Nov 12

What has become clear to you since we last met?

November 12 - emerson Ralph Waldo Emerson was noted for greeting friends with the question, 'What has become clear to you since we last met?' His intent, say historians, was an invitation and a challenge to guests to assess the progress of their thinking.

I find the question profound in its simplicity and thought I'd share what's become clear to me of late:

1) Management by fear is alive and well. Despite countless studies, articles and books extolling the benefits of a great corporate culture, I continue to see our teams take a beating from misbehaving client managers. I also continue to see refugees from other agencies wash up on our shores with tales of shouting and screaming bosses. That said, I remain unclear how or why bullies survive.

2) President Obama is nearly as clueless as W. A great communicator prior to his election, the president has become hopelessly caught up in hundreds of issues that have clearly distracted him from accomplishing one or two truly important and critical goals: creating jobs, ending foreign wars and solving the healthcare mess. And, I don't see him rising above the abyss anytime soon.

3) Far too many businesspeople are jumping on the social media bandwagon without knowing why. The same holds true for 'consumers' who feel compelled to post each and every detail of their mundane daily lives on Facebook, Plaxo and LinkedIn. The latter two, in particular, have become the bane of my existence.

4) The quality of writing continues to devolve with each passing year. I'm now routinely receiving missives from people holding fairly senior positions that are rife with spelling and grammatical mistakes.

5) There's nothing quite as satisfying as the insights gleaned from a work of non-fiction. I've been on a Malcolm Gladwell tear of late and find many of his observations incredibly relevant to work and life in general.

6) My TV viewing is now limited to two comedies and one drama series. That's it. I no longer go to see movies, since the first-run flicks are absolutely pathetic.

I'd be interested in reading what's become clear to you since we last met. Feel free to post away.

Apr 14

We haven’t fallen behind. The rest of the world has caught up.

Dr. Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International and a guest speaker at Thursday’s Arthur PageFareedzakaria_2
Society’s Spring Conference delivered one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard.

Speaking without notes, Zakaria covered such topics as terrorism (we’ve never been safer, he said), competitiveness (the U.S. hasn’t fallen behind, the rest of the world has caught up, he observed) and immigration (it should be viewed as a strength, not a weakness, he argued).

Zakaria made a powerful argument for free trade and open borders. He believes, as we all do, that U.S. health care costs as a percentage of overall GDP are absurdly high. He also believes, as most reasonable people do, that the Iraq misadventure is sucking us dry and has cost our beleaguered economy anywhere from one to three trillion dollars.

Zakaria shed new light on fears that other countries like China and India are graduating far more engineers than America. Zakaria dug into those stats and reports that tens of thousands of so-called engineers are no more advanced than the average air-conditioning repairman.

There’s much to celebrate right now, says Zakaria. He says the 24×7, ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ media is to blame for many of our fears. The facts tell a different tale, he says. For example, there are far fewer civil wars and deaths caused by organized force than ever before. And, the current economic downturn is far less severe that any of the four recessions during the 1950s, a timeframe now looked upon as a period of significant growth. What’s lacking on our end is perspective.

The Page Society has always delivered outstanding speakers at various events over the years. Dr. Zakaria was not only the best I’ve seen to date, he also delivered macro views that not only enlightened, but uplifted. And, when’s the last time any of us could report back on an experience like that?