How does the Midwest sell us on winter?

Let's say money is not an issue. And you could move anywhere in the country. Anywhere in the world. You could wake up every day in Italy or never see snow again down in the Bahamas. You could go to places where the temperature is just the temperature; there's no "feels like negative 15." Go to a place where it "feels like" a good day for the beach.

For me, even if I had unlimited options, I know that I wouldn't leave. I can say with one hundred percent certainty that I will spend the rest of my days in Chicago or Michigan. Maybe Kansas City.

And I know, I know people might say, "Well, you never know where life will take you" or there could be an exciting opportunity somewhere else. Nobody really knows their future.

But I'm pretty sure about mine. At least location wise. I can say that because the Midwest is phenomenal at sales.

Welcome to the Midwest's Boardroom

Brian Regan has a stand-up comedy bit about a team brainstorming for the craziness of a Cirque du Soleil show. He sets up this scene in a boardroom where the creative director tells everyone that he will say yes to everything. Music? Yes. Dancing? Yes! Acrobats? YES!

He starts encouraging his team to think bigger.

"Keep in mind; I'm not gonna say no to anything. Come on, try to make me say no."

One of the team members starts thinking a little bit more outside the box.

"We could have elephants painted gold, and they come in with helicopter launching pads on their backs, and helicopters land and monkeys come out and play kazoos?"


I picture a similar situation happening with the Midwest. The sales and marketing teams come in, and it's the heart of January, everyone on the team feels dejected. Everyone's wearing their winter jackets. The conference room doesn't even have heat. They can all see their breath.

Down the hall, they hear laughter from the California and Florida conference rooms. Every day of the week for them is casual Friday.

"Oh, oh! We could start with a golf course then pan out to the wineries and people on the beach and a couple holding hands riding horseback and somebody surfing and more smiling families, and then a beautiful sunset. We could get some celebrities in there too."

"That's it! Everyone take the rest of the day off. Hell, take the rest of the week off!"

The person in charge of the Midwest meeting is about to speak, about to try and rally the team when someone at the table cuts them off.

"Look, we're screwed," she says. "How can we ever convince people to live in the Midwest? I mean just listen to what they're saying down the hall. Surfing? Napa Valley? Dip my toes in the ocean? We can't compete with that. I haven't even felt my toes since Thanksgiving! They've got sunshine; we haven't even seen the sky in two weeks. It's over. You don't see Antarctica panicking because they don't have enough people. Let's just accept what we are and move on. We're too cold."

"Look," the leader of the board says. "We can give up, or we can work with what we've got. We need to be scrappy. Be ready to fight. We need to take the gloves off!"

Everyone around the table takes off their mittens.

"I meant more of a metaphor; you know what, that's fine. Let's do this! Let's hear some ideas."

There's silence for a minute before a shy person near the door speaks up. He's looking at his feet the entire time.

"What if we somehow like, I dunno, said that snow was, um, like a good thing?"

"Great! Alright, let's work with that."

"We could tell them that Christmas just isn't the same without snow. We could have Bing Crosby sing a song about it, maybe make a movie?"

"Perfect! More. More ideas."

The person who spoke out at the beginning, let's give her a good Midwestern name, "Catherine" rolls her eyes.

"Why would people be upset not to have snow on Christmas?" Catherine says. "I have a cousin in Miami who celebrates Christmas with a bar-b-q on the beach every year. It sounds delightful."

"Oh, but it's not the same."

"So true. It's not the same."

Catherine scrunches her eyebrows together.

"You're saying 'it's not the same' as if that were a bad thing?"

"Gotta have snow. Gotta have a white Christmas."

"Oh, I like that," the leader says. "Jot that down. This is great, love the energy, but then how do we market snow?"

The room is gaining a little more confidence.

"You could roll it into a ball and throw it at your friends?"


"We could show people how to make these bigger balls of snow, and you could like stack them on top of each other. And then you grab a carrot and some charcoal. Make a snowman."

"You said bigger balls," joke guy chimes in. The whole room snickers.

"We could have people lay down in it and do a jumping jack kind of thing. Call it a snow angel."

"Who would do that??" Catherine says.

"Oh! I got one! This might be a little bit out there, but you know how they have water skiing over in the California/Florida room? What if we did that, but on snow?"

"We don't have any mountains?" Catherine says.

"Eh, we'll use hills. I think it's a great idea. What else? What else?"

"We could go to a frozen lake, cut a hole in the ice and then fish?" GREAT!

"We could emphasize to parents how cute their kids look all bundled up in coats and hats?" PERFECT!

"We could fill up a hot tub with hot chocolate and like sprinkle some marshmallows on top and tell people to hop in?" HEY, LITTLE BIT WEIRD, BUT LET'S TRY IT OUT!

Catherine can't take it anymore. This time she stands up and smacks her hand on the table.

"Enough! Look, this morning I woke up, I went to my car, I literally scraped ice off the windshield with my credit card. Every time my dog has to pee, I have to throw on my coat, my boots, my hat, my gloves. And this is our lives every single fricken year! Every year from November to what, March? April? May? You can't sell people on this! It's impossible!"

"So then why have you stayed?" the shy person sitting by the door asks.

The conference phone in the middle of the room buzzes. One of the remote employees has joined the call.

"Hey, it's Bob from Minnesota, sorry I'm late."

"Hey Bob, what's the weather like up there?"

"Oh man, we're looking at a balmy negative three."

Everyone mouths 'wow.' The phone buzzes again.

"Hi everyone, Debbie in Wisconsin."

"Debbie, I heard you guys got pounded with snow last night? How much?"

"Eight inches."


"Yeah, took me about an hour to dig out my car."

Catherine looked around and saw a new level of camaraderie in the room. People were on the edge of their seats swapping winter war stories. She was starting to have a Grinch's heart grew three sizes type of moment.

She wasn't sure why the memory came to mind, but she remembered in seventh grade sitting down at a cafeteria table, and these girls she never met before began sharing their crappiest day or their most embarrassing story. Until that moment she had always thought you were supposed to be happy, all the time, that you never ever talk about the bad stuff.

So finally it was her turn. She shared her story, and they all laughed, together. There was comfort in the suckiness. The last person at that middle school table chimed in, "You know what, I've never really had that bad of a day before." And that was the last time that person ever sat at their table.

The phone buzzes again.

"Hey guys, Bo down in Del Rio, Texas. They asked me to join your call, see if y'all needed help with ideas. Man, I looked at the weather map today. Chicago, wow! I hate to say it, but we're 100 degrees warmer down here. Isn't that something? Y'all should move down! Anyways, here's what I'm thinking. You just focus on the summer months in your ad campaign. Hide the winter. Talk about how great June and July are, how you can go sailing, and--"

Catherine looked around the room. Everyone was rolling their eyes. One person across the table was moving their hand like a little Pac-Man mouthing blah-blah-blah. She looked next to her and saw the lift ticket for Boyne Mountain hanging from the zipper of a coat. She could see that middle school table again. You know what, I've never really had that bad of a day before.

"Hey Bo," Catherine said. "We're actually right in the middle of something. Could you put yourself on mute?"

Thank you for reading this post, hope it adds some fuel to help get through these long winter days of January and February (and sometimes March). 

Three quick plugs:

  1. If you're looking for a new novel to start the year with, consider giving Toilet Bowl a try. I like to think of it as Casablanca meets Saved by the Bell. It's a story about love, friendship, and how to overcome internal worries and fears. I've included a trailer below.
  2. I'm not really promoting this one until April or May, but wanted to give you early access to Moving SucksThose familiar with the blog might remember a few of these posts. I turned it all into a "Chicken Nugget", an ebook that's too long for a blog, too short for a book. 
  3. If you're a basketball fan, make sure to check out - Lot of college basketball coverage going up these next 3-4 months + a new Chicago Bulls show that I hope will be as fun to follow as it has been to create.

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See you Wednesday!

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