Enlightened Conflict

all sins are attempts to fill voids

February 26th, 2017

dog bacon thoughts desires

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“I desire the things which will destroy me in the end.”

 

—-

Sylvia Plath

 

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“All sins are attempts to fill voids.”

 

—-

Simone Weil

 

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Well.

stop trying to convince

 

We all know at least one person who is always trying too hard.

Or maybe they always seem to be overcompensating for something.

Or even that they know they are ‘not as good as’ and spend far too much time trying to convince everyone they are at least better than maybe we know they are at something.

 

We like these people because we like the overall sense that someone is dissatisfied with the present person and seeking a better person.

 

We don’t like these people because we don’t like the overall sense of desperation and the trappings that often come with it.

 

We look at these people and … well … we think about ourselves and the crazy shit we do.

 

Let’s face it … Life makes us do a lot of crazy shit.

 

Okay.

 

It doesn’t actually “make” us … just full-throatedly encourages us to do some crazy shit.

 

It does so because it makes us desire  a shitload of things that can chip away at the better version of ourselves. And by better version I don’t mean external stuff but internal stuff … soul, integrity & character. But life has a nasty habit of encouraging us to think more about external stuff than internal stuff.

 

The size of your bank account.braver he who overcomes own desire achievment soul how winning victory

 

How you look and what you wear and whether you sport Gap or Brooks Brothers.

 

The size of your house and whether you have gold drapes or Pier1 window hangings.

 

This kind of crap can screw you up let alone destroy you.

You can get so caught up in what Life is whispering in your ear as what is important … well … over time that is all you can hear and see.

 

Life becomes almost a parody of itself.

 

‘Less is more’ becomes the mantra of everything but you personally where ‘more’ just seems to look less & less. Life can twist you into a pretzel trying to match up with all the external trappings of what it suggests you should desire.

And as you get twisted all it really does is squeeze out character & integrity & principles drop by drop as Life twists harder and harder.

 

And as you get this squeezed out of you … you will naturally get thirsty. Therein lies the big Life choice … what do you drink?

 

What do I mean?

 

Remember that kid you knew growing up who was always the bully, always the exaggerator, always the one trying so hard to show everyone how great they were … at some point they realize that they are thirsty.

Either thirsty for more or thirsty for what is getting squeezed out of them.

And don’t think Life is standing by silently.  All the while Life will whisper sweet nothings in that kid’s ear telling them what to drink to stay on their path to a ‘better person’ <and it is most likely the sweetest, least healthy alternative>.

 

Look.

 

At some point we all get thirsty … even that young bully … and your Life gets energized by what you drink <and I could suggest you get addicted to what you drink at a fairly early age>.

 

 

always more and more life desireThat said.

 

What I do know is that almost all of us end up being constantly nudged to believe we neither have enough nor are we enough.

 

And it is within those ‘not enough’ spaces, the voids if you wish to call them, in which we commit our sins.

 

We commit our sins most often as we overreach.

 

Okay.

We are tempted to overreach … in our words, our resumes, our successes, even our recaps of our ‘what we did today’ lists.

 

Some overreach more than others. But we all get tempted. And, just as I noted above, it is explainable and understandable. When Life is trying to constantly tell you ‘not enough’ you will constantly be trying to showcase ‘more than enough.’

That is a natural response.

 

And this is where people separate themselves into two basic generalized groups … those who define how they matter <enough> by an internal balance sheet versus those who define how they matter <enough> by an external balance sheet.

I am not suggesting it has to be 100%, internal or external, because most of us figure out how to commit a few ‘sins’ as possible and try and manage what they desire in a way they don’t ultimately get destroyed by their desires. Most of us figure out our ‘best version’ is pretty good … maybe less than some but more than others.

 

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“And so we all matter – maybe less than a lot, but always more than some.”

—–

John Green

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not good enough trying

But some people truly do end up in the 100% column.

 

It is quite possible someone like the Pope is close to the internal 100% judgement … but I imagine a lot of people actually slide close to this Life self-framing. It comes with some external expenses but a shitload of people are willing to sacrifice those things because they know the gold curtains fade, the money can be lost and the houses can burn down. External trappings can only provide so much comfort.

 

On the end of the spectrum are the … well … hollow people. They look glitzy. They sound confident <if not arrogant or blowhards>. They have all the trappings of success. But their sacrifice is whatever internal compass that can guide goodness or true fairness as well as empathy & compassion.

They have sacrificed counting internal cues … because external cues are all that count.  All the while they are trying too hard, seem to be overcompensating for something and … well … spending a shitload of time trying to convince everyone they are at least better than maybe we know they are at something.

 

All that said.

 

We all know at least one person who is always trying too hard.

 

This is the person who desires the things which will destroy me in the end.trying human being

This is the person whose sins are attempts to fill voids.

 

This is the person we know … wish we could change … but is quite possibly the most unchangeable person we know.

 

We all have voids.

We just need to be very very careful that what we fill that void with doesn’t destroy us in the end.

wonder how the same thing can be both

February 7th, 2017

good bad best worst think do life be

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“I’m always finding humans at their best and worst.

I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.”

 

————–

Death

<in “The Book Thief”>

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So.

 

This quote is said by Death.

 

Yeah.

Death is suggesting he considers humans beautiful … as well as everything else that we are … all the while resting comfortably in his chair awaiting the opportunity to end it all.

 

We all know we're going to die, but it's one of the few human experiences we don't like talking about. How can we change that?

I admit.

 

The thought seems slightly counter-intuitive, but I like thinking the thought that Death is a lot more complicated than we may think.

 

I like thinking that Death sees us … and assesses us … and maybe even judges us a little … as not one-dimensional things to say ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down.’

 

I like thinking of death as not some grim reaper but rather a thoughtful person who has a job to do. One who contemplates the fact that some days will be good and some days just won’t be so fun.

 

I like thinking of Death One who can see the best and worst … acknowledging that good things can happen to bad people and bad things can happen to good people.

 

And, I imagine, I like thinking of Death as … well … intelligent and not simply some mindless executioner wandering about seeking his next victim.

 

For sure this quote reminded me of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quote about intelligence:

 

“The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

 

 

I believe it was Keats who called this ‘negative capability.’

 

best worst faces life people good badAs he explained <or tried to > “it is when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.”

 

In other words … you understand, or least come to grips with, that there is a shitload of inconsistency and uncertainty in Life and, yet, you deal with it and do what you need to do.

 

<that’s my translation>

 

The truth in Life is that we really don’t have to be one thing because you’re not another thing – or not be something if you are something <you get it>.

 

It may seem impossible to appear to be a contradiction and, yet, be quite a successful, happy, productive bundle of contradictions.

 

Not only do you not have to be one thing forever but you can actually be a couple of things now … at the same time … in this time & place.

 

I sometime believe individual happiness is found more often than not in our ‘negative capability’ intelligence. In other words … how smartly we can navigate the contradictions in Life as well as the contradiction of what is within who & what we are. If we don’t learn negative capability then we must seem to inevitably seek to isolate being one thing and one thing only as a judge of whether we are living Life well, productively and with focus.

 

And maybe that is why I believe Death was, and is, intelligent — it has mastered negative capability. Death has embraced the contradiction of being one thing and yet living another seemingly contradictory idea.

If Death can see beauty in that which it will inevitably have to end with its own hand surely we can see good in bad … as well as be both bad & good ourselves.

 

Regardless.

 

It seems like there is a lesson in here for all of us. And maybe the lesson is, unfortunately, not that simple.

 

Death looks, on the surface, as one thing … and yet … is most likely another.

 

Death does one thing … and yet … most likely thinks many other things.

 

We view Death as one thing and avoid him … and yet … should we meet him on the street on his way to meet someone other than us … he may greet us with a smile.

 

While Death’s perception challenge  is actually called “affective fallacy” <confusion between what it is and what it does> this is a challenge we all face in Life.

 

I imagine, in the end, the lesson is a simple one … sometimes Life just isn’t that simple.

 

Ok.

 

Ditch the ‘sometimes.’best worst good bad life complicated

 

Life is never that simple.

 

We are more than one thing … we are a sum of all our parts … we are part of everyone we have met <and will meet> … and we are, at our core, a reflection of a multi-faceted character containing aspects of all which we desire to be as well as some aspects which we view slightly glumly as ‘the aspects I do not desire to be … but am.’

 

We either embrace the contradictions or … well … we will most likely suck at dealing with Life and living Life.

 

Anyway.

 

What I do know is that I wish someone taught “negative capabilities 101” because we should all sign up for that class. It would be a better world if we were all competent in negative capabilities.

 

 

=======================

 

“When the first living thing existed, I was there waiting.

When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I’ll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave.”

 

Neil Gaiman

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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.

 

——

 

“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.”

 

==

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.”

 

==

Bill Bernbach

 

——-

 

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.

 

——-

 

“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.”

 

==

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

 

——

 

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.’

using numbers to make decisions

February 2nd, 2017

 

Numbers are good

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“We should always bear in mind that numbers represent a simplification of reality.”

 

 

—-

Kenneth E. Boulding

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So.

 

This is the partner piece to “Numbers are losing their Mojo.”

 

steal my mojo

 

It is the partner piece because while numbers are losing their mojo … more and more people in business want numbers to make their decision for them.

 

And while I could point to the overwhelming amount of data <numbers> now being cranked out as the reason why this issue is reaching a business crisis level … I will not.

The truth is that all big data does is amplify the situation – more and more business people suck at making decisions, suck at assuming personal responsibility for decisions and suck at thinking thru the true meaning of the numbers available to them <as a version of what I said yesterday — suck at seeing the real shadows of the numbers>.

 

And just as the fact we need to get our shit together with regard to telling the stories that numbers truly tell us <rather than do shit guided by ‘instinct’ an ‘what we feel’> we need to get our shit together with regard to how we use numbers to INFORM decisions and not MAKE decisions.

 

It gains importance because in today’s world it isn’t just ‘big data’ but it is analyzing research, spreadsheets, hell, just the everyday numbers that overwhelm you in the everyday standard operating procedures in business.go on tell me understand

 

We need to be teaching that not all 2’s are created equal <not all numbers are created equal> and that even though a number may be big, or even small, just counting it doesn’t mean it counts.

 

We need to be teaching young business people that what counts is what the numbers say … as in ‘what do they express’.

 

Here is the truth about numbers.

 

Numbers, more often than not, are simply directional signs toward truth … but rarely do they tell the truth in their simplicity. Okay. They rarely tell the whole truth.

And they never are a substitute for judgement.

 

I sometimes fear on occasion we are crafting a generation of business people who view numbers as the answer for everything.

 

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“I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.”

 

David Ogilvy

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To be fair … this is not the younger generation’s problem … it is more a leadership & management issue.

 

marketing must improve betterWe absolutely have reached a point in business, in particular within organizations of any critical size, where risk is a swear word. And even if you take the risk you are putting your job on the line. With all that hanging over heads you do grab onto a lamp post whenever you can spot one.

 

And, let’s face it; numbers are strewn throughout whatever street you decide to walk upon so, if needed, one is always available to show to explain your decision.

 

It is up to older managers to teach the nuances and how to use numbers to inform the final judgements.

 

But it is quite possible we could live with this if this is all that was happening.

 

The other thing that should strike fear into the hearts of businesses is how older managers, overwhelmed with all the ‘big data’ available … and younger people  who easily rummage through all the data available … combine to, with mostly good intentions, seek numbers to find out what to do next.

 

They do not translate what the numbers mean but use actual numbers as directional signs on where to go next.

This is dangerous.

Now.

Someone will say “no, it is not dangerous, as long as you know the objective.”

 

”Wrong” is what I would say back.

 

For them to be right they have to assume that the best path toward the objective is the straightest line possible.

Well.

If I am a commodity product or service or maybe even the lowest price product or service <and, remember, there can only be one lowest price in any category> this could possibly be true, however, if “value” enters into any discussion with regard to what you are doing or what you are selling … the straightest path may not be what you want … or need.

 

To be clear. What I just typed … what I just shared … rarely is discussed in today’s business world. Why? Well … first … anything that suggests “not fast” or the dark days bad days sad black hole life“not optimal speed” suggests ‘less than efficient’ which in today’s world is “bad.”

 

<or “sad”>

 

Second … to discuss value in this way sounds … uhm … complex or complicated … and if there are two words that could be construed as swear words in today’s business world it would be those two. simplicity, at the expense of anything and everything else, is the go-to place for a shitload of business people and , in particular, business people who would like numbers to tell them what to do.

 

 

Anyway.

 

Yesterday I suggested number are losing their mojo.

 

Today I am suggesting business people may not be using numbers in the most do what you must by Yoshiterueffective way <to maximize the benefit of the organization, product or service>.

 

And tomorrow I will not be writing about numbers … but I can tell ya that numbers will still be misused and misdiscussed.

 

And we better figure that out soon or businesses are gonna get screwed.

 

Enlightened Conflict