Enlightened Conflict

the difference between breaking a rule and breaking a stupid rule

May 31st, 2015

breaking rules Hagy


“The world is full of rules. Be the exception.”



“To every rule there is an exception—and an idiot ready to demonstrate it. “

Vera Nazarian


“Any fool can make a rule

And any fool will mind it.”

Henry David Thoreau





This is a business thought.


This is about rules, breaking rules … and how tricky it can be to communicate a thought well in advertising.

thin line business


Suffice it to say professional communications is always about walking the thin line of connecting with your audience thru visuals & words … and teetering over into the abyss of ‘just missed.’

Professional communicators are paid dearly to be smart enough to discern the difference between things like a ‘break the rules attitude’ <which is burdened by rebellious irresponsibility> and a ‘break stupid rules attitude’ <which is often an attribute and precursor to ‘someone who gets good shit done’>.






It is sometimes a very very thin line and sometimes bad shit happens even with good intentions.





And this is a HUGE but.



Professional communicators, PR people & advertising people & marketing people, get paid to walk the line and walk it well.



So when someone does something stupid you have to scratch your head and wonder how the hell something like that happens.



To be clear.


This is different than simply doing bad advertising.


This is different in that it is more a reflection of bad thinking … or … let’s call it misguided execution of what was probably a good idea <once>.



I would imagine the intent was correct.



I envision business people eating M&M’s sitting in a room discussing strategy and someone saying something like “people who drive our car are the ones who are not comfortable being a sheep in society … and try raising their family to think for themselves” … which is a nice thought.



And someone else said … “lets figure out how to show everyone they aren’t sheep and just do what everyone tells them to do.”



And then some brain dead person said … “they don’t follow rules.”



Dohtrain going off

<insert mental image of train going off the tracks>




I saw an Audi TV commercial that made me think of this.



Well crafted.


Kind of humorous <using some excellent hyperbole>.


Beautiful photography <as you would expect from a car manufacturer>.
And then … oops … it teeters off that fine line into ‘missed.’




One young boy with the gumption to challenge the very fabric of our society has cannonballed into a pool less than an hour after eating.

The world is full of rules, break them, challenge those in charge, and drive an Audi.

Audi TV Spot ‘Swim':









I did not have a visceral response like this when I saw it:



“I just saw the commercial twice.

Thank you Audi for undermining everything we need in society. Rules. Now you should try to teach this kid in class when the parents helps undermine the process too.

It’s called ethics. Try it sometime. No Audi for me.”


Steve Nordwick



Hugh's Missing the Point

Hugh’s Missing the Point

But I did say “shit, they missed the mark with this.”



I clearly understand what they were trying to do and say.


It was tongue in cheek.



They clearly tried to use an old wives tale ‘rule’ to make a point.


It was hyperbole.



But … well … there is a huge difference between breaking rules and having the attitude to eye rules with some question rather than blindly following them.



And that is where they miss.



They want people who don’t simply follow rules like a sheep but rather look at rules with a discerning eye of ‘stupid or smart.’



And maybe that is where they truly miss the mark.






Smart people don’t encourage breaking rules.

Smart people encourage breaking stupid rules.


SmartBaby answer

Smart people don’t break rules for the sake of breaking rules.

Smart people assess rules and break them when appropriate.



I am not sure I like the message which suggests kids should not only ignore a safety rule but ignore an authority figure.



And I absolutely do struggle with depicting a parent who seemingly venerates and applauds a child flaunting not only rules but figures of authority <even a lifeguard has some responsibility and authority>.



I worry a little about its misguided judgement all within a ‘creating an entertaining commercial’ construct.







I do believe you can encourage individualism in some other way than ‘The world is full of rules. Be the exception.’





I KNOW you can encourage individualism and ‘smart behavior choice even in the face of rules.’





I’m sure I am over thinking this but valuing some sense of order thru rules … and personal accountability toward rules … is kind of what makes civilization run.



And I feel like this communications goes beyond just breaking the rules … the parent is teaching him to disrespect rules <and smart rule breakers respect rules but recognize stupid rules>.



And more disrespect?



While I am clearly in over thinking mode … the pool is not theirs … it is a rules followingcommunity pool with a lifeguard … which means it comes with some choice to assume some personal accountability within society guidelines if they elect to use the pool … which then assumes they are respectful of the rules, obey the rules posted by those who grant them the privilege to use the pool.



Yeah yeah yeah … that is overthink.


But … and this is a big BUT … I have written a number of times that advertising and marketing can affect behavior and attitudes. And if I truly believe that <which I do> then even some of the smallest things should be eyed with ‘responsibility’ in mind.




Look <part 1>.



Some rules are good.


And rules intended to keep a child safe <even if it is a stupid rule> is good.



Telling a child that it is good to break the rules, no matter how seemingly small or stupid, suggests a bad lesson to a child.




Look <part 2>.



Beyond society … in business I know breaking stupid rules is sometimes necessary to get things done.



Excellent effective leadership actually seems to come with an unwritten responsibility to cut through rules that act as barriers to achieving what needs to be done <for the overall betterment of the organization>. I could argue that truly great leaders get where they are because they can do exactly that … legally of course, when the rules tell us otherwise.


Some people call this cutting through the red tape.


I call it the ability to weave your way thru the organizational bullshit and get shit done.



I can guarantee that if you look throughout any successful organization you will always find some ‘smart’ rule breakers who work diligently to overcome or circumvent the rules, regulations, and policies that unintentionally hinder progress and make it difficult to accomplish shit that needs to be done.






I mention that because creative people sometimes get mixed up between what they see in a business environment and what happens in Life environment. Lie isn’t always a Dilbert scene and Life SHOULDN’T always translate from some rules everyday existencebusiness perspective.



The mom in the commercial may be one of those professional ‘break stupid rules smartly’ people … but ‘managing’ her child takes a different skill.



A professional communicator should recognize that.






Close … but they missed the mark.


April 17th, 2015

clumsy embarrass

“Are you referring to the fact that you can’t walk across a flat, stable surface without finding something to trip over?”

Stephenie Meyer






This morning I cruised thru the sports news to see my undergraduate alma mater, USC, had just won the conference women’s tennis championship beating the ever hated UCLA <fight on!>.



And they broke the trophy.





oops trophy




They dropped the trophy … and it shattered.



This made me think about all those wacky trophy ceremonies at the end of the championship games & events where they ask someone to pick up some huge incredibly unwieldy trophy and why they are not dropped more often.






It happens.



In fact … it reminded me of my “Oops. Clumsy me. Uh oh. That was a $50 million stumble. Do I tell mom?” post: http://brucemctague.com/oops-clumsy-me-uh-oh-that-was-a-50-million-stumble-do-i-tell-mom



And while the USC women’s tennis team is kind of funny … this one is hilarious.



In soccer … Real Madrid won the Spanish Cup but the celebrations went awry when Sergio Ramos dropped the trophy <oops part 1> from the roof of an open topped bus … and then the bus frickin’ ran it over <oops part 2>.



Bus running over trophy:





This one may be even better.



While on a recruiting trip at University of Florida the recruit knocked Florida’s 2006 national championship crystal football from its pedestal.





By the way … the recruit did not go to Florida.
By the way … the Waterford Crystal trophy is worth something like $30,000.



And in 2012 Alabama’s crystal national title trophy was shattered … oops … when the father of an Alabama player accidentally knocked the trophy over when he stumbled on a rug that was under the trophy display.



<oops … bring out the broom and dust pan>



I love this shit.


I wish it would happen more often.



I am sure trophies & awards are of value in some way but in general they seem inordinately exorbitant and useless.


clumsy trip

All I know is that after watching the Stays in Las Vegas commercial maybe it does have some use:

Las Vegas:


things people don’t say

March 20th, 2015

easy hard said

“I want to write a novel about Silence,” he said; “the things people don’t say.”


Virginia Woolf


“I don’t broadcast every high & I don’t hide every low.

I’m trying to live.

I’m not trying to convince the world I have life.”




“Her eyes were rimmed with long nights and things she wishes she had said.”


Flowers In Bone Cages


“Humans are easy to read, because what they’re not saying speaks volumes.”


Joel T. McGrath









words know what to say

This is not about things ‘not said’ … that would be about regrets and missed moments and shit like that … this is about selective silence.



When we select, or elect, to be silent … and the choice, and choices, we make with regard to ‘silent.’



In general I think we respect people of few words. We think of them as thoughtful and good listeners.







When I enjoy the company of those who do not say much … I wonder what battle is going on inside their heads.



And, no, not the battle to keep from speaking <those are different type of people>.



This is the battle of thoughts.



The battle that rages between all the words spoken and those not spoken … clashing to create a myriad of thoughts.




This is all about the words you finally debate in your mind on whether they are worth sharing or simply meant to be shelved somewhere in your mind or even discarded as junk.




This is all about the words which scream at the top of their lungs… but are not heard except in the head.




This is all about the words you smother because … well … some words are not meant to be spoken.



“Some of the greatest battles will be fought within the silent chambers of your own soul.”


Erza Taft Benson

 start somewhere words


The mind can be a wonderful, and terrible, place. Within the best minds resides a tug of war where even words themselves stand at each end staring at each other pulling as hard as they can.



Use this word.




Use THIS word.



And while those of us looking on who cannot see the battle inside sit & wait … we often think of the moment as a deliberate use of silent ‘space and time.’


Deliberately using silence to prompt those of us around to go further in thought.



Silly silly us.


Inside the silent resides the war.



I imagine at the essence of what I am discussing is my belief most people are not flippant with regard to how they use their words <I say this despite the fact we watch blathering mouths scattering words like confetti around a room>.



I do tend to believe most people speak with Salvatore Quasimodo in mind:




In my voice

there is at least a sign

of living geometry

the words of life

I have never understood



What make the battle more difficult is … well … the world around us.


It sometimes seems like the world is structurally hostile to nuance.



Subtlety doesn’t seem to be very effective these days.


The internet amplifies and facilitates a sense that we should think the worst of people <even ones we have never met> and to ignore any facts or context that may potentially eliminate the doubt or uncertainty.



Truth always seems just out of reach and yet being called a liar always seems close at hand.



People aren’t, in general, stupid.



Everyone knows how it works.



Refusing to speak means avoiding the fact that as soon as the words are spoken they begin winging their way across social media … where they inevitably seem to end up mutating into something simplistic and inflammatory therefore overshadowing not only anything else you may say … but also what you may have really said <or meant to say>.



words there are noThis all leads to self-censorship and calculated blandness.



This all leads to the ‘should I speak’ battle inside the head raging even longer … where neither side wins. It remains a stalemate … and only silence wins.




“… had their ideology combed over, examined, misinterpreted, rewritten and kicked to death a hundred times.

Talk about breaking a butterfly on a wheel.”


Steven Wells




What happens when people become fearful of saying anything that might be misconstrued is that they … well … remain silent <when they SHOULD say something>.


And while it would be easy for me to say that the words you stop yourself from saying are the ones that will haunt you the longest … I also think most people really know this.



What is more difficult for us to maybe grasp is that the words they <other people> stop themselves from saying are actually the ones that will haunt us the longest.





I feel relatively confident suggesting that in today’s world the battle inside the head for what to say versus what not to say most often ends up in a place where silence wins because … well … that is why there seem to be so many more writers in today’s world.

And I mean writers as in diaries, blogs, tumblr, pinterest, any form of a journal or scribblings or words that capture what you may want to say … just not verbally out loud.


Words can battle on the page.


Words seem quieter on paper.


Words seem like they may go unnoticed <which a part of us actually wants>.




“I am much better on paper.”


Jared M.


right words some day simple





The best minds are very careful in what they say and do not say.



The best minds have some of the greatest battles <we will never see>.



Let’s be sure the best minds don’t let silence win those battles.

accuracy of silence

February 4th, 2015



lie in silence sand 2

“Silence is so accurate. “


Mark Rothko


“Every word has consequences.

Every silence, too. “


Jean Paul Sartre


Why are we embarrassed by silence?

What comfort do we find in all the noise?


Tuesdays with Morrie











There is certainly something good to be said about silence.

Many things in fact.





In particular … being comfortable communicating with silence.



This comfort, if we ever truly find it, is borne from a struggle. I say that because I believe many of us … reflecting upon our spoken output … struggle with warring impulses to speak up and shut up.



To me?



The whole warring impulses revolves around accuracy.



We rue the inaccuracy of the words we use <words we say>.

We endlessly worry about the potential inaccuracy of what will occur if we are silent <words we do not say>.



To be clear.



I love silence.



Particularly in business <as I have written about before>.



< http://brucemctague.com/silence-speak >




Regardless of business … or Life … to me silence defines accuracy in communication.



It is within the space of silence that lies get opened up and bleed to death … and truth is able to step to the forefront.


quiet confidence


It is where the quiet of confidence stifles the screaming of obvious insecurity.



It is where, in business, the best are able to comfortably sit and the ‘not so best’ line up to be the first to speak … regardless of whether it makes any sense or not.




In business we seem to be teaching rushing from one thing to another like organized chickens with our proverbial heads cut off.

That translates into less real listening and a focus on ‘effective communication’ <which kind of implies ‘listen to me’>.

What kind of future leaders do we believe we are developing if we are not teaching them the value of being a good listener.

I tend to believe I am comfortable with silence is because I believe the teller has no responsibility to make the listener believe in the truth.

<source: me>




noise silence




There is certainly a balance between what you say versus when you are silent.


This thought I am suggesting seems centered on the thought “I believe a speaker has absolutely no responsibility to explain or defend.”


That may seem illogical but I believe at the core of this whole accuracy thing is that each person must take the words you have spoken … and make them their own.


And I believe no one can do that for another.



I imagine a part of what I am discussing is silence after speaking. And here is the courage part – trusting in your words and how they may inspire others to think <and react>.






This may actually be one of the times when I believe I am different than many other people.


I sense most people do not believe the thought I shared.




I sense this because I hear so many people constantly defending and explaining … and … well … using a shitload of words to make their words sink in or bludgeon other people into understanding or believing <I imagine with the intent to make the listener take the words you have spoken … and make them their own – in some way>.



But … in fact … silence can make a listener well … think.



But … in fact … silence also permits the speaker to … well … think.





A double positive.



In fact … it is kind of an eloquent use of time.



I purposefully used eloquence because I believe far too often these days we bludgeon with words, behavior and energy.


Everything seems to revolve around who can shout the loudest or be the first or some bombastic behavior.




Speaking, and silence, is an art.



And I tend to believe we forget this.




“The withheld work of art is the only eloquence left.”

letters to myself envelopeDon DeLillo




Withholding words is a version of eloquence.



Letting people have time to think is a version of eloquence.



It is just a version of eloquence to understand that thought, or an idea, is crafted, or created, in one’s mind.



And to be a little philosophical … thought, an idea, is art <I say that because sharing an idea you have is the closest us normal schlubs ever experience to what an artist feels like when they share something they have created>.




As a corollary I would point out that people have a tendency to create images they like as they think … not images they don’t like.




Therefore <part 1>.


If silence allows someone to create their own image they have a likelihood to LIKE what they think.




Therefore <part 2>.


This suggests to really listen to someone you have to be interested in the images people may be trying to hide in their mind.


truth speak







I would imagine, as with everything, silence is about balance.



I say that because silence should be used wisely. Because you cannot remain silent all the time. even in a sparse environment there has to be enough to fill in some key spaces.



More importantly?



Words represent thoughts <or, at least, they are supposed to>.
If you don’t use some words you will end up getting buried in your own thoughts.






“I didn’t know you could get buried in your own silence.”




Jandy Nelson






And this is where the balance occurs … because if you are too silent too often you can get buried in all the things never said.


I say that because silence, when wielded well, creates accuracy.






But only if you point it out <which means you have to speak>.
So maybe it silence is all about deliberately holding silent ‘space and time’ for longer so that it prompts others to go further in thought.



I try and keep the balance simple in my own head … “don’t fill empty space simply because it is empty.”



I try and remind myself that within the empty space … things, not wrought with my own hands … or mouth, will be built.



I try and listen, and see, the things that fill the space before, and after, the empty space.



I try and seek what is found within the silence.



Back in 2010 I wrote this about silence:





In a non-stop world, we have become non-stop speakers.

For this reason alone, silence is a powerful tool.

Think about beginning a presentation with silence.

silence is better

It takes courage.

But it gives your audience time to breathe as well.

We live in a crazy world where silence is not easy to find.

And, frankly, it’s just not that easy to use either.

Silence. Don’t shun silence.

Silence. Embrace it.






Silence is not an easy tool to use.


Silence takes courage.



I worry that silence has become a lost art.



I worry that silence, or remaining selectively quiet, is often confused with ‘lack of involvement’ … or worse … ‘lack of interest.silence words nothing



I worry that those with the courage to use silence with purposeful intent seeking accuracy & truth are becoming a dying breed.




In the end.



All I can say is that as you look around you and notice the silent, the few who purposefully wield silence as communication, remember … they may be seeing more in the empty space than what is not apparent.


“I was quiet but I wasn’t blind.”




everyday sort of magic

August 26th, 2014

magic make




“I do believe in an every day sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”


Charles de Lint








I guess in some way I must be an impractical non-pragmatic dreamer type <despite anything I may have said about myself I the past> because I loved this quote as soon as I saw it.




I do believe in an everyday sort of magic.



I do believe that despite the everyday Life grind we encounter a little magic in our lives … every day.




I do believe more of us should see this … or maybe take a moment and recognize this.




I do believe we ignore the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity too easily <and too often>.



I do believe we need to embrace hope just a little bit more often <on more days>.



moment insightI do believe magic can be found in stars and rainbows <which we should take a moment and enjoy more often>.







In the end … I tend to believe we should seek some magic, more often, in simple seemingly meaningless moments and silent random encounters with people.



I do believe that no matter how alone, or lonely, you may feel there is always someone somewhere who, while may not be thinking about you at that moment, is willing and wants to think about you <and isn’t all that matters?>.



Does this make me some sort of dreamer?





moment beautiful

I don’t know.



All I know is that I am someone who believes in everyday sort of magic.


Enlightened Conflict