Author Archives

Paul M. Johnson

I’m Senior Copywriter at Leggett & Platt, so I write a bunch of B2B copy, mainly about wire and wire-related products. Pretty sexy, I agree. A long time ago, I wrote magazine articles about pro athletes such as Derek Jeter and Allen Iverson, and surprisingly that’s more interesting to most people. What are my credentials for writing this blog? Eh, I like reading. And learning stuff. To fill in some details you’re not asking for, as an older person I prefer reading “offline” – as in, actual hard-copy newspapers and magazines. I read at the gym in between weightlifting sets. I read on the treadmill. I read while I’m waiting in line. I “read” audio versions of articles while I drive, but before I was able to do that, I used to read while I drove, but usually only on traffic-free, curve-less interstate highways. That was ill-advised, so I don’t do it anymore. My two main sources are The Economist and The Wall Street Journal, and if I can predict a criticism of this blog, it’ll be that I rely on those two too much. I plead guilty.

Managing The Boss & Employee Relationship | A Linking Mess

Each week in “A Linking Mess” our copywriting team offers their thoughts on links and articles around the internet that have caught their attention.

10 Things Bosses Never Tell Employess — But Should – LinkedIn Pulse

Paul Johnson, Sr. Copywriter: This is an appropriate article to discuss as I am Shela “Mad Dog” Ward’s boss. I’m not comfortable with the term “boss,” by the way, but there’s not much way around it. “Supervisor” sounds too informal and “kingpin” is probably too much. “Manager,” isn’t bad, though. I’m Mad Dog’s manager.

Shela Ward, Copywriter: I’m not sure how I feel about the word “manager.” It kind of makes me sound like an actor or something. “All appearances should be scheduled through Mad Dog’s manager.” Ok, I guess I don’t mind it.

Paul: This goofy article lists 10 things that bosses should never tell employees, but should. Right out of the gate, it became ripe for ridicule: number one is “I really do care whether you like me.” Maybe the author is more insecure than me, or maybe my situation of being kingpin over just one Mad Dog lends itself to a less formal (see professional) relationship, but I don’t worry whether or not Shela likes me or not. I know she does. Continue reading

Some Thoughts About Turning 30 (or even 45) | A Linking Mess

3033 Things Everyone Should Stop Doing In Their 30s – Business Insider

Paul Johnson, Senior Copywriter: I’m looking down the barrel of my 45th birthday, and I’m still guilty of about 10 of these sins. Does that say something about me, or this list? I’m sure I’m below average when it comes to meeting the standards of full-blown adulthood, particularly when measured against my age, but what’s wrong with “seeking approval from other people”? If you spend a great deal of effort to gain that approval, I guess that could be considered immature. What would be the definition of “seek” in this context?
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Get Organized & How Not to Act in Meetings

desk - very organized very coolOur copywriters picked their favorite–or least favorite–articles of the week to share. Bonus: they weigh in with their own opinions through some back-and-forth conversation.

Ten Tips on Organizing Your Mind – The Wall Street Journal

Shela Ward, Copywriter: I thought I was a super-organized person, until I read this list. Maybe I’m just super-organized compared to the chaos of the rest of the Copy Team…? Either way, I like most of the suggestions presented in this article to keep your mind organized.

Paul M. Johnson, Senior Copywriter: I’m not very organized, and my cluttered desk – which is a running joke in Creative Services – is proof. I’ve taken stabs at addressing this at different times over the years, but it just doesn’t take. Would I be a better employee if I were more organized? I don’t think so. My conceit is that I’m a messy genius. OK, I’m done thinking about that. Continue reading

Some Dialogue About Popular Articles | A Linking Mess

buzzwordsWe’re switching up the format for “A Linking Mess.” This week, Shela Ward and Paul Johnson (members of our Creative Services team) both weigh in on two articles that made the rounds in social media recently.


The A-Z of everything that’s wrong with B2B creative – Steve Ballantyne via

Shela: I write a lot of B2B copy on a daily basis, and I’m guilty of a lot of the “wrongs” mentioned in this article. Some of them are totally my bad – I have a soft spot for puns and I tend to struggle with “quick & dirty” brevity (my writing tends to get pretty verbose, from time to time, if you haven’t noticed – examples of my loquaciousness can be found in any of the guest blogs I’ve written here). Continue reading

An Unheralded Invention and Some Office Do’s & Don’ts | A Linking Mess

The world’s greatest invention.

No, it’s not the iPhone. This Economist piece reviews a book about paper, which is said to have been invented in China in 105 AD. A couple of the more important developments in paper’s evolution and production occurred when Chinese prisoners in the 8th century taught Arabs the technique for making it, and the 1439 invention of movable-type printing in what is now Germany.

Happy find: A cheap, portable, printable invention – The Economist

Wave pompoms to get noticed.

Business Insider has provided a handy guide on how to ruin your career, in eight steps. What they don’t tell us is if you have to fulfill all eight “career-killing behaviors” to guarantee ruin. Seriously, though, a couple of them I don’t like. Number one is “Not promoting your own work” and number four is “Not being assertive.” I don’t like those two because I’ve always had trouble with the idea that good work and the best workers aren’t necessarily noticed based strictly on merit. Yes, I understand that managers aren’t perfect and might need a reminder of who is doing the best job, but it still seems to suggest that the most confident and emphatic among us will succeed based on cheerleading skills.

8 Work Habits That Can Ruin Your Careeer – Business Insider Continue reading

Some Great Pointers For Your Daily Workload: A Linking Mess

Token World Cup-related article.

I love the World Cup, and my favorite team playing in Brazil other than the U.S. is England, which, come to think of it, probably isn’t in Brazil anymore since they were eliminated Tuesday. The Brits have trouble in penalty shootouts (a series of penalty shots taken after a tie game to determine the winner), and here’s an interesting article that links nations and their shootout success. The Germans, not surprisingly, are fantastic in shootouts.

How to handle pressure: lessons from penalty shoot-outs – The Economist

Grumpy people are better at their jobs.

I didn’t find this article’s argument, which is based on research, very compelling. But, because I tend to be grumpy and critical, I tried very hard to be convinced. Actually, the headline made me think that the research would suggest that “haters” are better employees because they have better critical skills and question the status quo. But it didn’t say that at all – it said that positive people got involved in more work projects and activities than negative people, which means that positive types weren’t as focused as those who are negative.

Grumpy and negative people are more efficient than happy colleagues – Daily Mail


This article will have you gasping in disbelief. Continue reading

You Have to Lie in the Bed You Made | A Linking Mess

No jerks allowed.

Do you have an unreasonable boss? I certainly don’t! (Thanks for reading, John.) Are tough, aggressive bosses going by the wayside in an era when companies like Netflix have a “no-jerk rule”? Or does it still take sharp elbows and a demanding nature to push employees? There are so many ways to effectively manage employees without resorting to intimidation and anger, which I think makes that approach obsolete. Does that sound soft? There’s a difference between being stern and a bully.

Is the Hard-Nosed Boss Obsolete? – Wall Street Journal

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

I’m not a fan of commencement addresses. I detest the usual Pollyanna messaging and “you are the country’s future” appeal. Continue reading

U.S. Manufacturing Making a Comeback | A Linking Mess

Good days ahead for Leggett & Platt?

This article shares the state of manufacturing in America right now, and there’s reason to be optimistic. After a decades-long decrease in jobs, 600,000 have been added over the past four years. Part of the reason is increased wages in China and other emerging countries, leading many companies to bring jobs back to the U.S. Here are a couple interesting numbers: the average annual pay and benefits for U.S. manufacturing workers in 2012 was $77,505, whereas the number for all U.S. workers is $62,063; and 80% of manufacturing jobs require at least an associate’s degree or 12 months of training. Incidental note: one of my favorite words, “sanguine,” is used late in the article.

Why U.S. Manufacturing Is Poised for a Comeback (Maybe) – Wall Street Journal

What can a twentysomething teach a company executive?

This isn’t the first article about “reverse mentoring” that I’ve linked to, and that’s because I think it’s an important subject. I understand how reluctant an “older” employee would be Continue reading

Learn How to Unthink Something Through | A Linking Mess

Sometimes thinking is a bad idea.

It turns out that “Just Do It” is more than a marketing slogan. Read this piece to hear about how “unthinking” is “the ability to apply years of learning at the crucial moment by removing your thinking self from the equation.” Everyone is familiar with the concept of overthinking things, whether it’s golf or writing a simple email or maybe even creating something in your kitchen. I heard a lot about “muscle memory” as a baseball player. If you practice something enough, you won’t have to think about the step-by-step process when it matters most. Evidently, there’s a lot to that.

NON COGITO, ERGO SUM – The Economist

Am I adorkable for loving words?

The internet has been creating words – have you noticed? Continue reading

Simple Fixes to Improve Your Credibility – A Linking Mess

Become a better writer and earn respect.

Want To Be Taken Seriously? Become a Better Writer – LinkedIn Today

Tired of articles about the importance of writing? Sorry. I like this piece because, well, I agree with it. It has a few obvious points, such as the idea that even if you’re not a writer by trade, you are still “publishing” material every day – whether it’s an email, work memo, or even Facebook post. People judge others based on their writing. I know I do. Is that fair? If someone sends an email with typos, does that mean they’re careless and not detail-oriented? If someone takes a roundabout way to make a point, making your head spin, does that mean they’re disorganized?

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