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Ducks in a Row: The Cult Of Me

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/joannaleeosborn/9802436943/

The “cult of me” isn’t new.

Through time, all generations were self-absorbed, but due to sheer size, the Boomers are the original me generation.

Gen X wasn’t much better and in 1982 Steve Wozniak financed The US Festival. According to Glenn Aveni, director of a recently released documentary about the festival,

“Woz felt the 1970’s were The ‘Me’ Generation and that it was time for the world to embrace a less selfish credo, one of unity and togetherness.”

Great music, but little effect.

Millennials come next, slightly more of them (75.4 M to 74.9) and most happily carry on the focus on me.

Tech has driven that focus across all generations via selfies and social media to the point that for millions their experiences, meals and even their lives exist only if they constantly post them online and they are liked, shared, and retweeted.

There was a time when I allowed myself to be more than what could fit onto a 2-by-4-inch screen. When I wasn’t so self-conscious about how I was seen. When I embraced my contradictions and desires with less fear of embarrassment or rejection.

The focus on me has led to a focus on being happy — polls and articles measuring happiness, and comparing happiness.

Back in the day, the Boomers considered everything a challenge that must be overcome. Fast forward to now and Millennials, especially those in Silicon Valley, see the world as a series of problems to be “hacked” (modern times call for modern words).

Which, to put it politely, is a crock.

Andrew Taggart thinks most of this is nonsense. A PhD in philosophy, Taggart practices the art of gadfly-for-hire. He disabuses founders, executives, and others in Silicon Valley of the notion that life is a problem to be solved, and happiness awaits those who do it. Indeed, Taggart argues that optimizing one’s life and business is actually a formula for misery.

This is important, because, in many ways, it’s Silicon Valley that is shaping much of our world — even for those of us who choose not to actively participate.

But I doubt Taggart and his ilk will change that attitude or the obsessive focus on “my world.”

Scott Berkun, a former Microsoft manager and philosophy major who has written multiple business books on the subject, says philosophy’s lessons are lost on most in Silicon Valley. Many focus on aggrandizing the self, rather than pursuing a well-examined purpose. “If you put Socrates in a room during a pitch session, I think he’d be dismayed at so many young people investing their time in ways that do not make the world or themselves any better,” he said.

I never saw life as a challenge or a problem. I prefer a different mantra.

Life is a mystery to be lived — not a challenge/problem to be overcome.

It’s a happy way to live.

Image credit: Joanna Lee Osborn

Story Power

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Ask any 21st Century marketer about brand building and they will tell you ‘it’s all about the story’.

Every brand works to tell stories that draw people in; that they want to share.

The obvious social deafness of major brands is hard to fathom, with Nivea and Pepsi being two of the most recent.

Nivea’s “White is Purity” ad was pulled and the entire campaign canceled two days after its appearance on Facebook.

The company provided what has come to be a boilerplate apology.

“We are deeply sorry to anyone who may take offense to this specific post,” the company said in a statement. “Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of Nivea.”

Within days it was Pepsi on the social media hot seat for an incredibly insensitive, incredibly white ad focusing on the Black Lives Matter protests.

The ad was pulled in hours, although, as you can see, nothing posted is ever truly deleted; here is Pepsi’s gussied up version of the boilerplate apology.

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. “We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout.”

Nivea’s story was from an agency, while Pepsi’s was developed in-house.

While I’m no fan of social media in general and its penchant for spreading fake news, in this case the lightening reactions actually did some good.

Heineken is another story (pun intended) entirely and has the awards to prove it, so it isn’t surprising that it was Heineken that successfully created the story the others screwed up so badly.

The take-away is that stories are a two-edged sword, so be sure to do them outside the echo chamber or don’t do them.

Image credit: Heineken and Team cast

Does Being Busy Make You Valuable?

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/3619878820/

Live mindfully long enough and you can get an interesting perspective on lifestyle changes.

Some will please, some not; some you’ll question, some deplore, and some will cause you to shake your head in amazement.

The last is how I felt when I read new research from HBS.

In fact, some boast the lack of spare time as a status symbol—even an aspirational lifestyle.

“The new conspicuous consumption is about saying, I am the scarce resource, and therefore I am valuable.”

I’ve seen this first hand, not just in the startup community or twenty-somethings, but among Gen Xers, Boomers and even my own peers.

It used to be that overload came from always saying yes, instead of a carefully evaluated “no” — however, if you are known for saying ‘yes’ be prepared for the backlash if you change.

These days, the things that keep you busy also need to raise your profile/ reputation/Klout score/ increase your Likes/generate followers (preferably on multiple platforms)/social presence/etc.

A couple of year after I started MCS a reader asked why I bothered to do it when it generated so few comments.

My response was that I wasn’t writing to promote myself, but to provide information to those who wanted/needed it and that comments came when readers had questions or wanted to add to the dialogue.

While accurate, my response ignored the fact that because my blog is not high profile commenting on it has a very low ROI.

That said, I understand and don’t fault readers.

We live in a world where building your personal brand is a necessary part of building a career, so the time allotted to writing comments needs to provide a certain ROI and, of course, you are busy.

OK, I get all that.

But no matter how long I live I doubt I’ll ever understand the fragility of egos that need to prove their value so badly they are willing to give up their lives to do it.

Image credit: Sean MacEntee

How To Become An Adult

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Sometimes people seem to forget that kids grow up and become adults.

Or they used to.

The responsibility for most of the problem can be laid at the feet of their parents and their helicopter approach to raising their offspring. Most ironically, they complain when job candidates sport the same attitudes as their own kids.

Other factors retarding adulthood include the escapism offered by today’s video games, especially for under-30 males, the lack of interpersonal skills driven by social media, along with social media’s unsubtle efforts to foster addiction in the name of profit.

And, of course, the largest factor being family and friends, whose emotional and financial support, enable a relatively comfortable living situation.

The difficulty today’s young adults are having in becoming actual adults was the impetus for (what else) a startup.

Rachel Weinstein, a psychotherapist, and Katie Brunelle, a former elementary school teacher and coach, responded by creating the Adulting School, a place for people to gain the skills they need to feel like an adult, from goal-setting and sheet-fitting to how to manage money or hang a picture.

Simon Senek, a British author and motivational speaker, also blames parents for the false expectations of so many Millennials, who never were given the chance to learn/live the process of achievement.

“Everything you want you can have instantaneously, except for job satisfaction and strength of relationships,” Senek argues. “There’s no app for that; they are slow, meandering, uncomfortable processes.”

Whatever you think about a school that teaches adults how to be adults the real question is: in what direction will the next generation go?

Image credit: the Adulting School

Ducks in a Row: Behavioral Addiction Means Profit

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/notionscapital/4549543273/

Do you believe that Twitter was founded with effects like Arab Spring in mind? Or that Mark Zukerberg started Facebook for altruistic reasons? Or that Instagram, Snapchat and other similar sites actually have your wellbeing in mind?

If so, you probably also believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

The primary purpose of every one of these sites is simple: to make as much money as possible.

How?

By using personalization to achieve behavioral addiction.

Infinite personalization comprises the artificial intelligence-driven, big-data based tools that allow algorithms to build a personalized Internet echo chamber customized just for you, designed to make you feel great. Infinite personalization feeds you the real, the fake, and everything in between, with the simple goal of holding your attention and getting you to come back for more. It is the process by which companies can measure, match, and predict consumers’ individual preferences with amazing accuracy and then tailor offerings to maximize revenue.

It’s done with full knowledge and, in my opinion, malice afore thought.

It’s why tech titans, starting with Steve Jobs in 2010, limit their kids, as I said a couple of years ago in The Hypocrites of Tech.

They want their kids to grow to positions of leadership and power and know they can’t if their world shrinks to a self-enhancing echo chamber that only regurgitates information that fits their preconceived ideas.

Personalization is active in the real world, too, and has been for several years, with young adults inventing ways to shrink their world by curating their college roommates and demanding “safe places.”  

All I can say it ‘good luck’ when their carefully curated echo chamber has to function in the work-world.

However, it’s a sad and scary commentary that in the frenzy to make more and more money tech is providing a detailed roadmap, along with the supporting technology, for demagogs to become dictators.

For a more detailed look at behavioral addiction check out Adam Alter’s Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

Image credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Golden Oldies: The Screen that Kills Connection, Friendship and Empathy

Monday, October 17th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back at more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

A couple of years ago I cited research that showed how the vagus nerve connects your brain to your heart and that, like muscles, it needs exercise to stay strong; screen time weakens that connection. I also predicted that the research would fall on deaf ears if it fell at all. Sometimes I hate when I’m right, so here it is again. Read it carefully, share it with all your friends and then plan your own vagus exercise routine.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitpedia/4882197805People’s preoccupation with their screens has been blamed for many things and if you’ve been around someone who kept sneaking peeks while talking you know how annoying that is.

But did you know it messes up not only your brain, but also your capacity for connection, friendship, empathy, as well as your actual physical health?

Texting even messes up your infant’s future!

New parents may need to worry less about genetic testing and more about how their own actions — like texting while breast-feeding or otherwise paying more attention to their phone than their child — leave life-limiting fingerprints on their and their children’s gene expression.

It’s not just a case of being distracted.

Your vagus nerve connects your brain to your heart and how you handle your social connections affects the vagal tone, which, like muscle tone, can improve with exercise and that, in turn, increases the capacity for connection, friendship and empathy.

In short, the more attuned to others you become, the healthier you become, and vice versa. This mutual influence also explains how a lack of positive social contact diminishes people. Your heart’s capacity for friendship also obeys the biological law of “use it or lose it.” If you don’t regularly exercise your ability to connect face to face, you’ll eventually find yourself lacking some of the basic biological capacity to do so.

Do I think this research will actually make a difference in people’s actions?

No!

Even if the information becomes widespread I don’t think people would give up the instant gratification of being mentioned or conquer their FOMO and focus instead on quality face time.

It doesn’t seem a big deal right now, but look into the future at a world that doesn’t just lack connection and empathy, but is filled with people who aren’t even capable of it.

I’m glad I won’t be around.

One last item; a short essay that says better than I have in the past exactly why I don’t carry a cell phone. Enjoy!

Flickr image credit: Digitpedia Com

Entrepreneurs: More About Naming

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

WhartonMy part of this post will be a brief, because I want to be sure you use the link I’m going to give you.

Have you ever noticed that when a subject, word or name comes up you suddenly start running into it from all sides.

Last week’s Entrepreneur post look at the challenge of naming a company or product and used CB Insights as a kind of case study.

Today I read an article from Knowledge @ Wharton (it’s worth subscribing) called How (Not) to Name a Company in the Digital Era.

“Name selection is more important now than ever before,” says Alexandra Watkins, founder of brand consulting agency Eat My Words. “Your name has to work harder than it did 20 years ago.”

Driving the charge are shifts in technology and consumer habits. The ubiquitous presence of internet domain names and web addresses, or URLs, social media and the prevalent use of smartphones and tablets with their smaller screens call for new rules on how a company, product or service should select its name, marketing experts say.

I thought it was very good and sent it to several serial entrepreneurs who have been through the naming fire multiple times.

They also thought it was excellent and said to share it.

So I am.

Now click the link.

Image credit:  Wharton

Mark Benioff’s Solution to Information Overload

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/5310317688/Everyone complains about information overload.

Playwright Richard Forman has a term for it.

“Pancake people – spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button”.

Psychologist and behavioral neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, author of the upcoming book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, recommends retraining your brain.

“Our brains are equipped to deal with the world the way it was many thousands of years ago when we were hunter-gatherers. Back then the amount of information that was coming at us was much less and it came at us much more slowly.”

But Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff has a much simpler solution.

“I deleted my Facebook account completely. I found it was just overwhelming me. I’m only on Twitter, I’m on SalesforceOne, which is my internal one for work, I’m on email, and that’s it. And I’m limited to that. I’m trying not to take on more stuff. I was with a friend this weekend, he’s got his Twitter, his Facebook, he has his Snapchat, he’s got all these – too much.”

Of course, part of the overload is work-related, but it’s amazing how much is pure trivia driven by FoMO and/or the need to impress by sounding knowledgeable about a twist in Game of Thrones.

You are the only person who can evaluate just how necessary your various information streams are sooner rather than later.

Because even the smallest stream adds to the river in which it is oh, so easy to drown.

Then you need gather your courage, follow Benioff’s lead and shut down the unnecessary streams.

Your sanity will thank you.

Flickr image credit: Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter

Fighting Back: Google and You

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/lamerie/501994750/

Like porn, privacy evil seems to be in the eye of the beholder (me), but not in Google’s eye.

I’ve written in the past about the fluidity of evil and the privacy difference between Apple and the rest (Google, Facebook, etc.)

Now I see that Google is going above and beyond in the name of “user convenience.”

Google will need to convince people that having AI manage your life is more convenient than it is creepy.

I get that many of you like the idea and have no problem with suggestions and tracking, etc., so you may have no interest past this point.

But those of you who consider tracking more akin to stalking and are happily capable of managing your own life/world will find the following truly valuable.

In a truly informative and useful article Business Insider provides links so you can see what Google knows about you.

Better yet, it walks you through how to delete and control how Google uses it and what it sells to third parties.

It’s a long way from the privacy Europe enjoys, but it’s sure better than nothing.

Thanks, BI!

Image credit: Lamerie

Ducks in a Row: the Damage of an Overly Competitive Culture

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/acrylicartist/15321161786/

Last Friday we looked at the disturbing number of entrepreneurs who suffer from anxiety and depression, exacerbated by the pressures of founding a startup, and too often find their solace in suicide.

Mark Suster wrote how the same problems often haunt success.

Today’s New York Times had a complimentary article, Campus Suicide and the Pressure of Perfection.

There are several compelling points to consider;

  • almost all are young;
  • they are high achievers recognized for ‘crushing it’ — whatever ‘it’ happens to be;
  • they are driven to live up to outside expectations; and
  • they constantly compare themselves to others’ external images as depicted in social media.

The acts required to “keep up with the Joneses” have changed significantly from my under-35 days.

Back then it was your neighbors and school/social/professional circles that comprised the Joneses.

Now it is the no-holds-barred world.

The existential question “Why am I here?” is usually followed by the equally confounding “How am I doing?” In 1954, the social psychologist Leon Festinger put forward the social comparison theory, which posits that we try to determine our worth based on how we stack up against others.

Growing up and in the years since ‘how am I doing’ was never my focus, because I never fit in; never was part of any crowd and certainly never told I was special.

Fortunately, I wasn’t competitive; in fact, competitive has never been part of my personal vocabulary.

Somehow I’ve always known that no matter what I accomplished there would always be people who were richer/smarter/thinner/more popular/more whatever than I.

Unlike those described in the aforementioned articles.

And the pressures have increased exponentially for those susceptible.

In the era of social media, such comparisons take place on a screen with carefully curated depictions that don’t provide the full picture. Mobile devices escalate the comparisons from occasional to nearly constant.

“Curated” is the polite way to say that people lie — not only to convince the world, but probably to convince themselves.

Don’t get caught in this trap; teach yourself to talk about how you feel — to at least one real person, preferably more.

And take time to be there for others who are struggling.

Flickr image credit: Rodney Campbell

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