Way back when in 2008, I wrote this about the holiday we’re celebrating this weekend. Given the pandemic, we’re enduring and a virus that spreads uncontrollably unless each of us takes care to protect ourselves and others, it seems appropriate to publish it again. Sorry, no food this Friday, other than the food for thought I hope this provides. Stay safe, wash your hands, wear ya damn mask, and enjoy the 4th!
It’s going on July 4th and to all of us raised on the Red, White, and Blue we know it’s a day (OK, a long weekend) during which we can celebrate the fundamental principles that make the US of A what it is. No, I’m not going to venture into politics (although it IS an election year and there’s a LOT to talk about). What I do want to write about is the contradiction of the “independence day” term.
The Constitution (I know – a bit after the Declaration) begins with the word “we.” We The People. Not “me.” The independence rightly celebrated this weekend is, to me , about the specific rights and freedoms we have to be ourselves as a people, with all the quirks that make us unique. WE are independent from other folks (Great Britain, specifically, long ago) but NOT from one another. I’ve spent the last 30+ years learning how critical having a strong bunch of folks around you is as well as setting the bar high in terms of with whom you do business as best you can. Why? Because the better they are, the better you become. As I’ve transitioned from corporate life to consulting, the friends and business friends I’ve made over the last 30 years have been an unbelievable support network, even for a guy who is now independent.
Jack Ingram puts it well in his song “We’re All In This Together“:
We all think we’re special
And I hate to have to say
There’s a bunch of us on every corner
Of any town U.S.A.
We all got our problems
We all pay our dues
So if you’re thinking no one understands
I’ve got news for you
We’re all in this together
Whether we like it or not
So we might as well have a good time
With the little piece of time we got
Life’s too short to fuss and fight
So we might as well be friends
‘Cause we’re all in this together
Together till the bitter end
So Happy July 4th. Enjoy being independent. Together.
The amount of news and information that comes my way is overwhelming much of the time. I suspect you feel the same way. The hardest part isn’t digesting all of it. Nope. What’s most difficult is knowing what’s fact-based and what’s made up out of whole cloth. One study found that 67% of U.S. respondents said they’re “concerned about what is real and fake on the internet when it comes to news.”
I’m sure you’ve seen the articles about how to spot real news and there are lots of fact-checking sites available to you if you’re willing to use them. And you should. There’s another way of which I’m fond and it seems that during the stay at home period many other folks are figuring this way out as well.
Pay for it!
Yep, shell out a couple of bucks a week and pay for fact-checked news that is written with what we used to call journalistic principles. It turns out this isn’t exactly a revelation to everyone, at least not according to this piece from the Publishers Daily:
The percentage of Americans who pay for online news subscriptions is up 4% compared to last year, according to a new, extensive report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The “Digital News Report” for 2020 surveyed more than 80,000 people in 40 countries about their digital news consumption. The percentage of people in the U.S. who pay for news is 20%, up from 16% last year.
Now, of course, the study also found that 40% in the U.S. say that nothing could persuade them to pay for an online news subscription. Then again, there are folks who still believe that the world is flat. The good news is that many people are using what I’ll call the pay filter to screen out noise. It’s good news for publishers who have been struggling. In fact, Gannett, the biggest newspaper chain in the U.S., saw an 85% yearly jump in net new subscriptions over the last few months. Those are mostly local newspapers. Of course, there is the challenge of keeping those subscribers as they go back to work, etc. but my guess is that getting fact-based news and information will outweigh the cost. Remember, you generally get what you pay for in this world.
We’re coming up on a big election. No matter how you choose to vote, the more you know about the issues and candidates’ positions on the ones that are most important to you, the better. Better information yields better decisions, right?
When I sang in the chorus in college we performed Brahms’ German Requiem. As you can deduce from the title, it’s in German. I really enjoyed singing it but I really didn’t understand much of what I was singing about since my reading comprehension of German is practically nonexistent. That didn’t stop me from singing the words, quite loudly when necessary, even if their meaning escaped me.
I see the same thing going on all the time, both in business and in life. These days, when science discussion is all around us due to the pandemic I’m fascinated by the folks who suddenly are virologists. Maybe they read a scientific paper about what’s going on or, more probably, read a link on Facebook that pointed them to something with a lot of big words. It’s nice that they read the science papers but when you have a conversation with them about it, it becomes pretty clear that they have no clue about what it means.
You can see that in business. Someone reads an article on something – the efficacy of social media or the importance of influencers in marketing – and suddenly they’re an expert. The truth is that they don’t understand the details of the topic in a way that gives them the ability to discuss them out of context. They’ve done a great job memorizing but a lousy job in grasping meaning.
I used to tell consulting clients the truth about my knowledge base. I was a mile wide but in some areas, I was only an inch deep. It didn’t embarrass me nor should it disturb you. I think a sign of both maturity and intelligence is knowing what you don’t know and not being afraid to admit it. When a client got to the limits of my understanding I would either go broaden my understanding or I’d bring in someone more expert.
You can sing in a language that you don’t understand just as you can pronounce the words on a page if you have a pronunciation guide. That doesn’t mean a thing in business. We say something is “Greek to me” when we don’t understand it. Try and speak Greek without understanding and the minute someone asks you a question, you’re sunk. Don’t try to speak a language you don’t understand, Greek, German, virology, digital media, or otherwise. Make sense?