Enlightened Conflict

and, just think, we have 1300 more days of this

May 1st, 2017

 

 

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 pretending-to-be-normal

“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?”

 

“People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War?

 

Why could that one not have been worked out?”

 

President Trump said during Washington Examiner interview today

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In 2013 bibliographers estimated that more than 65,000 books have been i-cannot-believe-that-happened-what-is-going-on-ouch-ponderwritten about the Civil War.

 

 

Sigh.

 

 

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.

 

 

======= GETTYSBURG ADDRESS: Abraham Lincoln =======

 

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln

November 19, 1863

a profoundly mediocre person

April 30th, 2017

easy hard said

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“I thought it would be easier.”

 

Donald Trump

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“It’s phenomenal, shoots missiles right out of the sky.”

—-

 

Donald Trump on anti-missile defense system

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Well.

 

Today we begin day 101 of the Trump administration. And while I truly wanted

.......... Trump administration .......

………. Trump administration …….

to suggest that the administration had evolved from clown car status to even possibly a Hyundai status < or at least to a Lada> the leader of the administration, the driver president as it were, seems to want to continue being … well … a profoundly mediocre person.

 

Sad.

 

Sad not in that mediocrity is a bad thing but rather he continues to not see mediocrity whenever he looks in the mirror.

 

Mediocre? The two opening quotes came directly from his most recent interview … this one with Reuters <whose reporter I would give a raise to simply for not laughing out loud at times>.

They seem to sum up everything that makes me think Trump is just a profoundly mediocre person <and, unfortunately, my president>.

 

Frankly, I need to stop reading interviews he gives. Every time I do I <a> laugh out loud, <b> shake my head , <c> am mortified that someone like this is actually leading a country let alone talking with other incredibly qualified people leading their countries and <d> get angry. He always sounds like be believes he is the most interesting man in the world writing his own lines for the “Most Interesting Man In The World” advertising campaign.

 

<note: the Dos Equis most interesting man in the world was actually an interesting man>

 

Sad.

 

I will respectfully disagree with one of Trump’s most ardent followers who suggested yesterday that “that’s how a CEO makes decisions” because the typical CEO does not make decisions like this, does not use words like this nor do they behave like this.

 

All that said.

Another long interview and, once again, we gain some insight into the small brain of the “big handed” Donald J. Trump. He is foolishly naïve … often stunningly ignorant … a profoundly mediocre person.

 

What did he think the Presidency was?

 

Who thinks that being President is easy?

 

Who thinks it’s not a lot of work?

 

How could he be so blind sided … I mean … geez … all you have to do to see the difficulty and complexity of the job, and how that mental burden physically affects a President, is to look at before and after pictures of literally every President <who wasn’t wearing a wig>.

irresponsibility made easy

 

Even in this interview … one 99 days in <so he has had some experience to incorporate into his attitude & behavior> he still sounded like the guy at the end of the bar after having had one too many beers … talking about how he could be as good as any CEO in the world. From the corner of the bar everything looks easier … those of us who have seen the corner office knows it just ain’t that easy.

 

It’s a real job which has real challenges which requires some real skills and demands some real self-awareness.

It’s a real job and not one that resides solely in some imaginative place in which someone sits on a throne where decisions are untouchable and things get done with a word – a presidency may be the world’s most difficult job.

 

Given what I sense was his perception of the job, its responsibilities and its ‘power’ I can only imagine the bitterness he must feel confronted by the stark truth that in the ‘real job’ <not the one he imagined> he cannot simply do what he wants to do and not everyone respects him <if not admires him> simply because he won ‘the crown.’

 

Sad.

 

But lost among all of this “Trump all the time” coverage are the people who voted for him. As he called them “the forgotten American.”

 

You know what? I actually agree with him with regard to a lot of these people. Lots of people and their legitimate grievances were forgotten as we obsessed over a variety of well intended causes.

 

popularity mediocre peopleThey have a cause too … not just survival but economic opportunity and an opportunity to contribute as Americans should contribute.

And these people will pay the price not because as a mediocre president Trump ignores them <as many presidents have in the past> but because he raised their hopes and he is so mediocrely competent he cannot meet even the lowest hope.

 

Oh. That is not just mediocre … that is an asshat.

 

He is a mediocre man whose most immediate concern at the point of any decision is the Trump brand <which, at its core, is built around an image of ‘winning’>.

 

Oh, yeah, that win thing.

 

I cannot explain exactly what my feeling was when I read that in the middle of a discussion with reporters <on day 98>  about Chinese President Xi Jinping Donald J Trump stopped  and handed out copies, to each reporter in the room, of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.

 

“Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” the Republican president said from his desk in the Oval Office, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red.

“It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.”

 

Oh. Now I know how to explain that feeling – mediocrity.

 

A mediocre man seeking to make everyone feel he is not mediocre.

 

A mediocre leader seeking to find ways to suggest he does not do mediocre sigh-thought-bubblethings.

 

Sigh.

 

On occasion we get glimpses of what I would call, if I were generous, … encouraging signs of reality buried in the bluster. Signs that he knows how difficult the job is <which sucks compared to his incoming beliefs> and that he is woefully unprepared for it all.

 

And when I am generous I start to think he could get better at it.

I hope so.

 

Oh.

Who am I kidding? He is a 70 year old, bombastic, thin skinned, desperate for approval, narcissistic, mediocre asshat. He is not going to change. We may see a glimmer of ‘good shit’ on occasion but I can almost say with 90% confidence level he will remain who he is … a profoundly mediocre person.

 

In the end … his desire to create entertainment and the constant image/perception of ‘doing something’ only creates more uncertainty & angst than it does real solutions & progress.

 

Beyond the fact he doesn’t act the way we should expect a leader of a business to act <let alone a president or a global leader> he verbally and behaviorally:

 

  • remains a constant threat to free speech, free press, independent courts, checks and balances with congress, minority rights

 

  • treats laws on nepotism and conflicts of interests as though they don’t exist

 

  • lies so habitually that we now hesitate to trust anything he says

 

  • is constantly amazed that the job is as difficult as it is, the world is as complicated as it is and that maybe the people who had been doing things in the past just were not as stupid as he thought they were

 

All of which provides constant evidence, to us, that so far is he is an utterly incompetent President.

 

Yeah.

 

only the mediocre quoteSorry to tell everyone but underlying all the glimmers of hope resides the one underlying truth of the moment … he is a bullshit artist and a profoundly mediocre person and that is what we should expect from day 101 on.

 

As one article summarized it perfectly — Trump is simply a profoundly mediocre person tragically unfit for the presidency.

 

He was on day 1. He was on day 100. He is on day 101. And he will be on every foreseeable day from this day on. A mediocre person who only sees an extraordinary person when he looks in the mirror.

 

“I thought it would be easier.”

 

Sad.

the dark days bad days sad black hole life

 

<and, yes, I will continue to criticize him as long as he stays in my criticism crosshairs on my chart>

 

and from time to time they permit themselves to be told

April 4th, 2017

letters to myself never read

 

==========

 

“The world is full of stories, and from time to time they permit themselves to be told …”

 

—–

An aboriginal saying

 

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I believe that the magic and power of a story can encourage and fascinate you.

In prehistory, outside the cave it was dark, but inside they had a fire and somebody was good at telling stories.

Every time I write, I think of the cave.

We are one group, outside it’s dark and wolves are howling, but I have a story to tell.

 

—–

Haruki Murakami

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Ok.

 

stories on wallsIt’s difficult to discuss stories too often.

The fact is that being able to tell a story … okay … tell the story you want … well … is possibly one of the most important skills anyone can have – in life or in business.

 

But let me stay on the business side of stories.

 

Throughout my career I have had the fortune to work with the most unglamorous products & companies you could ever think of <industrial products, commodity like machinery, etc.> and some fairly glamourous products & companies.

 

What they all have in common is that they have a story to tell … and when told well it makes them successful — in sales, in market place positioning, in competitive scenarios, in public discussions, etc.

 

I used to think storytelling was so natural to everyone I assumed everyone would want to tell their story … or maybe better said … talk about their business, their company, their product … as a story.

 

I no longer think that.

 

I haven’t figured out if it is that not everyone can actually tell a good story or that business has beaten the shit out of people so badly that the default articulation is a list of functional features and pragmatic benefits. What I do know is that business storytelling, in general, sucks.

It is absolutely horrible.

 

Meaningless metaphors and less-than-relevant analogies and misused quotes are scattered among the useful functional and pragmatic in the attempt to elevate that which is usefully boring to interestingly useful.

And because that is the case … well … most people either think storytelling is really really hard or that storytelling really has no place in what they are doing.vivid story demonstration metaghor

 

That is nuts.

 

The truth is you can take the most boring of boring, the most functional of functional & most ‘seemingly same of seemingly same’ and wrap it within a story and it … well … becomes compelling, interesting and distinct.

 

The truth is any business contains the essential parts to create a story … heroes, villains, vivid demonstrations or metaphors, life & death and even mysteries and solutions.

 

The truth is anyone can tell a story <it is possible that not everyone can write a story though>.

 

In fact … I feel relatively confident is stating that a good story to tell makes everyone better & more interesting.

 

I do not care what industry you work within or what type of product or service you sell or represent your word is full of stories … and, most likely, a fabulous story just asking for permission to be told.

 

All that said.

 

Someone is most likely sitting somewhere scratching their head thinking … “WTF, that sounds good but I have no clue what to do.”

 

Aw.

 

You do.

You do know what to do.

 

Stop thinking about selling your idea or selling your product/service or even selling your company … think about telling a story.

 

Shit.

 

nuts and bolts commodityI could work for a nuts & bolts manufacturer and be able to put a picture of two nuts & bolts side by side <one mine and one someone else’s>  which look 99.9% exactly the same … and be able to say … “Let me tell you a story about this nut & bolt … because its story is different than this nut & bolt. They look the same but their story is different.

 

Oh.

 

And my story wouldn’t be solely some manufacturing mumbo jumbo but rather a story about who counted on it and how my nut & bolt was the best friend to someone and … well … you get the point.

 

Unfortunately we don’t seem to be in the storytelling business in business these days.

 

Instead we bore down on manufacturing specifications, stress quotients, side by side rankings and a whole bunch of technically important functional aspects.

 

And you know what?

That shit is important.

 

Really important.

 

nuts an bolts story city growTo be sure … if it is my nut & bolt holding a wing on some plane carrying 300 passengers you can bet your last dollar the technical aspects of my nuts & bolts matter. I don’t argue that.

What I argue is HOW the technical aspects are articulated and delivered. What I argue is that if I can make my nuts & bolts look like a city of ideas through some story … I win.

 

Stories make presentations more interesting.

Stories make bland functional aspects take on some color <which equals value>.

Stories persuade people think <and thinking equals engagement>.

Stories to motivate us to see beyond the simple nut & bolt.

 

Suffice it to say … what you say is lost if you do not master how you say it.

 

Storytelling has been a mainstay of the marketing world since … well … forever.

And while it tries to sneak into the non-marketing aspects of the business world it often gets stiff armed by functional communicators – “get to the point” people.

 

This ‘get to the point’ point is nonsense.

 

Storytelling doesn’t sacrifice the functional and pragmatic and practical … it actually elevates it to ts highest value.

 

I could argue that stories are the essential driver of value, change & persuasion … throughout the history of business.whispers stories

 

Look.

 

I would never tell a business to not show the numbers, graphs and facts. It is important.

But strategic use of a good story can make those same bland things surprise people, make them become compelling characters in a story and instead of being cold hard facts laying on a page they can become things that make us think & feel.

 

Story telling is important in that it engages people, communicates relevant meaningful information, builds value on some things that can often be difficult to build value on and, ultimately, it makes you, your product or service & your company distinct.

Why? Because it has a story to tell.

 

The business world is full of stories, and from time to time they permit themselves to be told …

 

 

curiosity’s tempting thorn

March 30th, 2017

rose in wind

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she repeatedly pricked

her curious finger

on the same tempting thorn.

 

Noor Shirazie

 

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“Because sometimes you have to do something bad to do something good.”

 

Oscar Wilde

 

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Curiosity can be a cruel friend on occasion.

 

Ok.

 

I imagine I could say that being curious is a cruel gift.

 

The curious are always on a trajectory of … well … more.  It is difficult to ever attain “enough” if you are curious.

cruelty of curiosity

I share this graph I drew because most curious people do not always assess any consequential cost-benefit analysis when embracing this seemingly infinite abyss <or, more positively, a well> of curiosity.

 

It doesn’t really matter if your curiosity drags you down the more shallow slope of surface breadth of tantalizing “one learning begets a path to another learning” or the more focused depth of “how much can I learn about this” … the temptation of curiosity is more often cruel than it is pleasant.

 

This means curiosity goes where it may … even if the outcome is harmful, useless or endless.

This means the curious, in a cruel twist of fate, are often treated as ‘ignorant’ of what is important with regard to using their time.

 

Even with all that cruelty … suffice it to say people, in general, have a tendency to go above and beyond but the curious are almost addicted to the above & beyond.

 

This seemingly instinctual urge to gain information we don’t really need is extraneous — and at its most extreme, dangerous.

 

Dangerous?

Well … yeah.

 

why are you keeping curiosity locked door life peopleIf you think about it having an overactive curiosity muscle is almost counter intuitive to evolutionary theory, i.e., the most curious among us should’ve been killed off pretty quickly.

 

And, yet, curiosity has survived, people have survived and the undeniable drive to actively pursue “above & beyond’ survives.

 

That doesn’t mean it is any less cruel … just that it permits survival.

 

The other cruel aspect of curiosity is its uncomfortably close relationship with ignorance. Theoretically curiosity exists to remove ignorance.

Far be it from me to point out that if your curiosity is never completely sated then ignorance remains, exists and is most likely bigger than ever before.

 

Oh.

I did point that out.

Cruelty … plain cruelty.

 

I imagine someone could embrace ignorance and avoid the cruel aspects of curiosity although I would suggest a closed mind actually expands ignorance. And as ignorance expands … within that growing emptiness … I would imagine at some point someone is going to be tempted to know what lightning was, what the stars were, how something can be done better, done faster or just done, or even why someone got sick and someone got better … or whatever temptation may arise within ignorance?

 

Temptation is temptation.

 

Ah.

 

The thorns of curiosity.

 

The cruelty of curiosity has never stopped the curious even despite the fact that most of the curious are not particularly good at assessing long term consequences nor are they particularly good at assessing the cost/benefit analysis.

 

In July 2016 The Scientific American magazine published an article called — Curiosity Is Not Intrinsically Good <The human drive to resolve uncertainty is so strong that people will look for answers even when it’s obvious those answers will be painful>.

 

Look.

 

Curiosity may be cruel. Curious people may suck at cost benefit analysis, assessing consequences of their curious time investment and gathering useful information versus useless information … but sometimes you have to do priorty people addicts curious businesssomething bad to do something good.

 

As with everything else in Life … the best of the curious learn to manage their addiction. They learn to balance the depth versus the breadth, the time invested versus the return on their investment and while they know that their curiosity can be cruel at times … they just learn to carry some band aids for the times they prick their fingers on the inevitable thorns.

 

I still believe we, as a society, would be a much healthier society if we handed out band aids and encouraged more curiosity rather than curb curiosity by suggesting it is most useful to ‘the dreamers.’  In fact … back in July 2010 I even suggested a “National Program to Support Childhood Curiosity” directed toward kids <with Curiosity Fulfillment teachers>. I still believe this would be a better initiative than most of the more focused, but misguided, initiatives it seems like we craft for our children these days.

 

Regardless. Curiosity can be a cruel gift … but a gift nonetheless.

 

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“To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.”

 

Isaac Newton

 

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Enlightened Conflict