12 Negative Enumerations for Being

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“Negative enumeration” is sequential numbering and naming but from a contrary or negative position. Two of the most influential examples of negative enumeration are the 10 Commandments (“Thou shalt not …”) and the US Constitution (“Congress shall make no law …).

In societies, negative enumeration is less about telling people what to do and not to do and more about how an institution can not determine your intrinsic rights and value. Negative enumeration reminds you of what is inherently yours: autonomy, choice, freedom of expression.

In our personal sovereignty and growth, negative enumeration reminds us of what we don’t want in our lives, relationships, careers. For me, it has been a helpful reminder of my tendencies towards self-inflicted (and therefore, optional) suffering. Negative enumeration has helped me remember that I can always choose my perspective, that my ego-mind is rarely right and that a little contemplativeness goes a long way in dealing with head chatter.

Negative enumeration can also serve as a “Fuck it” List, which is the opposite of a Bucket List: an accounting of all of the things you DO NOT want to do. This helps establish boundaries and plan your life around what feels right for you, not social pressure or expectations of others.

In pondering this idea, I came up with 12 Do Nots that have guided my life in the past year and moving forward into the future.

  1. Do not mix truth and deceit. I did this for years. Although I recognize it was a form of self-protection, it also was highly arrogant and ultimately painful to myself and others. Now, I am consciously trying to practice radical honesty and micro-honesty.
  2. Do not approach your problems with passivity. The other version of this is “own your shit.” This speaks to being strategic, taking decisive action and not living life in a defensive posture. It’s ok to ask for help, but it’s not ok to assume that someone is going to rescue you from your problems.
  3. Do not feed your own insecurities. This reminds us that many of our insecurities are bolstered by the stories we tell ourselves. These stories produce habits or behaviors that make the insecurities even more intense. We all have insecurities but let’s not make them worse with our own behaviors.
  4. Do not put math before meaning. This is a reminder to see the proper value of things – and that no amount of financial gain is worth our soul and our dignity. It helps us think from the heart and feel our way through decisions and prioritizations.
  5. Do not apply force to things that require faith. Yes, be decisive and bold. But also trust the timing of things. You can’t make a flower bloom faster. For me, this has meant replacing striving with receptivity and helps me remember to experience things, not just endure them.
  6. Do not love the idea of someone. This has been a huge reminder for me. I’ve had the tendency to romanticize, idealize and idolize people – especially women. Consciousness helps you see the real person and love them – not the idea of what they represent to you. This is an essential element of conscious relationships. If you love the idea more than the person, you are not in a conscious relationship.
  7. Do not consume more than you create. This is a reminder to practice essentialism and simplicity. I practice this with clothing items. Whenever I buy a new piece of clothing or shoes, I give something away to Goodwill. It also reminds us that an essential part of every person’s mission is to create things.
  8. Do not make it difficult for others to do the right thing. This applies to stupid laws and policies. It also reminds us that we, as my business partner Emily says, teach people how to treat us.
  9. Do not have more theories than practices. This is a reminder that knowing how to do something and actually doing it are separate things. It also warns us to be aware of cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy.
  10. Do not become resentful and call it righteousness.  This reminds us to practice grace, nuance and discernment when dealing with others. It also reminds us that self-righteousness is caustic, destructive and distances us from our humanity and the humanity of others.
  11. Do not pose yourself as an expert in areas where you have no experience. This one is for all of the internet “researchers” – especially those who spread lies that lead to suffering and death. Or the bloviating arm-chair quarterbacks of any area of expertise.
  12. Do not minimize yourself to be accepted. Yes, be flexible. Yes, be adaptable. But as soon as we reduce ourselves, we lose ourselves and begin to participate in tyranny. Another version: do not modify to mollify.

There is a 13th one …

Do not worry about what other people are thinking when they read your stuff. But maybe that’s one that’s just for me. 🤓

Fall From Grace

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When contemplativeness and overcoming adversity are removed from society, we also inevitability remove the grace that we extend to each other. Those doing inner work and fighting an outer battle tend to extend grace to others. Without contemplativeness and adversity (real adversity — not the drama of modern inconveniences), we become self-absorbed and much less situationally aware. And self-absorption (ego) is the enemy of grace (soul).

This fall from grace manifests in a thousand ways. From the blaring of unwelcomed music from cars and Bluetooth speakers. To the use of speaker phones in public places. To loud talking during musical performances. Then there’s the complete lack of grace on-line — which has amplified our darker tendencies of tribalism.

Loss of grace seems to amplify the fear of stillness. To just be quiet. It’s as if the self-generated noise gives us a sense of control and provides a buffer against contemplation. The production of noise is the by-product of consumptiveness. A type of gluttony for stimulation and distraction. One could apply the conspiracy theory that the powers that be (primarily government, religion and consumerism) don’t want us to be contemplative. For contemplativeness leads to self-actualization — which leads to a distinct shrinking of the influence of these institutions.

There is hope. The too-much-information age has given birth to curation and curators. Those distilling the essence of ideas, tools, knowledge by removing the noise. I am convinced that stillness is the next thing to be curated. And that when more of us are involved in the curation of stillness, then grace will make a re-appearance. We see signs of this with meditation rooms, banning of technology from movie theaters and concert venues, silent retreats and the code of silence in yoga classes.

I will confess this is all rather new for me. It wasn’t until my awakening several years ago that I became aware of all of the noise. I contributed to it. I participated in it. I often wonder how much beauty, magic, direction I lost because of the noise. I stopped attending a church almost 4 years ago. The one thing I miss is the silence before the service. But, interestingly, it was the lack of silence during the service that drove me to seek stillness elsewhere. And I found it in nature, sitting quietly. And I’ve found stillness in the gaps between the noise I can’t control.

This newfound love for stillness has lead to a simple checkpoint for sound: is this necessary? Sometimes it is. Listening is how we learn. Music is soothing, inspiring. But a lot of it still tends towards unconscious sound; a filler of the gap of time between things.

I would hope that my fledgling love of stillness has generated more grace for others. I suppose it has, but I also know my primal and primitive response to someone’s lack of grace and lack of self-awareness.

5×7 – Day 2: Top 5 Musical Artists to Know in 2019

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Day 2 of my 7 days of 5 things to ponder, research, discover. Today’s focus is music. As a point of reference, most of my listening is from the genres of Red Dirt/Texas Country, Americana, Roots Rock/Country.  Here are my top 5 artists you should know:

  1. Cody Johnson  – Cody burst on to the Texas scene a few years ago. He is from the “cowboy” lineage of Texas music – of which George Strait is the King. Cody has had a number of amazing accomplishments for being an independent artist: selling out the Houston National Finals Rodeo, the first independent country artist to achieve a million listens on Spotify and one of the first independent country artists to sign a distribution deal with a Nashville label (which means he maintains creative control. Cody has a new album called “Ain’t Nothin’ To It” coming out in early 2019. He’s released four songs off the album including “Monday Morning Merle”.
  2. Ryan Bingham – Probably the most commercially successful artist on this list, Ryan continues to craft beautifully written and produced music while also continuing his burgeoning Hollywood career. Coming from the “rock” lineage of Texas country, Ryan’s trademark raspy voice and heart-wrenching lyrics have a timeless, genre-less feel to them. He also has a new album coming out in 2019 – with “Wolves” being the first release off it.
  3. Lauren Morrow – The only artist not from Texas on this list, Lauren Marrow is part of a group of rising female country artists (check out Margo Price, Sarah Shook and Jamie Lin Wilson) finally getting some well deserved attention. A haunting, traditional voice that is reminiscent of Dolly and EmmyLou Harris, Lauren released her first album in October 2018. “Viki Lynn” is my favorite song off this album; reminding me of storytelling country from the 70s and 80s.
  4. Jamestown Revival – I’m a sucker for harmonies and music that makes you feel and think. Hailing from the “Folk” lineage of Texas music, Jamestown Revival has a sound similar to the Avett Brothers or The Wild Feathers. Their new single off their soon-to-be-released new album is called “Goodnight Hollywood” and is a great showcase of everything that makes Jamestown Revival unique and fresh.
  5. Vandoliers – Hailing from the DFW area, Vandoliers is best described as “punk country” – ska with a fiddle! I’ve not yet seen these guys live, but they apparently put on a legendary show – which you can draw from their frenetic album sound. “Troublemaker” is their first release off their upcoming new album.

For those of you that follow the Texas scene, a number of new projects coming out from the likes of Randy Rogers Band, Koe Wetzel, Dalton Domino, Hayes Carll, Aaron Watson, Flatland Cavalry to name a few.

For my full Spotify “Texas Music Sampler”, go here.

What are y’all listening to?

Being in a Doing World

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For me, the gravitational pull of the extrinsic and external is my greatest source of anxiety. This sense of detachment from my inner self produces a sense of untetheredness. It makes me overly-sensitive, over-reactive. In this state, I tend to modify myself in order to get acceptance. I pursue what I think will make me happy — forgetting that I’m already happy.

In simple but true terms, “doing” is extrinsic and “being” is intrinsic. Doing is an external activity. Being is an internal state of consciousness.

Similar to the war on self-worth (a future topic), the pull of the extrinsic manifests in several ways in my life. Maybe some of these will resonate with your own experience.

  • I often find myself trying to see how others see me. This puts me in the doing mode of creating an image. I want others to see me as successful, attractive, confident, enlightened. So my energy is focused on doing whatever is necessary to create this image. To be intrinsic is to be your true self in any situation or any condition. There is no doing here. Just a sense of being; of connectedness to your own self-worth. This intrinsic place is fleeting for me.
  • I frequently attach way too much value to to my to-do list. It literally has the word “do” in it! While certainly things need to get done, I must be cautious of the highly addictive solidity of task. The mind loves the sense of meaning and value of getting things done. This is the essence of what it means to be a workaholic. There will always be something on the to-do list. But to combat it’s narcotic effect, I also need a “To-Be” list. This would include things like being connected to God, being compassionate towards others, being open to adventure. The list is endless.
  • I know I’m in a high state of extrinsic doing when I am worrying about what other people are doing. The irony is rich. I am making my doing about what other people are doing. In this place lies obsession, lust, resentment, judgement. It is a detachment from the humanity of others because doing detaches me from my own humanity. There is a place for being when it comes to others. This would include observation, curiosity, connecting. Being is looking beneath the surface of the behavior of others to understand and listen to their souls.

Like almost everything in life, the solution is awareness. And awareness comes from asking good questions. Like …

Am I grounded in my soul or grasping for attention?

Am I loving people where they are or judging them from afar?

Am I seeking the root or chasing the fruit?

Can I look into someones eyes — including my own?

Doing is ultimately self-absorption. This is sometimes necessary at a survival level. That’s why its gravitational pull is so strong. But there’s no growth here. The to-do list just changes.

Being is ultimately self-worthiness. It’s the surety of knowing that you are connected to permanent things like love, truth, goodness, creativity. Our soul is wired to need these things. And this is most certainly where growth is. The to-be list just expands.


The Worst Advice I’ve Ever Given

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I’ve been a coach my entire life in some form or another, but I didn’t start getting paid to be a coach until 2003. In reflecting back on my journey as a coach, author and speaker, I realize I’ve given some terrible, albeit unintentionally so, advice.

Here are few of the doozies … and what I say today:

  1. “Suck it up” — I said this to my sons, the youth football players I coached, friends and clients. It was often accompanied by “Calm down!” For years, I was terrified of unleashed emotion — mine and others. Whenever I saw a person suffering through something, my bias against emotions spurred me to — at best- get them through that period. Certainly there are times that require us to be intensely present, and temporarily manage our feelings and responses to get s**t done. But now I say “Stay focused”. This is practical encouragement — which is what we mostly need in high pressure moments.
  2. “Go find yourself”- This is another example of well-intentioned but poor advice. I said this to Lynna when we moved to Austin. I’ve said it to friends and clients. I now know that we don’t find ourselves, we become ourselves. The original you exists inside you — not out in the world in some place, condition or situation. So now I say “Go inward.” This is where the journey of becoming begins. It is an invitation for self-examination. It is a reminder that you have a map inside you if you seek it.
  3. “Be yourself but not too much” — This was a one-liner I used whenever I gave presentations about personal branding. My intention was to remind people to be aware of how they are perceived. This is important, but the tone of this statement was more about being something so that others would accept you. It perpetuates attachment of your value to someone’s opinion of you. That’s why I now say “be bold.” Boldness is the very rare ability to speak truth in any circumstance and in the face of any kind of pressure. It serves your personal brand far more than managing perceptions.
  4. “Don’t do/say/be that” — I have often told people what to not do or say as a reflection of my own fears and biases. This is a common thing in unaware coaches — we project on others what we want them to be (or not be) and call it “coaching”. That’s not coaching. It’s controlling. I still struggle with this one; always ready to jump in with a “better” way of saying or doing something. I realize now this is reflective of my own insecurities. I now say “What do you really want to say/do/be?” By diving to the root and asking it as a question, I can focus on them and guide them through the process of true expression.

I’m certain there are way more than these four. In fact, if you’re reading this and I’ve ever given you bad advice, post it in the comments! I’m also certain there will be more mistakes as I continue coaching. That’s part of the perfect imperfection of being human — a cycle of fail, improve, grow that, if we’re willing for it, propels us to new levels of love and awareness.

11 Things I’ve Learned About Fear

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This thought came to me recently:

I have been given the privilege of learning fear so that I can teach others how to overcome it.

I guess this explains about why I write and speak so much on fear … and it’s mean and nasty cousins doubt and uncertainty.

So what have I learned about fear in my 46 years?

  1. Fear is a fog. Fear is not a solid. It’s a gas. So you don’t get over fear — you get through it. And just like fog, you just keep going and eventually you get to the other side. Just like fog, fear doesn’t kill you but staying in one place can. You don’t fight fog with your fists. You fight it with light and movement.
  2. Fighting fear makes things worse … at first. The first few attempts at dealing with fear almost always end up as failures. Fear fights dirty and is relentless. Yet if we continue (see above) eventually we will begin to defeat fear. If you just keep fighting, eventually your superior firepower will lead to victory.
  3. The only cure for fear is action. Fears don’t dissipate without some sort of direct action. By taking action, we will see that most fears can be defeated. That’s why it is critical to act on something — even if it is small. Even a small action provides a surge of accomplishment and encouragement.
  4. There’s a difference between danger and fear. Sensing danger is our built-in primal warning system. And it’s is very accurate and should be listened to. Fear is a figment of the imagination; a tool of the ego. Paranoia is when your ego sees fears as dangers — and often ignores actual dangers.
  5. Fear is a friend … if you harness it. Understanding the root of your fear is a great revealer of your true self. Fear also keeps you humble and hungry. Just as we are not trying to kill our egos, we are not trying to eliminate fear itself — just the effects of fear. In this way, fear becomes an ally in producing growth.
  6. The grooves of fear made in childhood don’t heal with time. Unless you get some specific counseling or therapy, childhood trauma creates a permanent groove in your psyche. Until you do specific healing, these wounds remain even if you feel like they don’t effect you. These grooves will inform all of your decisions related to career, relationships and self-worth. By healing them, you are returning the original You.
  7. Your biggest fear is my biggest opportunity for success. Fear is often an early indicator of areas for growth and opportunity. In essence, we are reverse engineering the fog of fear that the ego produces in order to stay in survival mode. By seeing fear as an opportunity and not a threat, we automatically take ownership and dominion over it.
  8. Fear and biases are an unholy alliance. Cognitive biases and world views are always reflective of our fears. When our biases are informed by our fears, we literally see the world different. But that perspective is rarely truth — more just a projection of our fears and experiences. This is the root of any dogmatic, narrow belief system.
  9. Mis-used coping mechanisms cause addiction to fear. Humans are amazingly resilient and relentless. It is one of the things that separates us from other creatures. We have built in coping mechanisms designed to help us survive real trauma and dangerous situations. However, if we mis-use these coping mechanisms, it actually creates an addiction to fear. This is why the best weapon against fear is personal growth. Coping mechanisms make you stay in one place.
  10. Expressed fears always shrink or disappear. When you write or talk about your fears, they always appear smaller than they were in our minds. Using expression to battle fears is why we need a strong group of friends to share with. Fear is rarely defeated alone — which is why we need tribes, communities and other support systems.
  11. Your fears are not your identity. Your fears, doubts and uncertainties are not you. They are a fog around you, but they are not your identity. Just like with experiences, if we attach our identity to our fears, we will be consumed by them. So even in the face of fear, remind yourself that you are separate from any fear.

Why I Stopped Using FUD

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Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. FUD. Tapping into this part of the human psyche is as old as the human race. It is the foundation of most sales training programs, advertising models, and coaching methodologies. It is also rampant in relationships and parenting. It is the recipe for every scary movie or suspense novel.

So why is so prevalent? Because it works (for awhile). FUD taps into the pain center of the brain. It shocks a person into paying attention. The ego hijacks the entire system of reason (mind) and intuition (heart) and screams “Listen to this or die!!!!” It essentially snaps you in to NOW but in a high-alert, ego-centric state that promotes survival instincts.

I used to be the master of using FUD to get what I wanted. I knew the exact language to use to shock people into paying attention to me – especially with large B2B tech deals. I was using my gifts of intuition and communication to poke at emotional bruises and pick at business worries. I wasn’t mean – but I was manipulative.

Then about 5 years ago, I stopped. Not all at once – more of a gradual awakening. I began to learn a new way. First from my top mentors. Then in books like The Go-Giverand Made To Stick. I also had a personal conviction to “love more” – and I didn’t find anything loving and empathic about manipulating people’s fears for my personal gain. I found that there was so much more joy and fulfillment in helping other people achieve joy and fulfillment.

In addition the personal conviction and awakening, there was also a pragmatic reason for not using FUD: it harms relationships. We are now in the Human Age – where kindness is a tremendous competitive advantage. Where providing context and insight are high-value skills that are contrary to FUD tactics.

While FUD may produce short term sales, it kills brands. It ensures that relationships stay permanently at a transactional state: customers buying stuff and employees getting paid to do a job. FUD is unsustainable. Eventually people become numb to it. And using FUD to grow a business may work for awhile, but at what cost to your brand?

So what’s the opposite of FUD? I believe it’s PURPOSE. When people are connected to the meaning of something, it eliminates FUD. When people’s hearts are fed by a transformational idea, they become eager advocates of that idea. This is the intent of a real Brand Promise. That when you believe what we believe, we will all change the world.

A real world example …

Our ideal client at root + river is a 40+ year old leader with a heart. They have built a successful business but don’t really understand modern marketing. No one compliments them on their marketing or their brand. They have noticed that their business is not attracting the next generation of customers and employees. They are experiencing a whole new world that barely looks like the world that they built their business in.

They have plenty of FUD. But we never talk about it in our marketing and messaging. At a maximum, we use content and storytelling to show that their FUD may be creating blindspots. We do address it eventually- where it belongs: in the privacy and sacredness of a coaching session. Instead of FUD, our message and marketing language is about returning to the heart, about becoming a brand that is an extension of your belief system, about authenticity, about wisdom, about influence. We remind these leaders that although their brand may be a bit stale, they are not stale. They are still relevant and still add great value to the world.

Does it work? Yes. In a very short amount of time, we have attracted an amazing array of thoughtful, purposeful clients that are re-invigorated and seeing tremendous results. Would we attract more clients if we used FUD language? Well, we’d probably get more leads. But not leads from leaders that are ready for us. Because it is nearly impossible to re-connect people to their purpose, their calling and their value when they are consumed with fear. Instead, we are attracting leaders that are defiant – refusing to just opt-out to a gated community and retirement. We are attracting leaders with high EQ – the awareness that they need to evolve. We are attracting leaders who believe in meaning – and see their business and brand as an extension of their purpose.

It really comes down to this … when you talk to me (or Emily, Jen or Cat), I want you to feel uplifted and encouraged. I want to “provide a word in season to those that are weary.” I want to be memorable because I invested in your heart. And that is why I will never use FUD again.

6 Branding Lessons from Geno’s Steaks

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Despite a heavy travel schedule over the past 15 years, last week was my first trip to Philadelphia.  While there, I asked some of the locals I met the best place to experience an authentic Philly Cheese Steak.  Of course, I received plenty of opinions but went with the most common suggestion – Geno’s Steaks. So on a Saturday afternoon, I found my way to Geno’s.  Not only did I have an awesome experience, I learned six more lessons about branding from Geno’s.

  1. Keep it simple – Cash only.  Simple menu.  No inside seating.  Brands tend to way over-complicate things.  To paraphrase Steve Jobs: sometimes the consumer just needs to be told what to buy.
  2. Stand out visually – There is zero doubt when you find Geno’s.  Bright signs.  Name on all street-facing sides of the building.  Everything painted Geno’s “orange”.  All employees in Geno’s gear.
  3. Create a line – The massive line out front also told you that you’d find Geno’s – and that it was worth the wait.  Ordering from a single window wasn’t the most efficient for Geno’s or the customers – but it created a massive line of people publicly stating their willingess to wait for something different.
  4. Have secret codes –  In addition to the recommendation for Geno’s, I was instructed in great detail about how to order.  My friend Kevin had taken me step by step through the process of how to order and what to say.  As I approached the window (20 minutes after I got in line), I simply said “Provolone with” and handed the lady a $10 bill.  I then watched the guy after me ask a bunch of questions and generally look like a tourist.
  5. Don’t afraid to be polarizing – At the order window is a sign that says “You are in America.  Order in English”. Being different (and controversial) forces polarization.  Polarization gives you a clear audience to attract.
  6. Stay true to your roots –  As this was my first Philly Cheese Steak experience, I don’t know if it was better than other cheese steaks in the area.  But I believed that Geno’s believes it is.  You can feel the pride and conviction for their brand.

A brand is a meaningful, relevant presence in the marketplace.  100% for Geno’s

Branding is the authentic amplification of what makes you awesome.  100% for Geno’s.

It’s not a brand if it doesn’t create stories, emotion and memories.  100% for Geno’s.

Differentiation Starts with Being Different

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Standing out is the most basic element of branding.  Getting noticed is the spark that leads to brand awareness – and maybe even convinces someone to buy your stuff.

This is called “differentiation”.  Here is a definition straight from Wikipedia:  In marketing, product differentiation (also known simply as “differentiation“) is the process of distinguishing a product or offering from others, to make it more attractive to a particular target market. This involves differentiating it from competitors‘ products as well as a firm’s own product offerings.

Differentiation in the glory days of branding meant buying “breadth” – simply buying enough advertising and promotion to create a brand.  All it took was money and a decent ad agency.  There are hundreds of examples of brands that were created this way.  The irony is that very few of them were actually good products.  Case in point: harken back to the crapmobiles that American car companies were pushing in the 80s and 90s.

In the past few years, three massive changes have taken place that have stood marketing on its collective ear:

  • Media fragmentation permanently changed “appointment television”
  • Social media made everyone hyper-connected
  • Over-commoditization created an over-supply of just about everything.

These 3 trends – and their ripple effect – changed the definition and purpose of differentiation.  Now, differentiation starts with actually being different.  Godin calls it a “purple cow”.  I call it bacon.  Regardless of the metaphor, you have to make or do something that has “wow” built right in.

A few modern brands get this: Ford, Apple, Google, Zappos, Ikea to name a few.  But many brands are still using the lens that the sheer act of creating an ad or promotion is differentiation.


  1. Verizon’s Xoom – Part of the ever growing “pad” market, Verizon’s ads for the Xoom make little to no differentiation with it’s #1 competitor, the iPad.  The ads show the same features and benefits as other pads on the market – albeit, presented with lots of explosions and cool graphics.  Maybe the Xoom is different and better than the iPad, but you’d never know it from the commercials.
  2. Yahoo Mail – Yahoo is now spending ad dollars on promoting their e-mail program.  Maybe they are going after the straggler/laggard market, but the language of the ad is straight out of 1999.
  3. Bank of America – Their ads are particularly annoying because they promote features that other banks have had for years: on-line banking, bill pay, better ATMs, etc.
  4. State Farm – I’m sure State Farm is full of good people, but their new campaign of young, hip people singing the State Farm jingle has zero differentiation.  Maybe the message is that State Farm is available in case you need help, but that is lost in all of the gimmickry

Keep in mind that these are not poorly produced ads.  They are well-shot with high quality production.  The problem is the mindset behind the ads.  Competition for minds and dollars is an intense as ever.  So if you decide to spend money on promoting your stuff, at least give your marketing people and ad agency something to work with.