Jul 22

RepMan’s Recommended Readings

Every now and then, I come across a book that alters my point of view on a subject or provides
Reading-a-book-on-the-bea-001 fresh thinking that stops me dead in my tracks. When those seminal events occur, I like to share what I’ve stumbled upon with others. And, in this case, all three recommended readings touch on image and reputation in some way, shape or form. So, drum roll please, here are three recommended reads for your summer pleasure:

1.)    “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. Regardless of your religious persuasions and beliefs, you owe it to yourself to read Dawkins’ treatise on creationism vs. evolution. He explores both the Old Testament and New Testament as well as the Koran, the writings of Confucius and every other latter-day spin-off (think Joseph Smith, Sun Myung Moon, etc.) In the text, Dawkins argues very convincingly that there is no afterlife. Dawkins doesn’t see atheism as a downer however but, rather, as a reason to live a fuller, richer life and to make the most of the precious time we have here on earth. The book is also chock full of amazing quotes, such as this one from Emily Dickinson: “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” The book also contains a fascinating chapter on Stalin and Hitler, and the possibility that the latter’s Catholic upbringing may have planted the original anti-Semitic views in his mind.

2.)    “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein. This is a MUST read for any animal lover in general and dog lover in particular. In my humble opinion, it runs rings around “Marley and Me”. The beauty of this book is that it’s written entirely from the dog’s, Enzo’s, point of view. In doing so, it provides some surprisingly insightful views on human behavior. “Art” also contains more plot twists and turns than a Formula One racing course but sadly, like Marley, ends with Enzo’s demise. Surprise, surprise, though, there’s a very cool epilogue that will leave you panting for more.

3.)    "100 Bullshit Jobs… and How to Get Them" by Stanley Bing. I love anything Bing writes. This 2006 handbook on the 100 easiest jobs in the world is a laugh out loud page turner. Bing skewers every occupation from personal publicist and media trainer to industrial psychologist and Tarot card reader. In the process, he ‘ranks’ the bullshit level of each job from 1-200 (with 200 being attained only by Donald Trump who, Bing says, cannot be topped for round-the-clock pure bullshit). In each job description, Bing provides such observations as ‘The Upside, The Downside and The Dark Side.’ In his description of someone who holds a top job at the strategic consulting firm, McKinsey, Bing’s upside is: “License to kill comes with the job” (referring to all the downsizing that McKinsey types do when they’re hired). The downside as: “People run away and hide in the AV closet when they see you coming” and the dark side as: “You are found with a chicken skewer through your neck at the client retreat in Boca.”

So, there you have it. Three totally different books with three totally different POVs that open one’s mind, make one think and cause one to laugh out loud. What more could a blogger ask for? Oh, one criticism of the Bing book, though: how did he not list medical supplies executive as one of the top 100 bullshit jobs of all time?

Jun 02

Is that a smile on your face or are you just happy to be 50-plus?


June 2
A new Gallup survey of more than 340,000 Americans ranging in age from 18 to 85
has found overwhelming evidence that, by almost any measure, people get happier
as they get older
. No one knows exactly why, but people seem to
get happier as they pass the age of 50. Arthur A. Stone, the lead researcher of
the Gallup study thinks there are several reasons why. ‘It could be that there
are environmental changes or it could be psychological changes about the way we
view the world, or it could even be biological – for example brain chemistry or
endocrine changes.’ In other words, Dr. Stone has about as much insight on this
strange phenomenon as, say, BP does in figuring out to cap that damn oil well
in the Gulf of Mexico.

Worry,
says the researchers, stays fairly steady through life and then sharply drops
off after age 50 (hmmmm…). Anger decreases steadily from age 18 on (I know quite
a few Millennials who don’t fit that descriptor). Sadness rises to a peak at
50, declines at age 73 and then rises again at 85 (perhaps coinciding with an
impending sense of one’s own mortality?). Enjoyment and happiness have similar
curves: they both decrease until we hit 50, rise steadily for the next quarter
century and take a final nose dive towards oblivion.

I’m
ambivalent about the 50-plus equals happiness thing.

I’m
certainly happier now than I was as a struggling high school adolescent. And,
while there were some world-class highs in my 20s and 30s, I don’t think I was
as consistently happy as I am now. I think that coincides with a simultaneous
sense of accomplishment and lessening of uncertainty (i.e. I always panicked
about future career choices, about whether to remain single or get married,
about whether to have children, about whether to continue rooting for the
hapless Mets, etc.). Now, lots of those figurative Rubicon’s have been crossed.
And, I can focus on doing more of what makes even happier: rock, ice and
mountain climbing, stand-up comedy, brainstorming innovative, if half-baked,
innovations for Peppercom and bashing NJ Transit, my former CEO at Brouillard
and a certain
Fortune 500 client that put a whipping on us up worse than
what Muhammad Ali did to  Sonny Liston
.

Still,
I wanted to test the 50-plus theory with people I see in the media everyday to
see if it holds true:

1) BP
CEO Tony Hayward is 52 and sure seems unhappy to me. He even lamented yesterday
that he ‘…wanted his life back.’ Poor thing. The oil spill seems to have
disrupted his life. Wonder if it’s had a similar effect on others? Either way,
I’ll bet we’ll see Hayward’s pearly whites again once we start seeing clear
blue seas in the Gulf.

2) Betty
White is positively ecstatic in the midst of her personal renaissance. She’s
living what I’d call the George Burns syndrome. Burns enjoyed a similar late
career rebirth about 20 years ago (think: the ‘Oh God’ movies, Tonight Show
appearances and countless comedy tours). Burns said of his sudden popularity,
‘I’m so old that I’m young.’ That captures the Betty White phenomenon for me.

3) Sally
Field seems quite happy now that she’s shilling for Boniva and taking care of
the one body that’s been given to her.

4) Andy
Rooney never seems happy. I’ll bet he was a grumpy 12-year-old. Maybe it’s
because his eyebrows have always partially obscured his vision.

5) Donald
Trump’s permanently pissed off. I guess the combination of the comb-over and
firing people keeps him angry.

6) Clint
Eastwood just turned 80 and still seems ready to empty the chambers of his 9mm
Glock into some bad guy’s head.

7) Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton doesn’t seem any happier now than the rock star who
burst onto the public scene in 1992 as part of the Billary ticket. She seems
more resigned than contented.

8) Mets
Manager Jerry Manuel is always happy, even when his team implodes and loses by
a score of 18-6. He’s either programmed that way or is ingesting some serious
mood-altering drugs.

9) Osama
bin Laden doesn’t seem particularly happy whenever he resurfaces to issue the
latest Jihad warning. Turning 50 a few years back doesn’t seem to have mellowed
this particular terrorist. And, do the Gallup findings apply to terrorists as
well? One would think most never live to see 50, so it’s probably a moot issue.

10)  For
someone who pulls down $18mm a year, Katie Couric doesn’t seem very happy.
Pert, yes. Happy? I’m not so sure.

Do
you buy into the 50-plus makes one happy findings? I remain skeptical. I think
a combination of genetics and the environment do factor into one’s happiness.
In the final analysis, though, we determine our own happiness. I can be
miserable working for a 65-year-old CEO who second-guesses my every move or
reporting into a corporate PR director who says nice things to my face but
backstabs my agency behind my back. Or, I can choose to pursue the things in
life that put a smile on my face. The sooner one learns what those ‘things’
are, the sooner one finds happiness. Sorry, Gallup, but age has nothing to do
with it.