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.

May 03

It wasn’t our accident


Mar 3 BP CEO Tony Heyward has been beautifully trained to handle the mainstream U.S. media questions in the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill.

He begins each interview by thanking the anchors 'for the opportunity,' then makes it quite clear that, while the oil spill wasn't BP's fault, the clean-up is the corporation's responsibility.

He deflected questions wondering why BP so badly miscalculated the initial amount of damage by likening the repair work to 'performing open heart surgery 5,000 feet below the water' (that phrase has some PR person's fingerprints all over it). Finally, when given the chance, he waxes poetic about the 'armada' of ships and 'fleet' of planes BP has harnessed to 'contain' the spill.

From a PR standpoint, BP is making the best of a horrific situation that, excuse me, they caused. Their only mistake is blaming the oil rig owners for the spill (pointing the finger at others never works in these situations, but lawyers insist upon it in order to limit future civil and criminal lawsuits).

All in all, though, Heyward did a nice job staying on message and conveying BP's key message points. When I see a CEO under duress, I always chuckle and think about Brad Irwin, the president of North American operations for Cadbury-Schweppes. Check out this video. The guy was so well trained (or, so poorly trained, depending upon one's P.O.V.) that he was unable to think on his feet and answer any other, industry-specific questions. In the end, he comes cross as a buffoon whose only answer to macro questions is to hawk his new sugarless gum.

A CEO like Heyward can calm fears and inspire confidence in the midst of chaos. An executive such as Irwin can create a mini-crisis by being inflexible, incompetent and inept.

So, here's hoping BP can get the spill contained sooner rather than later (and that Cadbury's in-house PR team and agency partners will study Mr. Heyward's performance). In fact, they should chew on it awhile before they place another high-ranking official on network television.