don’t wait until you have guaranteed success, for then others will be faster or you may even never start something fundamentally new. Start as early as possible trusting your skills and judgment will guide you along the way to make the right decisions at the right moment. That five minute speech triggered such great reactions that I had a continuous stream of thoughts after it about important lessons from fighters to help professionals. That resulted in the book Samurai Business with 13 Samurai principles to help professionals focus on what really matters under any kind of pressure in an endless amount of stimuli and possible choices.
CS: How does a jiu-jitsu fighter go from a tatami to a pen and paper? Please share your journey of becoming a writer.
Joris Merks: I started martial arts at the age of six and moved into competitive Judo soon. As I grew older I added Aikido, Jiu-Jitsu, Kobudo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing and Kick Boxing to the list. When I was eighteen years old I started studying Technical Physics and later Science of Communication at university and earned some extra cash being a judo teacher for small kids. The man who was my own teacher (sensei) was also my mentor and a father figure already from the age of twelve. Besides Judo, Aikido, Jiu-jitsu and Kobudo, he taught me a lot of important life lessons. At the age of twenty I was training twice a day and my body felt indestructible. I had many injuries like any competitive fighter but they always healed sufficiently to be able to continue. Then suddenly in judo competition an opponent tried to throw me in a way that dislocated my knee. My cruciate ligament tore and I could immediately feel this was bad. In the ten years following I had five surgeries but the knee never healed in a way that allowed me to continue martial arts. That was devastating for it felt like all skills I trained for over twenty years completely dissolved in one split second. It basically took away my identity at that point in time.
Samurai Business Book 3
Despite the fact that I could not practice martial arts anymore, I kept meeting my teacher in the weekends doing long walks through the forest talking about matters of life and he showed me that even though my body could not fight anymore, the fighter deep inside me was independent of that. The practice of martial arts, doing competition and all experiences that come along with that have shaped me in a way that will never be lost. After University I started working first in media, than advertising and finally in research for large advertisers about their media, advertising and brands. This led me to my role as Head of Research Benelux for Google. I had been walking around with the idea of writing a story relating martial arts to business already for ten years. I was looking for a great central theme and at the same time needed to build sufficient experience to step back and observe the business world. I had meanwhile started doing a lot of public speaking on the topic of research, advertising and online and offline marketing. That brought me to the idea of submitting my proposal to do the inspirational speech about fighting versus marketing at the Google global marketing meeting in San Francisco. That five minute inspirational speech was the final trigger to start writing down my story.
CS: Everybody has their own demons, some chose to fight them, others – to ignore. You seem to be the first type. What personal change are you most proud of?
Joris Merks: I am very proud that I managed to accept the loss of my ability to fight and managed to reshape my skill set to build success in professional life and even more importantly to succeed in doing work I like with great people around me. I had to completely transform myself for I felt devastated losing my skills and felt lost in office culture in the first years of my career.
CS: Do you believe in no-win scenarios?
Joris Merks: No, especially not when looking from a long term perspective. I only work together with people if I can find common ground, if I can see what they gain from working with me (and vice versa). That is the only way to achieve great things, because great things almost never come easy. If you don’t work with people on a win-win basis you’ll find yourself chasing the people around you all the time as soon as things get hard or complex. While chasing those people and working in that atmosphere, you gradually burn your relationships. In a win-win situation people always stay motivated to make projects a success no matter what happens. If you manage to play a role that helps enable everyone to build the success which keeps them motivated and inspired, you build credits that will help you do even greater things together in the future. Win-win is a strong positive chain reaction just like putting people under pressure too much is a negative chain reaction. I choose the first type.
CS: What do you think is necessary for a successful business model in today’s economic and socio-political reality? Does integrity matter?
Joris Merks: Yes, I believe integrity is the most important source of sustainable success in the 21st digital century. This is the century of transparency and a century of connected individuals which allows people to organize themselves and put pressure that is so strong it can make governments step down. In an era like that you can only build sustainable success by doing what is right for your clients and customers, by adding real value to their lives for a fair price and by improving yourselves in doing that every day. Companies cannot get away with just defending what made them great in the past. Therefore professionals need to feel an intrinsic motivation to keep reinventing themselves every day and that intrinsic motivation comes from the sincere will to serve people around you and be the best person you can be. This is what I would call integrity.
CS: Do you have regrets?
Joris Merks: That is a hard question that I have tried to answer in my final chapter of the book. I asked myself whether I would have made different choices had I known the consequences of my permanent injuries and the daily pain they cause. I realized the only way not to have these injuries would have been to not do martial arts on competitive level, which also would mean I never would have known my great teacher and would have missed all great moments, insights and friendship together with him. I would not carry the same experience in my professional life. Of course I don’t know what I would have had instead both in terms of gain and loss. If there is any regret I think it is the fact that I could have listened better to my body, give it better treatment in case of injury and get more rest in general. I try to do this now in my work. I have learnt that working under continuous pressure wears you out in a way that takes the freshness out of the things you do and the thoughts you have. It also decreases the quality of your cooperation with people and of course the balance with your private life. I think I can balance focus and calmness better under pressure due to this tough experience and that again positively affects people working and living around me.
CS: Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
Joris Merks: Five years is hard to say. I have done a lot of public speaking in the past three years both about lessons from fighters for professionals and about the topic of online and offline marketing and research which are my areas of professional expertise. I wrote books on both topics and have more in the making. The combination of speaking, writing and consulting could shape my future five years from now. At the same time I enjoy my work for Google a lot and I still see many unique things I can do there. I would not be surprised if I still enjoy my career at Google five years from now. I have developed myself to be at the intersection of research with advertising, brands and marketing. I specialize in quantifying human emotions, behaviors and thoughts and then bringing those to life again for people who are not used to working with research or data. I help making data useful and understandable so better decisions can be made. I feel there is still a lot I can do there and maybe those two paths can even compliment each other. I see a lot of possibilities.
CS: Thank you for a wonderful story, Joris. Wishing you a great journey and looking forward to more of your inspirational speeches!

Follow Joris Merks on Twitter

Visit Samurai Business Official Website

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.


6 05 2013

Der_Untergang_-_Poster DOWNFALL (2004)

It is customary in many countries to watch WWII movies during the first week of May, thus commemorating the atrocities that took place now over 70 years ago.
In those movies, the tragedy is kept alive, being brought on screens – to preserve the memories, to remind of the warnings, to hope that the same never happens again.

In 2004, Germany produced DOWNFALL (Der Untergang), focusing on the life of a young woman who becomes Hitler’s secretary not long before Berlin is taken by the Russian Army.

The film is made in the best story telling tradition, with a typical and recognizable German attention to detail. Some scenes are artistically over-dramatized, to enhance the impact the tragedy had on people involved in it, and their descendants. Not an easy task, perhaps, but Germany did it again, and did it well. Is it the need to rehabilitate itself that drives German cinematography to the highest production quality when it comes to a WWII movie? Whatever the reason, due diligence was done in creating historically accurate and believable characters, and emotionally honest scenes that sort of imprint, visually, the statements of truth.

A special comment needs to be made on the brilliant performance of Bruno Ganz in the role of Adolf Hitler. Playing one of the most complex and dark villains in human history is not a walk in a park. Certainly, Bruno Ganz did well in studying his role and making sure the image he created is not stereotypical, but very much correct, exact to the point of body language and Hitler’s nervous tics. That is a very scary thing to do for a film actor – getting under the skin of such an evil figure, penetrating inside his mind, staying in this dark character for the duration of production, living with the after-taste. Undoubtedly, Ganz succeeded in bringing Hitler from the past closer to us today – and in that, there’s a certain element of horror, subtle, perhaps not immediately recognized, but apparent after a moment of contemplation. What we, normal people, like to believe, is that evil is not natural, not human and must, therefore, be explained by some sort of anomaly, disease, mental condition…. How many biographers dissected Hitler’s personality? How much literature has been written on his personalia? Well, that all becomes irrelevant when a living, breathing tirant is addressing the audience, comfortably sitting in soft chairs of cinema theaters. Bruno Ganz’s performance made a very powerful point – Hitler was a human being, sane and smart and if not for his monstrous side, he could have been a next door neighbor. Humanity shows in his patient attitude, his caring smile, his compassionate speech…. Only we know that that is the most incredible of lies. Realization that Hitler is one of us is definitely the toughest truth anyone could ever want to deal with.

DOWNFALL is also built on dialogues with evergreen and characteristic statements, designed to make us think, analyze, go deeper into the human soul. WWII is the ugliest of all human tragedies, it still affects generations, and its impact is still felt worldwide. When the film’s main character leaves falling Berlin behind, she does not depart empty handed – with her, she takes the emotional trauma of her nation, memories that will haunt her and pain that will trouble her for decades after.

We’re still dealing with consequences of WWII, with mysteries and cover-ups, seeking absolution and redemption, but the resolution has yet to come.

Watch DOWNFALL Trailer on Youtube

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.

CSReview Special with BRYANT STERLING

5 05 2013

Today’s special on CSReview is a feature on Bryant Sterling, formerly known as Denis Lee Bryant, singer, songwriter, producer and a record label owner.

Bryantpromo1-001In 2009, Bryant Sterling authored and performed a song that won him a prestigious VH-1 International Songwriting ‘Song of the Year’ Award as 1 of 52 Runners Up from well over 500,000 entries. Bryant’s singing had a special effect on the judges due to the song being deeply sensitive in nature. Bryant sang with love and care for his fellow men and women who are going through a rough patch in life. The song is called Times Are Hard.

The story behind the song has a real life connection. Bryant met a homeless woman who shared how she lost her life so to speak, after being fired as company’s CEO and then losing her family.  CSReview sent questions to Bryant, and today our followers have a rare opportunity to listen to Bryant’s answers in a recording he made specially for you. Bryant answers some really intriquing questions and shares stories he never told before. Click to listen:

Interview with Bryant Sterling

Lyrics of Times Are Hard:

I sat and watched the sun go down from a mountain top just over my town, that’s when it hit me like a busting dam, times are hard, yes times are hard.

A homeless woman on an old gray bike rolled up to me and stared with hopeless eyes, her hands were swollen from her life’s lost ride cause times are hard, yes times are hard.

Times are hard and they’re gonna get harder hands are out on every corner, dreams have gone like lambs to the slaughter cause times are hard. Look around its time for paying GREED is GOD and our own making, look at all that we’ve forsaken. Now times are hard, yes times are hard.

You give your life and soul to a company, years of work and they lost the money, and all they say to you is sorry, times are hard, oh times are hard.

Your life is changed in a New York minute you never thought you’d be caught up in it, soon despair turns into panic cause times are hard, yes times are hard.

Times are hard and they’re gonna get harder hands are out on every corner, dreams have gone like lambs to the slaughter cause time are hard, look around its time for paying GREED is GOD and our own making, look at all that we’ve forsaken now times are hard, yes times are hard.

What do you do when your hope has died and your standing on the other side looking back at a perfect world that’s gone, there’s no words that can describe what is real overwhelms the mind it’s gotta feel like you’ve been STRUCK BLIND, now that times are hard oh times are hard.

Times are hard and they’re gonna get harder hands are out on every corner, dreams have gone like lambs to the slaughter cause time are hard, look around its time for paying GREED is GOD and our own making look at all that we’ve forsaken now times are hard, yes times are hard.

I sat and watched the sun go down from a mountain top just over my town that’s when it hit me like a BUSTING DAM, times are hard, yes times are hard…

Visit Bryant Sterling Online



In association with Bryant Sterling and Linda Albu.

Special thanks to Linda Albu, Bryant’s publicist, for facilitating this interview.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.

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