Michael Piperno

Take the first step

“Trusting that there is a next step is the first step to figuring out what the next step is.” — Jennifer Williamson 

I hope you and your families are doing well both physically and emotionally during this unprecedented time.

Step by step, day by day. Do your best, and know that your best is good enough.

We’ll get through this.

Everyday Heroes

Every week I share one of my favorite quotes with my team as a look-back on the week and a little inspirational push into the weekend. This week I shared the following short one:

“The simple act of caring is heroic.” —Edward Albert

Business as usual does not exist now — for anyone, and a little extra empathy and caring goes a long way. Keep it up everyone!

The Gift of Time

The Gift of Time

I’ve always been good with time. I can easily assess how long it will take to get from point A to point B, and I’m particularly good at estimating the time needed for individuals or teams to complete projects. 

As I get older, my thinking about time has shifted from something that I have plenty of to something that is so precious that I don’t want to waste a single moment. This shift has helped me focus more on the things that matter.

Time is something we all share. Sometimes it passes more slowly or more quickly than we’d like, but once it’s gone we can’t get it back. 

How we choose to use time is up to each of us. I’m on a mission to ensure I give more of it to the people that matter, and that I don’t ever wish it away or waste it.

And don’t forget — taking care of yourself is not a waste of time. It’s an investment in yourself and in your ability to lead and care for others.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash
Choose Kindness

Kindness Matters

Every morning I take a moment to write down two things. The first is something I’m grateful for. The second is a positive experience I had yesterday. This simple ritual helps me focus on the things that matter. The kindness of others is often on my list.

We all have extreme power in our ability to choose how we listen, how we react, and how we treat others. Kindness, I believe, is one of our most powerful tools. It is free, and is an incredible investment in ourselves and in others.

Don’t confuse kindness with weakness. Being kind does not mean you’re afraid to make hard choices or that you have to avoid conflict. Rooting yourself in kindness simply means that you treat people with the respect that they deserve, and that helps ensure the outcome of even the most difficult situation is as good as it can be. 

No person has ever left this earth with a perfect score. We all make mistakes, mishandle situations, and let our emotions cloud our judgement from time to time. Let’s be more kind to each other when we stumble. 

One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou. She said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

When we remember to be kind we act in a way that invites others to do the same. And that’s infectious.

Artwork by Reychelle Ann Ignacio on Canva.
Practice Makes Experts

Practice Makes Experts

“Nothing can help the person who does not practice.” I read that in a Forbes article about public speaking tips. It made me stop and think about how easy it is to look at someone you admire and think they are a natural at something. The truth is that they worked very hard to be so awe-inspiring.

While it’s likely that highly talented people possess genetic factors that play an important role in their successes, training is necessary to become an expert. And with any kind of training, practice is key to honing one’s craft.

My first full-time job after college was as a high school teacher. I had some practice during my schooling, but not enough to make me a true expert on the subject matter, and not enough to confidently manage classrooms of 28 different personalities 5 times a day. And then, there I was on day one, alone, responsible for over 100 students a day, and running the show. 

I’ll never forget how quickly I noticed that my first period public speaking class really got the short end of the stick. Each day they were my test subjects for the day’s lesson, which always went better the other times I would perform it later that day. So, I started to rehearse my new lessons the night before. That practice helped. 

When I got my first graphic design job many years ago, I didn’t know the software like I really should have for the position I landed. I had to create my own projects and practice every night to quickly get myself up to the level the position required. 

I used to be a very good pianist. I could sight read almost any song, and enjoyed playing at parties where people wanted to sing. After a decade of little to no practice, I get frustrated every time I sit down at the piano. I can’t play anywhere near like I used to. Three weeks ago, I vowed to change that. I’m now practicing a couple hours a week and I’m slowly working back to the musician I was ten years ago. All it’s taking is a little practice.  

And even though I’ve taught public speaking to high school and college students, coached executives through high stakes presentations, and presented more workshops and agency pitches than I can count, I still practice my presentations over and over — until I know that I’m ready. 

And knowing when I’m ready has taken practice, too.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
No More New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions, Change, and the Next 10 Years

Those of you who know me personally know that I am typically quite thoughtful in my decision-making. I like to spend time thinking through the options in order to make the best decisions I can for all parties involved. However, sometimes my problem is that I want to move too fast once I make a decision. I get excited because I know what I’m doing is right, so I want to get it done right away! That doesn’t always work. 

As I look back on the past two decades, I’ve made a lot of big decisions. And for the most part they’ve been good ones. But the ones that I was more thoughtful and methodical about implementing were the most successful. 

That’s one of the reasons I gave up New Years’ resolutions many years ago. If I want to make change happen in my personal or professional life and I want it to be successful, I know it will take time. It will also take dedication, accountability, and flexibility. It may even take a failure or two before I get it right. Or you know what, I might fail completely. And that’s okay, too. Risk is always part of meaningful change.

What important change will you make this year, or in the next decade? If you’re passionate about it and honest with yourself about the time and effort it needs to be successful, I know you’ll make it happen.

Happy holidays to you and yours! May they be filled with kindness, laughter, love, and warmth.

Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash
You Matter - The Power of Thanks

The Power of a Sincere Thank You

With Thanksgiving behind us and the holiday rush upon us, things seem to be moving quite fast, don’t they? So much to do, so many people to see — lots of year-end things to take care of at work and at home…. 

In hectic times, it’s even more important to slow down, observe, and give thanks. When things are moving fast at home or it’s crunch time at work, the people you lead are also feeling the pressure. In fact, they are likely going the extra mile just like you to keep it together and avoid dropping one of the balls they have in the air.

Saying thank you, a sincere thank you, is a simple and powerful way to lift spirits, motivate, and empower. Look for opportunities to say it this holiday season — especially when you can say it with eye contact (or with a handwritten note) and back it up with the “why” behind your sentiments.

Don’t get me wrong, an email or text message that gives thanks is better than nothing. How about a thank you that comes with a smile and some supporting facts as to why what someone did made a difference to you? Now that’s a real gift.

Invest in yourself. Do it today.

Don’t Throw Away Your Shot

I always tell people that it’s amazing what you can accomplish by devoting 15 to 20 minutes per day to something that matters to you. That’s how I started most of the things that have defined my career, including Imbue.

The title of this post is inspired by the musical Hamilton, which I recently saw in New York City. The music, the lyrics, the acting, and the visual experience of the show are so masterfully intertwined that you can’t help but be enthralled with it all. I kept thinking about the time and talent it took to create it. Yet, it had to start somewhere. 

Early in the show, Alexander Hamilton sings a rousing song called My Shot. The lyrics begin with Hamilton passionately repeating the phrase, “I am not throwing away my shot” and the song ends with the cast driving home the point that you need to rise up and take a shot, your shot — the one only you can take. It made me think of my own experience and the rewards that have come from taking risks, sharing my unique perspective openly and honestly, and generally taking responsibility for (and control of) my future. 

Don’t throw away your shot, and even more importantly, don’t limit yourself to just one. Start tomorrow and make time to invest in yourself, your ideas, and your passions. Do it every day. The payoff may not come quickly, but I assure you the time spent will be worth it. 

Give the Gift of Your Attention

Give It. Get It.

We are bombarded with messages every day from brands, employers, clients, friends, and family members. With so much coming our way through our screens, it’s understandable that we begin to tune out the noise—anything that we don’t deem worthy of our attention. Yet attention is what you need when you want to teach, motive, or persuade.

But you won’t earn anyone’s full attention if you’re not willing to give them yours.

Here are 6 tips to help:

  1. Demonstrate your commitment to being present and in the moment by giving your full attention to others.
  2. Expect the attention of others in return, and kindly ask for it if you’re not getting it. A simple, “Let’s all focus on the task at hand without interruption” should send the message.
  3. Listen more and speak less.
  4. Listen to what’s not being said.
  5. Be open to a different perspective.
  6. Be clear, concise, direct, and kind in your responses.

Anything else we should add to this list? Tell me in the comments.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Time to Kill The Elevator Pitch

It’s Time to Kill the Elevator Pitch

I’ve probably written or refined more than 200 elevator pitches over the years—you know, the short blurb that you’re supposed to memorize and be ready to spew out in the time that it takes to impress a prospect during an elevator ride.

The concept behind the elevator pitch makes sense. You need to be able to tell someone about your product, service, or organization quickly and clearly. And yes, you need to be prepared to do so. 

However, when you stop thinking about “pitching” and start thinking of it as sharing or educating, you can turn a dry, planned pitch into something much more useful: a conversation. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Think about who you help and how you help them. Then write down several short statements about how you solve their problems or make a difference. These will become what I call your “library of nuggets.” Some examples: “I help people overcome their fear of public speaking.” Or “Our app helps people create secure passwords and use them conveniently on all of their devices.” Be sure to include a few nuggets about why your solution is better than others.
  2. When you meet a prospect, find out who they are before you tell them about yourself. This will not only make you more approachable (you’re showing them that you care about who they are and what they do), it will also allow you to steer the conversation in a way where you can connect with them and start a meaningful conversation.
  3. Once you know who they are and what their world looks like, pull from your library of nuggets to tailor your conversation to their specific perspective and needs.
  4. Try to start with a question that you think they will be able to answer easily, which will let you include them in the story you’re about to tell.

Here’s an example:

Hi, I’m Thomas. What’s your name?

I’m Dana.

Nice to met you, Dana. What do you do?

I’m in commercial banking. How about you?

Well, in banking I’m sure you know how people have so many passwords to remember these days, but they don’t always use secure ones. 

Yes, it’s a problem. I have too many passwords to remember myself!

Right, and most people use the same insecure password for a lot of their accounts. That’s not good. But it’s impossible to keep track of multiple passwords that are secure. My company created an app that creates and keeps track of all of the different passwords you need and makes it really easy to call them up when you need them. 

That sounds great. What’s the name of the app?

And here’s another example that I used the other day:

Hi, I’m Michael.

Hi, I’m Andrew. What does your company do?

Do you know anyone in marketing at your company?

I’m in HR, but I talk with our marketing director Connie a lot. She really has a lot on her plate.

Yes, solo or small marketing teams are usually stretched pretty thin. We actually work with a lot of in-house marketing directors who have some really good plans in place, but they don’t have the writers, designers, and digital marketers on staff to get everything done that needs to get done. My team helps them with that.

Wow, I think Connie needs to talk to you.

I’d love to speak with her. Some of our clients just need a really good creative team to help execute the plan that is already in place, and some need our strategic guidance to guide or expand their plan. No matter what Connie’s situation is, I’m sure we can find a way to help.


Not every introductory conversation will be the same, and that’s the point. An elevator pitch is written for one person, you. Real connections require more. Give them the courtesy of a conversation—just be ready with your library of nuggets so you feel prepared to tailor the conversation for each individual.

Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash
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