Archive for the ‘public thinking’ Category
What will your vote say?
Here’s what I know 3 days before our vote.
- Put forward a hate-mongering, racist, misogynist, [former?] sexual predator whose speech consists largely of bald-faced lies (in one week he spoke an untruth every 3.25 minutes) (PolitiFact truth-o–meter) with no record of public service
- The Republican candidate has shown little interest in understanding nuanced, global issues and little curiosity for anything beyond his own image.
- The Republican candidate boasts of bending laws to fit his personal goals and ambitions and promises to jail his political opponent if elected.
- The Republican candidate demonstrates confusion about the difference between the office of president and the office of absolute monarch. The Republican candidate may think he will be crowned king.
- Relinquished leadership by standing silently as their candidate uttered fictions and wove lies day by day.
- Republican leaders hid and then gradually agreed with many of the lies and fictions their candidate uttered.
- Republicans show deference to the Republican candidate as if he may be crowned king.
- Spent years obstructing needed legislation, including refusing to vote on a supreme court candidate with bipartisan support.
- Relinquished the notion of smaller government by agreeing to a far great burden on government spending that their candidate has put forward (“I will build a great wall”).
- Generally seek to protect the interests of big money over the needs of common people
- Put forward a well-qualified candidate with a lifetime of public service
- Put forward a candidate whose speech has veered in and out of truth (PolitiFact truth-o–meter), though not to the extent of the Republican candidate.
- The Clinton Foundation seems to have problems and has been less than transparent
- Clinton’s mistruths are Foshay-sized compared to Trump’s Burj Khalifa of outright lies
- The Democratic candidate shows skill in dealing with nuanced global issues
- The Democratic candidate shows respect for women and the poor and the sojourner.
- The Democratic candidate has been good friends with big money interests, which is troubling.
There are other candidates, but third-party candidates rarely make a showing in the vote.
Some reading this will subscribe to the notion that pro-life is the litmus test for voting. And while Trump claims a pro-life stance at the moment, he has held both views at different times (which is true of a great many of his current convictions). Given Trump’s commitment to saying whatever nonsense enters his brain, it is not clear that he will stay with the convictions he currently uses to woo Evangelicals and Catholics.
One question litmus-test voters may ask is whether anti-abortion is truly pro-life. There are many more pieces to consider outside of an abortion procedure, like care for children and funding for women’s health, like our treatment of the poor and the sojourner and the refugee. A consistent pro-life stance will look at systemic roots of poverty and care for people rather than brushing them off as not the job of the government. A consistent pro-life stance would put plans in place for the living as well as the not-yet-living.
Voters Holding their Nose while Voting Trump because of Supreme Court Nominees
Some reading this will say they are not so much voting for Trump as they are for the next Supreme Court nominee. To you I say, you are still voting for Trump and saying “Yes!” to the Trump brand of lies/hate/genital-grabbing and bullying. Plus—do you really believe a man who changes his convictions so easily and has zero attention span will remember what he vowed months ago? Seems unlikely.
Bill Maher got it exactly right recently when he described the current evangelical fascination with Trump. After years of saying “character counts,” evangelicals abruptly said character doesn’t count when it’s a guy we want to win. Maher’s charge of hypocrisy is apt and lands squarely where it should.
U.S. citizens must make an either-or decision about a leadership question that is far from black and white. I will vote for Clinton because she is qualified and can work with our present system of governance. I am not pro-choice, but I see pro-life as much larger than anti-abortion.
I will not vote for Trump because he is unqualified, demonstrates disrespect for anyone who his not him, proudly retains profound ignorance on a host of issues along with an unwillingness/inability to learn. Trump has demonstrated that he is more than willing to summon hatred and violence to serve his interests in ascending to the monarchy he desires.
My Vote Says:
- Hillary Clinton will a make positive contribution to our nation’s progress and will be a steady hand at the tiller. I’m not happy about her lies and lack of transparency and big-money connections, but she is able to do the job.
- Current Republican methodologies of obstructionism and gross lies and silence in the face of gross lies must be met with a vote against them at every opportunity. And that is my plan.
Commence the hateful rants and disowning/dismembering remarks below.
Leadership is an emotional action story
Most of my clients see themselves as thought-leaders. These clients really are leaders in their industries: their scientists and engineers labor to create new ways of approaching old markets even as they open new markets. A think-piece is an outward-facing story of their leadership in the light of a market problem or need.
Some clients assume their brochures and web copy can be repurposed into a think-piece. One of my tasks is to help them understand that a think-piece takes a position on a problem, spins out a story that shows the problem resolved in an emotionally satisfying way. That is typically a larger frame of reference than their current brochure or web copy.
Other clients want to say something without revealing anything. They worry about competition in their tight market. But they don’t realize how a generous spirit is another kind of selling (especially in this sharing economy), and giving something-not-everything away is a mark of true leadership. But it’s just too big a task (they say) and it will “only distract our scientists and engineers.”
Sharp clients understand that thought-leadership presents a story that is immediately recognizable, universally understood (by their target audience) and easy to digest. They also understand that the best stories carry a useful thought with an emotional element.
My favorite thought-pieces typically have these three elements:
- Story: A story is threaded together with real people doing real things. There is emotion in a story—just like life—and real people talk in human rather than PR speak. Real people with real problems that unlock real emotion both before and after the solution appears.
- Visual: There’s no question that words simply take too long for most of us. We still read, of course, but our short attention spans move us toward images and video. Some say visual is the primary way social media will present in coming years. We can put that visual bias to work today with words that paint pictures. That has always been the novelist’s forte: creating scenes. That ability must find a home in today’s think-pieces. Gone are the days when an interested audience member might happily read your brochure. Now you have to catch them when they are not looking or thinking about your product or industry. This is not an easy task, but the more visual the better. Visual also has the advantage of being immediately understood.
- Speak Human: Every discipline has its own secret words. Every industry uses lingo and code words to show they know their stuff as well as out of sheer laziness. It’s just easier to say the same things as everyone else. Plus it’s a badge of the tribe, so why wouldn’t you? But insider language is inherently toxic for anyone outside. It’s a buzz kill for an outsider looking in. Speaking human means words cleansed of jargon, words that can shine through a clear story.
The best think-pieces don’t appear to be think-pieces at all. They can be read so effortlessly that we take every step with the author to the intended conclusion. And we find ourselves happy to be there, taking action with the hero.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston
Image Credit: Kirk Livingston
Conversations will sometimes offend
“We’re all so PC today.”
When I hear this I wonder what the speaker means:
- Does she mean we work so hard to not offend each other that what we say is meaningless?
- Or does he mean he wants to get back to days of privilege (white, male, boss, pastor/priest, authority—name your privilege), back to when a part of our daily lexicon meant disparaging others deemed “less” because they did not line up with us?
If political correctness impinges on our ability to speak freely, that is not good. We must find ways to speak our thoughts—even if it means threading our words through verbal and perceived obstructions and pitfalls. Even if it means offending. But that’s the same with any relationship. Our conversations aim toward pulling others in more than pushing others away (Otherwise why talk at all? Just walk away.), so we take care speak to where our conversation partner is coming from. The end game of speaking our thoughts to each other is greater freedom, better articulation, and deepening friendships. Comedy sometimes makes that leap quickly by abruptly articulating a hidden thought. Those hidden thoughts, when exposed to air, can carry great meaning.
If there is one positive to come from the mouth of the patent-medicine salesman Trump, it is recognition that privilege exists in our nation and now we simply have to talk about it as a nation.
But if political correctness makes us long for a return to days of privilege where we verbally bully anyone perceived as different, then we must work against that. Others are to be understood, not hated. If political correctness helps us begin to see the inherent blindness of our particular place of privilege—let’s embrace that and learn.
We are at our best when connecting with each other.
We are at our worst when building walls.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston
Man in spotlight laughs with failure
The recent excellent GQ article (By Joel Lovell) on Colbert illuminates the thoughtful wells the comedian will pull from as he starts his late night gig tonight. Is he a moral intellectual? A public thinker? A likeable guy on stage who talks with a knife? Is he a comedian with a charter to entertain?
One revealing quote deep in the article shows Colbert’s dance with failure:
…longtime Second City director Jeff Michalski told them that the most important lesson he could pass on to them was this: “You have to learn to love the bomb.”
“It took me a long time to really understand what that meant,” Colbert said. “It wasn’t ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get it next time.’ It wasn’t ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says. You gotta learn to love when you’re failing.… The embracing of that, the discomfort of failing in front of an audience, leads you to penetrate through the fear that blinds you. Fear is the mind killer.”
What is true for improv and comedy is also true for teaching, business meetings and ordinary conversation. We just might fail. We might fail to connect. We might fail to convince. We might fail to feed the self-image we continually tend, whether that image is macho or hip or knowing or controlled.
I cannot help but wonder if our growing xenophobia—an unfortunate currency in play by many presidential hopefuls—is a response to fear of honest but hard conversations. That kind of conversations that need to happen between us. All of us.
Philosopher turned motorcycle mechanic Matthew B. Crawford’s insightful book The World Beyond Your Head: On becoming an individual in an age of distraction (NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015) writes about the role of apprenticeships and (some) graduate programs in helping the newcomer absorb the wisdom and knowledge of the group. Growing understanding happens through didactic methods of course, lecture and the like. But much of what we know arrives as a sort of tacit knowledge—a kind of knowledge that shows up from watching others do a task.
On the way to this and many other connected points, Crawford points out again and again that we need the conversations and the interactions with others in order to understand who we are. We need interactions within our tribe—yes—but we also need the interactions outside our tribe. These can be clarifying interactions: they help us understand what we know and what we believe about the world.
All this to say:
- I look forward to Steven Colbert’s masterful comedy/public thinking.
- I want to grow at hard conversations—even if they gut the self-image I so carefully tend.
- I/we need to embrace the people who are different rather than push them away. They have powerful things to teach us—and that is part of the collective wisdom of our U.S. of A.