Category Archives: Reality checks

9/11 19 Years Later

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No Foodie Friday post today. I try to keep those light and today is not really a day for lightness. I’m reposting something I wrote 9 years ago on the tenth anniversary of a day that changed this country and the world, and not for the better. As I read it again, not much has changed, unfortunately. Take a minute or two today and think about that day and all those who were lost and who’ve been lost since as a result.

 

Today, this isn’t about business. If you want to skip it and come back in a couple of days, I understand. See you Tuesday.

I’m publishing this on 9/11, 10 years after a horrible day changed the world forever. I’ve spent a good part of the day thinking about the subsequent decade and how it was so very different from the 4 others in which I’ve lived that preceded it and I want to use today to share some of those thoughts. I also know we don’t do politics here – I think today we will, although hopefully in a non-partisan way.  So here are a few things I remember most about 9/11/01.

First, how beautiful the weather was that day. My commute brought me into Grand Central Station and as I walked into the sunlight and smelled the air with the smallest traces of Fall in it, I thought about how the weeks after Labor day are the best time to come to NYC. I now think about 9/11 every time it’s a really nice day.

I also thought how nice a day it was going to be for flying. A few work colleagues and I were going to San Francisco that afternoon out of Newark. We were originally going out on a morning flight but realized our meetings were later the next day so we changed flights a week earlier. Spooky.

Finally, the main thing I recall about 9/11 was 9/12.  And 9/13.  And many days thereafter.  It was about how for one of the few times in my life, the entire country came together as one.  No Democrats, no RepublicansAmericans.  I felt it in the emails and calls I received from concerned folks from all around the country and from other countries.  As a New Yorker, you saw it in all the folks who came to help from all over.

That all changed later and was, in retrospect, probably only a Band-Aid on some wounds that began to fester some time in the 90’s.  But MAN, it felt good.

That’s what struck me today – how those wounds have turned gangrenous and how utterly incapable we as a people seem to sit together and discuss how to clean up the economic and social messes around us, much as we cleaned up that other mess 10 years ago.  The memorials today showed me that we still have the ability to unite in a common good under a flag, but only if we stop yelling, start listening, and try to feel what we all felt after the unspeakable horror of that day:  that we have to find a way to clean this up and fix this.  Not as Democrats or Republicans – as Americans.

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Filed under Reality checks, What's Going On

Don’t Believe Me

You can’t help but be aware that not everything you read on the internet or via social media is true. Shocking, I know. We are living in a time when there are people and organizations actively putting our false information. The cynics among you will say that marketers have been doing that for years and there is some truth in that. But this is different.

I think when we read product ads or other materials labeled as advertising or advertorial or paid sponsorship, a little “be wary” alarm goes off. I recognize, having been fooled myself on more than one occasion, that not all of those paid for materials are immediately obvious as ads, but most are. If you look closely enough, even the social media usual suspects make it fairly clear when content is actually advertising. Not so propaganda.

You might be familiar with the studies showing that a huge percentage of people don’t actually read the things they like or repost. There are problems with that, the biggest of which is that you’ve added social proof to something that might actually be a complete lie. I had a friend the other day who posted a story that had a headline that was different from what the article actually said (thanks, editor who wrote the headline). I asked her in a comment if she had actually read the article, which was taken down shortly thereafter since it didn’t exactly match her world view.

It’s going to get worse over the next 60 days as we get to an election. Just as in 2016, there are disinformation campaigns being waged. I don’t mean the obvious ones you see on TV which are paid for by special interest groups. The stories have been coming for months and today’s headline that “Russians Again Targeting Americans With Disinformation, Facebook and Twitter Say” is not going to stop anyone because these bad actors got caught.

What can you do? Check everything you read against multiple sources. Be skeptical. Don’t believe me or anyone else until you find proof of what you’re reading with your own eyes. Don’t even believe your eyes when it’s video since it’s way to easy to fake videos these days. Go to legitimate fact-checkers – Snopes, PolitiFact, and others.

I’m not being political here (we don’t do that in this space). I’m begging you to make up your own mind based on as much accurate information as you can find. Don’t repost stuff you haven’t read and checked out. Don’t believe what others post until you do. Not even from me, OK?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Huh?, Reality checks

Tennis Anyone?

We’re getting to the time of the year when political conversations, which are always lurking, come front and center. It’s not just that nearly every media outlet is covering the elections almost full-time. Social media, at least my feeds, is almost entirely politics (along with dog and cat photos).  What strikes me most about all of this is how little of the discourse is a conversation and how much of it is a rant.

Of course, politics isn’t the only place where that pattern holds true. I’ve been in many business situations where people with opposing or different views on a topic don’t really converse and try to resolve their differences. They do a lot of talking and almost no listening. That’s something I always found to be unacceptable when my team did it, and so I’d remind them that being creative and developing ideas, is like playing tennis. You send something out and wait to see what comes back. In order to continue to play, you need to make adjustments since it won’t be coming back to the same place at the same speed every time.

Take note, as you scroll through the comments in social media, or on some blogs or in your next business meeting, about how little factual information is hit over the net at the other side. Note as well how a lot of the “players” don’t really have an interest in the game. They “win” by reciting whatever preconceived notion ad infinitum and either waiting for everyone else to give up or by taking their ball and racquet and going home. That accomplishes nothing but to make each person who participates in this way more dug in, angrier, and frankly, dumber, or at least, less smart.

If you’re having a dialog, remember that the word is rooted in the notion of accomplishing something through speech (dia: through and logos: speech, reason).  You need to listen to do so. What do we accomplish via monologue other than to express ourselves? Does it matter if anyone is listening?

Playing tennis against an opponent requires you to adjust and accommodate and change your tactics. Playing against a wall by yourself doesn’t. Tennis anyone?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Huh?, Reality checks