3 Ice Cream Lessons

10 years ago last month I was observing my five year anniversary as a solo professional (sorry, too much math?).

That’s when my coach at the time asked me a simple question: “What are you going to do to celebrate?”

I hadn’t given it any thought and so I said, “I don’t know, go home early?”

Fortunately, she wouldn’t let me off the hook that easily and a couple of days later, the idea for a Blue Penguin ice cream party was born (hatched?). I’ve been doing it every year since.

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And so a few days ago, I sent an email to the subscribers of my newsletter, inviting them to attend.

Several interesting things happened as a result, all of which relate to your own business:

  1. Twenty people unsubscribed.
    That’s right. I offered free ice cream and 20 people essentially said, “Not only do I reject your frozen treat, I never want to hear from you again, until the end of time.”

    To put that number into perspective, that’s about three times as many people as typically unsubscribe when I publish. But it happens in the same proportions, every year.

    Why? I don’t know. Maybe they’re annoyed since they live far away and can’t be there. Maybe an ice cream party isn’t useful in the way a newsletter is and so it’s not what they want. Maybe they’ve seen my photo and fear meeting the real thing.

    The point is, when people unsubscribe from your newsletter, it could be for any number of reasons. You’re welcome to invent something negative – it was too long; nobody reads newsletters anymore; the idea was terrible; they hate me; etc.

    But if an ice cream party invite can send people packing, you’re wasting a lot of mental energy beating yourself up by imagining bad things that probably aren’t happening.

    Focus on the people who love your work and ignore the ones who are ready to move on.

  1. It gave me an extra opportunity to connect with readers.
    The RSVP form for the party included a space for comments; many people used it. I responded individually to each one of them.

    As people who market a professional service business, we tend to be hyper-focused on “look at me” content. Here’s my blog; here’s an article I’m quoted in; here’s a newsletter I think you should read; here’s me attending the International Conference of People You’ve Never Heard Of.

    It’s all good stuff and perfectly fine. But you know what really gets people’s attention? … paying attention to them, individually. Big companies can’t do it and plenty of small companies (and even solos) don’t bother.

    Those same kinds of opportunities are there every day. But they’re easy to overlook in our eagerness to promote ourselves.

  1. It reminded me to celebrate.
    My coach was right all those years ago: We need to pause occasionally to remember what’s going right, instead of only worrying about what’s gone wrong or has yet to happen.

    No boss, no commute, no dress code, no pointless meetings. I don’t even have shoes on.

    A chance to focus on what we’re good at and what we like.

    An opportunity, every day, to have an obvious and positive impact on something or someone.

    Hundreds and hundreds of terrific people that we wouldn’t know if we were still doing the 9-5 dance.

    If those aren’t reasons to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

So I hope you’ll join me on Wednesday, July 29th, for a little party, either in person or virtually from wherever you are. Shoes optional.


What’s your favorite type of ice cream and/or penguin?
Post your comments below!

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45 thoughts on “3 Ice Cream Lessons

  1. Jean Gogolin

    You have no idea how much I’d like to be there – not only for the ice cream and to see your lovely baldness but because Florida this time of the year is like the surface of the sun. If it rained on the surface of the sun. Anyway, have a blast! And have a butter pecan for me.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      It hasn’t been the same without you these last couple of years, Jean! I hope the warm winters make up for it. Butter pecan it is.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      You know, Steve, when I first saw this I had forgotten what I asked people to comment on and thought that “Strawberry / Emporer” was the name of a flavor. I think it would be a great one (maybe strawberry with chocolate swirl and chips)!

  2. Diana Eastty

    I won’t be able to make your party (again!) – but I’ll have some Mint Chocolate Chip (my favorite) ice cream in your honor! Enjoy. You should celebrate, and thank you for reminding all of us it is important to do so. Happy Summer Michael.

  3. Alan Fairweather

    I’ve checked the bus timetable but there doesn’t seem to be one from Scotland to your place – too bad. My all time favorite ice cream was Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby. Peanut butter and chocolate in it. But they withdrew it, here in the UK anyway. Obviously the amount I was eating still wasn’t enough. And I’m not chubby or a hubby.

    1. Allison Rapp

      I’d like a triple-scoop, hard cone chocolate-mocha-chip-espresso please.
      Since cane sugar makes me sick, I hope you’ll eat it for me and let me know how much I would have enjoyed it had I been able to taste it out here in California.
      I know penguins are awesome but I’m not sure any could top that ice cream cone. Except they don’t have cane sugar.

      1. Allison Rapp

        Alan, you got Michael’s comment when I intended to leave this one for you:
        You came late to the party. Google used to have directions from London to New York that included swimming the Atlantic. I’m sure you could do the rest by bus. But alas! The directions are no more, so I guess it isn’t possible now.

    2. Michael Katz Post author

      Hey, my brother just got back from Scotland and his name is also Alan. You probably ran into him there. Sorry to hear about those pesky buses.

      (I was a huge fan of Chubby Hubby about 15 years ago but had to stop eating it. Just too much of a life-shortener!)

  4. Samantha White

    On Wednesday, July 29, I shall eat ice-cream and think of you all. It will be made from almond milk and I’ll have it in a gluten-free cone. The flavor, probably mocha fudge, or else praline. And Jean Gogolin, I’d love to know where in Florida you live – I’m in Sarasota. So Michael, it WILL be a party, with actual people and actual ice-cream! Celebrating is good.

    1. Jean Gogolin

      Hi Samantha — I’m in soggy Tarpon Springs. I haven’t been to Sarasota yet, but it’s high on my list.

  5. Briar

    I find the Emperor Penguin the most attractive…well, not personally, of course. Even at 3 feet in height he’d still be too short. I hate going black- tie with someone who only comes up to my waist…

    I guess I like peppermint ice cream best, or maybe a vanilla caramel custard type ice cream. I have had green tea ice cream that was very nice, but you never know what it’ll be like… I’m more of a sorbet kinda gal…mmm, tart and cold on a hot day.

    I’m not going to unsubscribe to your newsletter! How bizarre! I think an ice cream party is a great idea. I’d come, too, if it wasn’t so far away. Maybe next time. Thanks for the invitation, Michael. ( And just for the record, I thought the content of this eletter was spot on for me.)

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Briar! Sorry we are so far apart.

      And I agree about the emperor. In fact (shhh) my company logo is actually of an emperor, not a blue penguin, since it’s the coolest looking.

  6. Randy Martin

    Again, you’re just a couple days off. I actually arrive in Westford on Friday evening and will be there until the following Thursday morning for Building Science Summer Camp at the Westford Regency. If your ice cream social was the next Wednesday, I would find a way to attend. I do enjoy readying your newsletter every couple weeks and your daily updates. I’ve told a lot of people about you. Now I guess I need to finally develop a newsletter. Thanks for all your free information over the years.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      So close, Randy! Sorry we will miss you. (Try to get over to Kimball Farm in any case. Well worth the trip and you’ll be right there.)

  7. Amy Gray

    Anything chocolate and darn! living in California makes it an expensive way to have free ice cream. But I still love reading about it and having my own cone.

  8. Diana

    My favorite flavor is vanilla. Most people think that’s a boring choice, but there are some amazing versions of vanilla out there!

  9. Kathie Gow

    Sorry I can’t be there also, but I will think of you and also think of eating my favorite ice cream. I’m with Charles and Samantha — some combination of coffee and chocolate. Creamy mocha java, java chip…mmmmm………..

    Loved your post this week — right on the money and covered a lot of bases. Best wishes for the next 10 years!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Sorry you won’t make it Kathie! (But I have a feeling I’ll be seeing you soon enough, sister-in-law).

  10. Darla Highley

    Chocolate Mousse Royale (B-R); Emperor Michael.

    Sounds like a fun day.

    Re: unsubscribes: I’ve recently — last month–become way more diligent about hitting unsubscribe to the missives coming into my box that are not or are no longer at the top of the cut for what I CAN read. I’m increasingly getting my Daily Dose via LinkedIn, and for me the balance is shifting. I dunno! I love Blue Penguin missives!

  11. Anda

    I’ll grab a simple chocolate&vanilla ice-cream, bear foot in my living room office, melting my solopreneur ideas and wishing I was near you.

  12. Sharyn Inzunza

    Hi Michael,

    Sounds fantastic! Great post.

    The “unsubscribes” would be perfect fodder for a holed-up marketing researcher…Is there a correlation between ice-cream parties and unsubscribing? Hmmm…

    Anyway, my favorites run the spectrum: vanilla and green tea (okay, I said it).

    Have a great time. I’ll have some for you from Colorado.

    P.S. Maybe you could post a video of the party?

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Green tea? Have never tried but you’ve got me thinking.

      And great idea about the video. We usually post some of that after the fact (if I can remember to take some!).

      1. Sharyn Inzunza

        Hi Michael,

        I had just read about the video app Periscope when I got your email. That’s what gave me the video idea. I checked out Periscope, and it’s like social media on steroids. I asked my 17-year-old about it. He said that “it’s full-on crazy.”

        In some form or other, video would be fun!

        Also, I found green tea ice-cream at the supermarket (out here on the prairie!). I’m ready (and I’ve been eating the Paleo way for a while now…big moment). Cheers.

  13. Bob Gersh

    I am in Florida, so the commute to the party will be too long.
    I have enjoyed the ice cream and meeting you in person in past years.
    I will get an ice cream here in The Villages, Florida and think of all
    the great information you have provided over the years. Thank you.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I’m sorry you won’t make it. And, you know how much I love you but … the best ice cream is in Cincinatti?? I can’t even spell it correctly, how could it be? But I’ll keep an open mind (even though I know the best ice cream is in Boston).
      Have a great trip!

  14. Larry Elkan

    Love GOOD HUMOR brand ice cream and remember, as a child, the bells on the Good Humor truck, as the driver approached our block with his delicious ice cream!
    Also grew up quite fond of Carvel so both of those brands still bring out the kid in me!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I’ve got the same two memories Larry – did you grow up in the NY area, as I did?

      Favorite good humor ice cream was the ones with the “hidden” chocolate bar inside. Genius!


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