Enlightened Conflict

In this time, at this place, I will be defined

February 17th, 2017

 stand for what is right i will be defined now

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“I endure.”

 

Lockhart

 

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“What we do in life will echo in eternity.”

 

Maximus (in Gladiator)

 

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There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

 

Shakespeare

 

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“The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

 

Howard Zinn

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So.

 

This topic has been on my mind for a while but I hadn’t figured out how to talk future-universe-view-space-open-thinkingabout it without being apocalyptic or overly dramatic.

 

I know it has been on my mind since Trump entered into our lives <when is the last time you had a conversation where he wasn’t mentioned?> and lately I have found myself placing tags on my posts like “enlightened reading” or “enlightened thinking” or “enlightened politics” or … well … I guess I have been thinking about enlightened a lot. But this doesn’t feel like an ‘enlightened issue.’

 

And then I had lunch with a good friend the other day and out of the blue he says “this feels like one of those times when years from now people will be asking you what you were doing … or not doing.”

 

Yeah.

 

It does.

 

This does feel like “a moment in the tide in the affairs of man.”

 

This does feel like a moment in which people will define themselves.

 

 

It does certainly feel like a time of angst. An ‘apocalypse’?  Certainly not.

 

Unrest and uneasiness and uncertainty? Absolutely yes.

take a stand america define

And, frankly, in times like these it is tempting to sit back … maybe, to be harsh, be lazy and fall back on our opinions and “what we believe” and mumble to ourselves, maybe bitch with our friends or just remain silent.

 

But this seems to be more a time … uhm … no … this is “a time” more than ever to … well … be defined.

 

Look around if you don’t believe me.

 

You can see it if you look hard enough that a shitload of people feel the same thing. You may get confused in thinking it is “whining democrats because they lost” or “establishment people afraid of losing their gravy train” or even simply “people afraid of change.”

 

It’s more than, and less than, that.

 

It’s the tide in the affairs of man.

 

And, yes, we can blame Trump for this defining moment time. But he is less relevant in this tide than you may think. He is simply riding the tide … and we are the many drops of water within the tide … the ebbs and flows and crests and furrows are ours to build and destroy.

 

Take note of what is happening.

People feel this is a defining moment.

 

I don’t care if it is Hannity who has attached himself to Trump to rise and fall with the man himself <and not an ideology>. He is all in.

 

never be silent stand up i will be definedI don’t care if it is Jake Tapper on CNN who appears to be attaching himself to truth & facts. He is all in.

 

I don’t care if it is Meryl Streep who has attached herself to celebrity moral authority. She is all in.

 

I don’t care if it is the millions who walked in a women’s march without any real reason other than it felt like they should. They want to be all in <on something>.

 

I don’t care if it is someone who fills out petitions and sends $5 to whatever organization possible. That person is all in on something.

 

I don’t care if it is a white nationalist who now attaches their feelings to real words said in public or statement clothing. That person is all in.

 

I don’t care if it is someone who has their senators on speed dial and calls them every morning during their commute to just leave a message with whatever is on their mind. That person is all in.

 

I don’t care if it is someone who attaches themselves to ‘deplorable’ without really knowing what embracing deplorable really means other than it permits them to make a statement. That person is all in.

 

I don’t care if it is someone like me … someone who hasn’t given a rat’s ass about politics up until now … who now writes pieces, posts almost every day and emails writings & thoughts to different people … from Mark Cuban to John Lewis to John Kasich … The National Review to The Guardian to CNN … hoping that someone somewhere will affect this tide of affairs of man.

 

I tend to believe we all feel the tide of affairs shifting.

And as we feel it a range of emotions surges … some excited riding the tide and many many others desperately, and helplessly, feeling like they are fighting a tide they don’t like or do not understand <and this where we see some angry people … as they feel helpless struggling in this tide of affairs>.

 

This is a defining moment.

 

And I think we all know that this moment is different.  In the past, maybe without truly consciously thinking about it, we recognize most moments actually create their definition … because, for the most part, they are all about creating something from nothing.

 

That is different than this moment.

 

In this moment, in this time and place, something is happening of which we have to create nothing … but rather shape it. And, in doing this shaping, we are actually building something within the moments we elect to stand up and define ourselves … well … building “us” … okay … maybe it is building “me or I.”

 

This moment is different because it demands that we take a whole bunch of seemingly meaningless little moments … almost unrecognizable … that have got us to where we are attitudinally, intellectually and physically … and stop and speak out in some way that will be meaningful to us for the rest of our lives.

 

And.

In this moment … I would suggest that this is not the time to define yourself by standing against something but rather standing up & for something. This is not the moment to be “anti” something but rather “pro” something.  ‘Anti’ suggests you can turn, or stem, the tide of affairs when the reality of ‘affairs of men’ would most likely suggest a tide is a tide and affairs will be affairs and by being ‘pro’ it may be possible to show which harbor the tide should enter. Don’t define by what you are against … define by what you are for.

 

That said.

now or_never_web_design_grandeI could suggest that for many of us this is a “now or never” time.

 

 

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“Sometimes there is no next time, no time-outs, no second chances; sometimes it’s now or never.”

Alan Bennett

 

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In the general tide of affairs of men there often seems to be unending line of second chances standing outside your door.

And then in the tide there comes a time when … well … you look outside one morning and all those second chances are gone to Starbucks.

 

Just gone.

 

And you are alone.

 

And you can’t play the next time card or ask the next second chance to come on in. or say … uhm … can you wait a minute? <until one of the second chances comes back from the bathroom>

 

Nope.

 

It’s now or never.

 

Life is looking right at people … right at you & me … and saying … ‘okay, what’s your call?’

speak the truth i will be defined stand up

And this is actually your judgment call and no one else’s.

 

This is your defining moment and your decision.

 

Life is not going to help you out on this one … Life isn’t going to lean in and whisper in your ear … “hey, just so you know, this is one of those no time out, no second chance, no next time moments.”

 

That is my job today.

 

My job today is to tell you what I believe is the truth … that while Life is typically extremely generous in giving time outs and second chances … this feels like a ‘now or never moment’.

 

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“attack everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which.”

 

Douglas Adams

 

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This is a daunting feeling.

 

Because while you may actually have done a gazillion things in your Life to prepare yourself for this ‘now or never moment’ … I seriously doubt anyone feels competent for this moment. It is slightly daunting to think this is a ‘now or never’ moment which will live with us for years to come.

 

Yeah.

It certainly feels slightly daunting to think that what you do will define you … for eternity.good people defined losses victories

 

Yeah.

 

On top of uncertainty or excitement or helplessness or a feeling of freedom to do & say what you have always wanted to do & say you are being asked to choose how you want to be defined.

 

The kind of thought that makes us think about choices and what we elect to do … because … well .., what we do echoes in eternity.

 

The Gladiator quote was perfect … it suggests that the way we live … and what we choose to do … not only affects our present … but also determines our eternity.

He suggests what we do in the present will affect not who we are and what will happen but also our future … beyond death.

 

He suggests that you … well … matter.

 

That your thoughts matter.

That your choices matter.

That your actions matter.

 

And not only within this moment.

But in the moments which end up in eternity.

 

Your life matters. What you do is up to you, but your life matters to the degree that you choose it to matter. Life means something … especially if you defiantly define who and what you are.

defy word defiance

Defiance is not easy.

 

It is much much easier to not push back, to not push yourself forward, but go along for the ride … wishing it were better than it seems to be.

 

 

Defiance is a choice.

 

And, I would remind everyone, that choice defines destiny … not chance.

 

If you are defiant, and push back, you are more likely to control the destiny of … well … your definition and how you will be defined.

 

And that is what today’s world feel like. a moment to be defined. A moment to be defiant with regard to who you are, what you believe and what you stand for.

It feels like you cannot be silent … and you have to choose.

 

Now.

I purposefully have tied “I will be defined” with an attitude … one of defiance.

I do so because of … well … Trump.

He has far too often been called a ‘disruptor.’ In businesses a disruptor is not one who creates & encourages chaos but rather one who ‘overturns conventional wisdom’ to take what exists and reshape it into a new way of doing things. A true disruptor envisions what can be <let’s call this ‘a plan’> and dismantles only that which encumbers in the here & now to enable the “what will be.” In the business world Trump is more often called ‘an agent of chaos.’ He is one of those managers who cannot tell the difference between chaos & doing — they are of equal in his mind. He holds up doing as proof of his value. A true disruptor holds up ‘what can be’ as proof of value.   Calling him a disruptor is an insult to the true disruptors.

 

This means, even more than ever, those who choose to stand in this time & place and define themselves will have to be defiant.

 

Defiance is standing still, standing strong, speaking out … amidst chaos.

This will not be about the one, or ones, who speak the loudest but the ones who speak the smartest and steadfastly. This will be about the ones who defiantly stand in the face of chaos and stubbornly defend what they believe and what is right.

And, in doing so, the country will be defined by who and what we coalesce around. The fragments <which are what some people will call “divisions”> will cluster until the cluster of that which is the country itself has spoken and defined itself. As a country … it is false to suggest we are divided … we are fragmented. There is a huge difference between those two thoughts. And it is actually within that difference in which Hope for something better resides.

 

Yes.

In this time, at this place, I do believe this country will be defined. And it will be defined by those who not just endure the moment, the tide of affairs of man, but rather the ones who stand up and say “this is how we will endure.”

 

You may be angry, you may feel helpless, you may feel excited … but whatever you feel it is because you are caught up in a unique tide in the affairs of man … i will be defined stand up speak outand you will be defined not because you endured but rather by how you endured.

 

My friend was right. This is a “moment.”

 

We will look back in time at this ‘moment’ and you will be defined by what you did do … or didn’t do.

 

Me? I have made my decision. In this time, at this place, I will be defined.

 

advertising and politics and what you have to say matters

February 6th, 2017

insights people

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“You aren’t advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade.”

 

David Ogilvy

 

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“One can resist the invasion of an army but one cannot resist the invasion of ideas.”

 

Victor Hugo

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“The pursuit of excellence is less profitable than the pursuit of bigness, but it can be more satisfying.”

 

 

David Ogilvy

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So.

 

attitude foreign life adventure

 

Today there will be an onslaught of reviews, assessments and critiques of all the ads seen during the Super Bowl. You will not find one here today … or tomorrow … or any day for that matter.

 

Instead I want to take a moment and comment on business responsibility and their choices with regard to what they say, or do not say, in advertising.

 

I do so because in today’s heightened sense of politicism and divisive rhetoric a shitload of people are making noise about “advertising should honor the event and not use it to make a political statement.”

 

I am most likely in the minority within the marketing community on this issue but … that is nuts to me.

 

Uhm.

If not then … then when?

 

Uhm.

If not me … then who?

 

Yeah.

 

I fully understand  there are consequences & repercussions for your actions.

 

 

But let me take a couple minute to talk about the ‘actions’ part. Far too often this discussion devolves into a simplistic binary choice – an ‘either/or’ choice.

 

You stand for this therefore you hate that. business ethics direction good bad choice

 

 

In other words you cannot be pro-choice and yet respectful or understanding of pro-life … you cannot desire stronger immigration rules and still be accepting of immigrants … you cannot believe in your religion and still accept that how others worship is good & worthy.

 

Let’s face it.

 

Life, in most cases , is not some simplistic binary choice. You can, and should, believe in something and yet still can, and should, be accepting and respectful of others views. To be clear … to be successful in this endeavor we would not only need to embrace respect but also assume that most people, let’s say maybe 99% of people, do the best they can and make the best decisions they can <no matter how flawed those decisions may look in our eyes>.

 

Which leads me back to business and advertising.

 

I believe advertising, in general, should always seek to highlight the opportunity for us to see the better, or best, version of who and what we are.

 

And that is where I believe business marketing and advertising should not fear speaking out. And … I would point out … what I am suggesting is not political nor is it divisive but rather it is contributing to a better society.

 

It is not stating what you believe is wrong … but rather that standing up and speaking out for what you believe is right. Companies make statements all the time. Maybe they do more vocally internally but part of any good organization is a sense of what they believe is right, versus wrong, and how they may define integrity & values.

 

Frankly. We need more companies standing up and vocalizing this publicly.

This is not about saying “you are wrong for believing this” or “we do not agree with you” but rather more about normalizing what is right.

 

I talk with a shitload of business people … not about advertising or marketing per se … but rather about simply being successful in the marketplace.

 

we and you want the whole pie 2

 

I focus on distinction and not differentiation.

 

 

I focus on worrying about “me” and what I want to say rather than finding some elusive, and most likely nonexistent, ‘white space’ in some industry to shape what I ‘should say.’

 

 

I focus on saying the right things and doing it the right way and suggesting that if you tell people the right way to think about things that eventually people will see you as ‘right’ rather than ‘wrong.’

we and you want the whole pie 1

 

Look.

This is not about free speech or any political motivation, per se, but it is about how business, and work life, is an important part of the societal fabric of who and what we are and how and what we think.

 

This also means a business has to slide around the infamous ‘political correctness’ obstacle.

In my eyes … if you want to discuss how political correctness has gone awry … it would be in the business world. Political correctness scared businesses from assuming a role they had gladly played in the past.

It wasn’t too long ago that business played a significant role in shaping society. As Peter Drucker pointed out, back in the early 1990’s, something he discussed called “no more salvation by society” … a time in which businesses understood that work made up a significant portion of people’s lives and therefore they had some responsibility to investing in the fabric of society. As time and views have shifted toward ‘making a dollar’ and profits … the work place became less and less an extension of society but rather simply ‘a place to work and gain a paycheck’.

 

What an empty thought that is.

 

So empty that when meetings occurred to discuss ‘risk in their advertising’, and ‘what should we say’, was discussed … ‘social responsibility’ sat in the corner and had nothing to defend it … and businesses became afraid to make a stand on what they believed was good for society <and simply focused on ‘brand differentiation’ and ‘branding’ … in other words … I am gonna just worry about me and let you worry about you>.

 

Well.

 

This is not only sad … but wrong.

 

Our work lives, like it or not, represent a significant portion of our lives … not just in terms of sheer hours but also in terms of thinking we are exposed to, accepted behavior and general attitudes on what is right & what is wrong.fix society

 

For a business to avoid that ‘fabric of society’ responsibility is shameful.

 

And … yeah … advertising is the most visible expression should they actually accept the responsibility.

 

Ok.

 

Yeah.

 

That said. I go back to the beginning … yeah … there are absolutely consequences for your actions. But that is what business positioning is really all about. Distinctness and forcing people to think … think about you as a company, think about what you are offering … and thinking about how they feel about you, your message … and themselves.

That is what business positioning and marketing and advertising, at its core, is all about. We far too often dumb it down into some ‘selling shit’ sound bite but … well … that is dumb.

 

Yes.

I know.

 

People will debate with me and, to be fair, this whole discussion wanders along the razor thin line of inclusionary versus exclusionary. If your message is effective, concise and clear, it will absolutely be inclusionary for those who see themselves in what you have to say and offer … and potentially exclusionary to others at exactly the same time.

 

However, when done well, a business’s advertising captures the brand’s distinctness <which is a campfire to those who want to be included> and offers a better version of people <so that people do not dislike you … they imply think ‘they are not for me’>.

 

better version think road path society

 

But to do what I am suggesting a business has to set political correctness off to the side, not think about politics at all … and simply think about … well … people. The people who they desire to try their products and services and how they would like to showcase those people as the best version of themselves. Maybe show them the destination mentally or maybe even share the path. It doesn’t matter … it is intended to connect with some better version that resides in everyone of us.

 

And then after thinking about all that … they have to place the burden of responsibility upon their shoulders, open the door and stride out into the world to share it with people.

 

Yes.

In business we have a responsibility.

 

Yes.

Even in the advertising and marketing business there is an almost overwhelming responsibility <which far too many people are not willing to accept this burden> beyond simply selling stuff.

 

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“All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society.

We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.”

 

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Bill Bernbach

 small big matters tweak

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“We are so busy measuring public opinion that we forget we can mold it.

We are so busy listening to statistics we forget we can create them.”

 

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Bill Bernbach

 

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It is a much easier burden to simply focus on profit and dollars — it is a straightforward black & white responsibility.

Well.

I would suggest to any business person reading this that … well … responsibility is responsibility. All responsibility is only as overwhelming or ‘whelming’ a you make it.

 

And if you do not accept your responsibility to tell the truth as excitingly and convincingly as you possibly can … lies will win … and society will end up being shaped that way.

 

If you choose to vulgarize the society or brutalize it … or even ignore it <all under the guise of ‘understanding what the consumer wants’> … society will lose.

 

To be clear.

 

I do not despair when I look at business in today’s world … or even marketing & advertising behavior. And, I will admit, I was heartened by some of the ads I saw aired on the Super Bowl.

 

But I do get aggravated.

 

Ok.

No.

 

I get angry.

 

I get angry that we are not accepting the responsibility.

 

I get angry that we are not strong enough to accept the burden.

 

I get angry that many do not even presume the responsibility is within their purview.

 

Business, whether you like it or not, shapes society.

 

matters do hugh 1What we do matters.

 

Selling stuff may matter to our bottom line and the existence of our business but we cannot ignore that a thriving business actually contributes to a greater good — the existence of a healthy society.

 

 

I could argue that while selling stuff is important that what really matters is the shaping of attitudes <which ultimately shapes behavior>.

 

Far too often, by simply focusing on ‘selling stuff’, the byproduct of our ignoring the larger responsibility is that we end up brutalizing society in some form or fashion.

 

Am I suggesting that selling stuff or being profitable isn’t important? Of course not.

 

All I am suggesting is that how you sell stuff and be profitable matters.

 

And that you have a responsibility in how you do what you do.

 

Because how you do things impacts society.

 

It shapes society. It can vulgarize or brutalize … or invigorate and instill good.

 

How you do things has a power way beyond simply you or what you do in that moment.

 

How you do things is a pebble dropping into a pond.

 

 

Accepting the responsibility assumes you are neither impotent nor harmless.

 

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“Advertising is far from impotent or harmless; it is not a mere mirror image. Its power is real, and on the brink of a great increase. Not the power to brainwash overnight, but the power to create subtle and real change.

The power to prevail.”

 

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Eric Clark, The Want Makers: Inside the World of Advertising, 1988

 

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Your responsibility in business is sometimes subtle … but always real.

 

I worry that business people everywhere, but in particular advertising & marketing, have become so focused on getting shit done and ‘attaining the bottom line’ that they have forgotten the responsibility.

 

I worry that business people worry so much about politics and ‘political correctness’ they have forgotten that when good people remain silent … the only one who wins is bad.

 

I ask everyone visiting today to think about what the thinking I offered today.

 

This isn’t about causes.

 

This isn’t about social responsibility <or the welfare of people>.

 

This is about understanding that what you do impacts people.

 

This is about whether you, as business people, accept the burden of responsibility to help shape a society which is a reflection of the best versions of who and what we are.

 

Well.

lift society vulgarize or shape

That is my “Super Bowl advertising review” thought piece.

 

In my eyes … if I am going to spend $5 million on some advertisement and place my ad on some show where a gazillion people will see it … I am going to use my moment in the spotlight to aim for the  best version of myself that I can. And aim to help people see the best version that they can be.

 

Will that piss some people off? Sure.

Does that make me wrong to try and meet that objective? No.

 

Silence is not an option. When you have the podium and he opportunity to speak … you accept the burden of responsibility and try and ‘lift society to a higher level.’

Enlightened Conflict