Autotweeting During A Crisis.

The whole "suspend your social marketing during a crisis" judgmentathon is a complicated mess. Do we expect brands to be able, on a dime, to stop their TV ads? Radio spots? Print ads? Events? Somewhat, but I would suggest not to the same extent. The vitriol expended over automated tweets seems to be somewhat disproportionate. Yes, I know it is easier to suspend social than it is to kill a flight of scheduled TV spots.

But what I don't know is whether or not the average consumer is as offended by a lapse in social media marketing judgment as a social media consultant might be. I just don't know. Maybe they are.

I do know that brands are run by humans, and I assume those humans have feelings, just like you and I do. So I don't assume that there is anything sinister behind a stray autotweet or two, or a momentary lapse in judgement.

So, the short answer is, I won't be drawing any conclusions about this sort of thing. Be well.

Things I Have Learned About Running

I guess I am a runner. I never considered myself a runner--I ran my first 5K when I was 35, and had been a sporadic runner at best until my wife and I started training for our first marathon. Now I'm logging 20-30 mile weeks and burning through sneakers. So, now I'm a runner.

Everytime I suit up to run, I have to start a negotiation process with my head, my lungs and my legs. My legs say, "we're too sore." My lungs say, "we feel like crap." and my head mostly agrees with them. Still, I've managed to coax most of them along for most of my runs. In the process of becoming a runner, I've learned a few things. Maybe they'll help you.

1. There is no such thing as bad weather; only bad gear. We've been training in Boston, in the winter. It is not pleasant in Boston in the winter. There seem to be four kinds of days:

A. Windy and in the teens

B. Snowy and freezing

C. Rainy and 40

D. Deceptively sunny and mild when you start, but one of A-C by the midpoint of your run.

Still, I can't say I've been cold or uncomfortable. I can't run more than 3 miles on a treadmill without wanting to shove an awl through my skull, so outside is really the only option. Here is where you spend your money. I run with a combination of Nike Element Shield Max jacket/tights or clothing from Craft and I've been warm, dry and comfortable. Smartwool socks help, too.Yes, there are days when I'm out there in $1000 worth of clothing and electronics. Ridiculous! But I'm out there.

2. There are no good running headphones. I've tried them all. I've tried "sports" earphones from Sennheiser, Adidas, Sony and Klipsch. They either won't stay in my ears once I'm sweaty, or they break in two months, or yes. I've never, EVER, gotten a pair of sports headphones to last more than 2 months. Maybe my sweat is corrosive, like Alien blood. THAT JUST MAKES ME THE NEXT STEP IN HUMAN EVOLUTION.

I even tried a pair of Motorola bluetooth sports headphones to go wireless. Regardless of what ANY package says, sweat and electronics don't mix. They lasted 2 months of 20-30 miles per week running in a Boston winter before one of the channels just quit. I'm currently running with a pair of Yurbuds. They stay in my ears. I haven't had them two months yet. They sound like stink.

So, just find a pair you like that stay in your ears and resign yourself to re-buying them every two months.

3. You rarely feel like running until you've run two miles. This is good advice for life, period--you CBT fans will recognize the wisdom here. There is no such thing as waiting for the motivation to run. You get motivated in the act of running. The first mile, for me, is creaky and slow. The second mile hurts. Miles three and on are pretty good, actually--and that's when the endorphins kick in and you start to get the real benefit of running.

The other helpful thing I've learned here is that it's the runs that really suck that help you--if you are doing your weekly long run and you finish looking and feeling like 30 miles of bad road, congrats--you've just stressed your system. It will heal up, recover and be stronger. That's the point of the long run. This helps me, mentally, when I hit double digits in miles and start to question my will to live.

4. Bring food and drink. This took me an embarrasingly long time to figure out, but sometimes, when you feel like crap and don't think you can go another mile, it's because the tank is empty. Duh. So far, I've had the best success with Gatorade (there is a fair amount of science behind it, after all), Hammer Gels (the ingredients list doesn't look like a Union Carbide manifest) and Bonk Breakers (like Clif Bars, but they crumble and digest easier.) 

5. Cadence matters. This has been my most recent lesson, and the one that has really changed my running (and hopefully in time to correct my training for the Boston Marathon). My running form has been kind of a controlled fall--I trudge along at 70-75 strides per minute (per foot) and kinda just fall forward without much movement north of my knees. My legs felt fine, but my heart and lungs really struggled--I spent my last 10+ mile run with my heart rate at 90% of my max for over 40% of the time. That's unsustainable.

So I went back to the drawing board on my form and cadence, and started trying to run at 90 strides per minute--shortening my stride and turning my feet over faster. The first 3-4 times I did this, my lungs and heart felt better, but my "chassis" was killing me--I was straining and stretching muscles in my hips, glutes and quads that I had gotten used to not straining that much.

Now, however, things are falling into place. Those muscles have healed and come back stronger, and increasing my foot turnover has snapped my whole body (arms, shoulders and quads) into a complementary motion that propels me forward much more efficiently. I feel better than ever. Yeah, it sucked for a week or so, especially when I kept telling myself that it was "too fast." But once you figure out how to work your whole body to keep that cadence going, you really figure out running. Took me long enough.

By the way, I try to keep that cadence (it's a practice) no matter how fast I am running. When I am recovering, that works out to be an awkward-looking shuffle. But it works.

6. Music Matters. Our marathon coach, Rick Muhr, is awesome. He doens't run with music, preferring to focus and engage with his form. I can't argue with him, because he's run Boston elevently bajillion times. But I will say this--when I threw out all of my dance/pop music that I thought had "a good beat" and replaced it with music that was strictly around 90 BPM (music that I once considered 'too slow' to run to), I had something to focus on--a metronome for my cadence. Having that constant guide in my ears gave me something to snap back to when I lost the plot on cadence, so I could always find that optimal footspeed again.

For reference, that makes ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" the perfect running song. If a foot hits the ground on every beat, you're doing it right. Also, here's my latest fave:

The Jayhawks – Waiting For The Sun

Again, these songs might seem "slow" to you, but try and match your footfall to the high hat, and you'll be zipping right along.

Those are some specific tips, but mostly, I'm pleased to be a continual student of running. That has been its greatest gift to me.


Three Words For 2013

I wasn't going to write this post. Mostly, I must admit, because my three words for 2012 kinda fell by the wayside. But today was one of those days where everything just came together, and I saw 2013 a little more clearly than I had previously. After that, this post wrote itself.

It's the Thursday after Christmas, and I've just flown a regional jet from Boston to Philadephia in a Nor'easter to drop my son off with his mother. The flight was so bad--so, so bad--that I am now taking Amtrak back to Boston instead of getting on another crappyjet home. I've had some time to reflect on 2012, and look ahead to 2013. So, from an Acela somewhere in Connecticut, here are my three words for 2013, and what they mean: Consolidate, Coil and You.


This one is easy--and for a while, was (fittingly) going to be my one word for 2013. Last year, I tried a lot of things, and conducted a lot of experiments. Some of them worked, some of them didn't. It would be judgmental to say that I tried too many different things, but it would also miss the point if I didn't learn a few lessons from what worked and what didn't, and try to regroup a bit.

I invested everything I had last year--time, resources and wealth--into a very diverse portfolio of activites, investments and initiatives, both personal and professional. This year, I plan to take what I learned into account and spend more time on what worked. For me, that was client work, sharpening the saw of my research chops, and leveraging my personal and business successes into related work. In other words, 2012 was a year of stretching, but 2013 will be a year of doing fewer things, better.


I had a Border Collie named Maxine once. She lived to be 18(!) and was one of the smartest creatures I've ever met in my life, humans included. She was a rescue dog, and she lived with me in New York City for a number of years. Often, when I would walk her outside, people would stop me and make a point out of telling me how cruel it was that I kept a Border Collie cooped up in a city apartment. What I wanted to reply was that it was a whole lot kinder than letting her be euthanized, Judgy McJudgerpants, but...well, actually, that is exactly what I would often reply. Anyway.

When Maxine was 13, I took her to a sheep herding trial in a field in New Jersey, where she met sheep for the very first time. What I saw astounded me: even as a very mature (and slowing) dog, she instinctively controlled her first flock of sheep flawlessly. And she barely broke a sweat doing it. 

What Maxine had was the "stare." She would lie down on the ground--as low as she could possibly get--and stare at the sheep. If you only saw her from the neck down, you would think she was half-asleep. She appeared to be relaxed, legs folded under her. Her eyes, however, revealed the truth. She wasn't relaxed, she was coiled. The alertness in her eyes told you--and those sheep--that while she might seem to be consolidating (see Word #1), she was actually coiled to move. Those eyes--and how she stared at those sheep--spoke volumes about her ability to strike.

To me, coiling is the yin to the yang of consolidation. Being more ready to strike at opportunity, more responsive to to change, and more proactive to create that change is the kinetic energy inherent in any move to regroup or consolidate. Yes, I'm going to do fewer things better, but no, I'm not napping. I'm going to spend my energy more wisely, but spend it I will--and more than ever.


Finally, I have an admission to make about the past year. I stopped retweeting you. I didn't comment on your posts. I didn't promote your articles. Heck, I didn't even read most of them. I didn't help you as much as you helped me. 

People who know me know that my heart is in the right place, but both my professional and my personal life are extremely busy, travel-filled and complicated. I flew over 50 segments on JetBlue alone last year, and most of that for personal reasons. That doesn't even count the full slate of travel I had for Edison clients, speaking engagements and other business travel. I didn't leave enough time for you.

In 2013, I will. I promise. You've done so much for me. Thank you.



On The Passing Of Zig Ziglar

Zig Ziglar passed away recently, and I was struck by how much his writing and thinking has influenced some of the people I respect the most. If you simply dipped randomly into Ziglar's writings, you could be tempted to dismiss his books as trite, aphoristic claptrap--a collection of cliches about the sales process. You'd be wrong, for two reasons.

First, if there is any kind of received wisdom about sales and the selling process, Zig fathered most of it.

Second--and most important for an introvert like me--Ziglar recognized the most important limiting factor in the success of any salesperson (and, whether or not you embrace the title, we are all salespeople): psychology. Not the psychology of the prospect, because that's all tactics. No, what Ziglar taught so many of us was this: it's hard to be in sales. There's a psychological toll. The real key to mastering sales has nothing to do with countering objections, or effective messaging, or your value proposition.

It's this: countering negative self-talk when most of your efforts, statistically, will fall upon deaf ears.

I don't have "sales" in my title at work, but my primary responsibility, one way or another, is to drive sales for a company that sells the invisible--our intellect. Most of the time, those efforts don't result in sales. If your "close rate" is higher than 50%, you either work for Apple or you don't take enough risks. What Zig Ziglar's writing gave me--an introvert tasked with driving revenue--was not a set of tools to convert prospects.

What I learned from Zig Ziglar was how to train my thoughts. The only thing I can ever control, in the words of the late David Foster Wallace, is this: my default thinking. And if your lot as a salesperson is to fail more often than you succeed, your default thinking can become poisonous.

So, I mourn your passing, Zig Ziglar, not for your tips and tactics for salespeople, but for your acknowledgement of this basic fact: in sales, your *only* enemy is how you think about yourself.

Turns out, that's true in life, as well.

The Dark Side of Content Marketing

I don't consider myself a very good content marketer. The number of people I know of that can consistently and frequently produce amazing content on a calendar is pretty small, and I'm not going to risk offense by naming anyone here, so I'll leave it at this--if you don't think this applies to you, then it doesn't. Fair enough?

Content marketing is an enormously powerful tool, and it can be used for good and for evil. The recent fall from grace of noted author Jonah Lehrer is a useful cautionary tale for the latter. Lehrer, author of How We Decide and the pulled-from-the-shelves Imagine: How Creativity Works, has become something of a pariah, but a recent, superb piece in New York Magazine makes the point that all Lehrer did by plagiarizing himself and others, and by making up "evidence" out of whole cloth was, essentially, what was asked of him by "the system."

I do not excuse this, and "I was just doing what I was expected/told to do" has often been offered as a thin excuse for far greater crimes than Lehrer has committed or is even capable of committing. It is, in fact, a terrible excuse, and the first refuge of those that need to justify reprehensible or questionable behavior. And, let's be clear--Jonah Lehrer himself has never proffered this excuse, though the writer of this (superb) piece has dangled it as a tantalizing possibility. But this article, too, is content marketing.

So is this blog post.

I've given a number of talks over the past year or so disparaging a brand of "research" that we often see in social media--data provided for the purposes of content marketing. Some infographics fall into this category, as do studies that aggregate social media data to give you the "right" way to tweet. They aren't designed to help you--not really. These things have nearly no applicability to your specific situation or your business. They are designed to get you to click on them. To sign up for a white paper. To register for a webinar. To make you, in other words, a lead.

You know this, surely. But even knowing this, we often fail to close the circle here--that data produced for the purposes of content marketing is inherently incurious. As I've often written here and elsewhere, "incurious" is as vulgar a word in my business as I can possibly muster. It's the professional researcher's equivalent of the F-Bomb.

But we thirst for content. The social web is, in fact, a vast, insatiable mill for content. Providing content has become a viable career, and I do not disparage this. But the dark side of this is that the content marketer is often mistaken for an expert in the field in which he or she is creating content. In the case of Jonah Lehrer, he was riding on the coattails of absolutely the most influential thinker in my professional life and career, Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman. My entire post-MBA career has been spent studying Kahneman's work and his insights into consumer behavior and behavioral economics.

Kanheman's work has been translated, popularized, and extended by a wide variety of writers, ranging from Dubner and Levitt (Freakonomics), to Barry Schwartz (The Paradox of Choice) to Daniel Ariely (Predictability Irrational.) Jonah Lehrer's How We Decide also built upon Kahneman's work, but there is a crucial distinction here. Lehrer was a smart guy--I'm not belittling his intellect--but he was at heart a content marketer, not a scientist. Otherwise, he would have been a scientist, no? He popularized the insights of researchers like Kahneman, translating them for laypeople and finding the anecdotes and case studies that would entrance and captivate readers, but he did not extend those findings--he moved on to the next topic, the next book, the inevitable Ted talk and speaking circuit to which that grants one access.

I don't judge him. I cannot judge him (hell, I'd love to have a Ted talk.) But whether you see Lehrer as a James Frey-esque congenital liar or as a victim caught up in the trope of the writer-as-expert (as opposed to the expert writer), the fact remains that Lehrer became popular. He delivered what we, the buying public, wanted. He was hardly a scientist. But thousands believed he was a scientist, because he wrote like a scientist. He fed the content mill, and he did it very effectively.

The tale of Jonah Lehrer, whose career as a content marketer appears to be effectively over, is a cautionary tale, and it applies to pretty much all of us who do exactly what it is I am trying to do here--market myself as a thought leader/thinker/consultant by dint of a few blog posts. And I take that cautionary tale to heart, both as a creator and as a consumer of information. With that in mind, here are three things I take away from the story of Jonah Lehrer:

1. The content beast, though oft-fed, is insatiable. You are only as good as your next book, your next blog post, or your last talk. I don't write very often here or at Brandsavant, as this has long been a trap that I have resisted. For every blog post I publish, there are five or six others that never see the light of day, because they just aren't good enough. I only publish what I am proud of, and for that reason this space sometimes can lie fallow for weeks at a time. I'm ok with that. You, of course, need to find your own way, and you may be eminently capable of producing quality content more frequently than I.

But, if you cannot, the surest way to fall into the Lehrer trap is to write to a schedule, and not in the service of ideas. The tyranny of the content calendar is responsible for a lot of weak content on the web. Keeping up that pace out of deference to some kind of received wisdom about publishing frequency may not by default lead you to the kind of intellectual dishonesty of which Lehrer was guilty, but it does place stress on the system, as it were. My Brandsavant blog became much more important to me when it became a showcase for my best thought, and when it became important to me it became a better blog. At least, that's my hallucination.

2. There are experts about things, and there are people who can write about things. Those that can do both exceptionally well are exceedingly rare. I have enormous respect for writers like Brian Greene, who can not only translate science for laymen, but also do the science. That's a gift. A rare gift, as it turns out. We should celebrate those that have it, but also acknowledge that rarity.

Today, we see a lot of very gifted writers blogging about trends in social media and business, and we cannot help but be influenced by that writing and those thinkers. But we also have to acknowledge the fact that the folks doing the work and the folks writing well about the work are rarely the same people. Jonah Lehrer is a gifted writer. But, as a behavioral economist, he's a gifted writer. Our ability to share our content on the web, especially on social media, is wonderful and has presented me with opportunities that I never dreamed of 5 years ago. But the ability to disseminate content should never be mistaken for skills as a scientist, sociologist, human resources professional, operations manager or any number of disciplines that require actually doing the thing.

To that end, allow me to suggest that the best way to mitigate this phenomenon is to be sure and augment your reading/follow list/Google+ circles with the voices of the not-so-popular, the contrarians and the practitioners of the disciplines we follow. We are bombarded with content marketing that invokes psychology, organizational behavior, leadership principles, change management and corporate culture. Yet, very few of the popular voices who talk about how social media has transformed business have much actual expertise in areas outside of marketing and PR.

I do not denigrate those voices--far from it. I often range far afield of my own educational background and experience in my writing--but do be sure to balance those voices by seeking out HR specialists, psychologists, management consultants and CEO's who, though they may not have the platforms held by some popular bloggers, have just as much if not more to say about how social has transformed business as anyone.

I do not fault those who produce content in those areas--again, the system almosts demands it--but that very same system requires that we start holding content marketing to a higher standard.

3. Finally, the great crime of writers such as Lehrer (and one of my least favorite popular writers, Malcolm Gladwell) is this: they confuse information and evidence. I still believe that this post, on the difference between the two, is one of the best things I've written, and it is certainly the one that best sums up my personal approach to my job.

What writers like Lehrer, Gladwell and any number of currently popular business writers do is this: they start with the insight, and then seek out data to prove it. Lehrer certainly did this: he began with an idea, and then (as the writer of the excellent New York piece linked above noted) sought out the data required to serve as the scaffolding of that idea. There is a saying in my business: the plural of anecdote is not data. And while some popular "data-driven" writers and bloggers often have compelling anecdotes to illustrate their beliefs, those insights were not data-driven.

Anyone can cherry pick anecdotes in the service of an idea--Gladwell's "10,000 hours to mastery" myth is a prime example--but that doesn't mean that those insights actually came from data. And when we start with the idea, and then look for the data, then we no longer treat facts as information. We treat them as evidence; discarding that which does not support our idea, and elevating that which does. And this is one of the greatest crimes committed by some of the worst content marketing that I see on the social web.

And if you are using any of this content marketing to support business decisions, then it isn't a victimless crime.

Still, content marketing runs the gamut from helpful to innocuous to potentially harmful. How can we seek the light, and eschew the dark side? Well, as my lovely wife Tamsen reminds me, there is a simple trick to dealing with the geyser of information being spewed daily by Twitter, Facebook, blog posts and other content outlets: always seek to disconfirm, or, as I mentioned to Jay Baer in his excellent post here, don't seek to prove yourself right, prove yourself wrong.

That doesn't mean being a critic, or even a cynic. And it doesn't necessarily mean taking what we read in content marketing with a grain of salt, as it were. Instead, it means that what we read might be true--in fact, we can even hope that it is true--but our first obligation is not to believe it. Our first obligation is to wonder. When we are confronted with a new piece of data, or some new prescriptive article about the best way to use social media, the enlightened reader wonders if it is actually true and applicable to their situation, and then seeks to disprove it.

This has nothing to do with doubt and everything to do with confirmation bias. If you cannot disprove a thing after putting it to the test for your specific situation, then you have a genuine insight. But if you can readily disprove it, then you know to keep looking. And I don't know about you, but I keep looking, each and every day.

So, I have a love-hate relationship with content marketing. I acknowledge it. I use it. I embrace it. But I also recognize that that there is a truly dark side indeed to content marketing. What say you?

What Book Changed Your Life?

Is there a book that legitimately changed your life?

I've one, though not in the way you might think. I began my career as an English teacher (I taught Rhetoric and Composition at Penn State) and thought, for a time, that the literary life was for me. I had sporadically entertained thoughts of writing a novel over the years, but my perspective changed when I read The World According To Garp and A Prayer For Owen Meany, both by John Irving, in rapid succession. 

I still have a non-fiction book or two in me, of this I am sure. But reading those two books all but ended my desire to write fiction. I never wanted those books (particularly "Owen Meany") to end. They were funny, and sad, and wise, and devastating, and wonderful. When I closed Owen Meany for the first time (and I've read it nearly a dozen times) I knew that no matter how cleverly I could turn a phrase, I could never make anyone *feel* the same depth of emotion with my writing as Irving did for me. Harold Bloom calls this the "Anxiety of Influence," and I readily admit to being defeated by it.
Again, I'm certainly not done writing, and my book(s) will come. But those early reads of Irving were so daunting to me--they completely stripped the wires of my self-esteem as a writer--that they changed my life. They convinced me that I didn't have the talent, and maybe not even the courage, to go where Irving did. A change--not for the better, perhaps--but change, nonetheless. And I think, in the end, that I'm better suited to non-fiction, as it turns out. Irving gave me a focus, in that sense, so I can fairly state that those two books changed me, irrevocably.

A painful admission.

Change is neither positive nor negative. Change is change. What books have *actually* changed you?

On Social Networks, Politics and Civil Discourse

As Election Day looms here in America, I've noticed a lot more overtly political content being disseminated on my social networks of choice. Facebook friends are taking stands, and leaving comments on even the most seemingly non-political posts of their friends. I see more and more "partisan" tweets. 140 characters appears to be just the right length for overt jingoism.

I've recently noticed a few people complaining on Facebook about the level of political discourse they've observed in their social feeds. I see people talking about better filters for such discussion, or even just unfollowing those who post politically disagreeable content. I do not judge this impulse. I've had it myself. I have had Facebook "friends" hijack my own posts to further a political agenda. I've toyed, briefly, with "unfriending" them.

I won't, of course. I friended them for a reason. Those reasons haven't changed, and I have always been judicious about the people I follow and allow in to my various social networks. But I'll be honest: I thought about unfollowing a few. I thought about unfollowing some of them because of the level of their discourse, and how much I disagreed with their positions. But here's the thing: I knew the political views of these people when I followed them, or accepted their friend requests. What I didn't know was the extent to which they would proselytize those views.

But should that matter?

One thing I have noticed in my "real life" social interactions: there isn't a lot of political debate. Sure, there are lots of political discussions, but hardly debate. Yet my Facebook and Twitter feeds seethe with partisan views, "inflammatory" statements, and provocative opinions. 

It's clear to me why this is so: I've allowed myself to be "sorted" into more politically-homogenous real-life social groups. I don't beat myself up about this: we've all done it. We've gradually been doing it for over 50 years. After WWII ended in this country, we were generally united around one cause. Our grandparents settled into postwar America living in suburbs next to people with differing political views, but who were probably good neighbors. Gradually, people of differing political views started to move away from these postwar suburbs and into more homogenous environments (this has been well-documented in an important book called The Big Sort, which I highly recommend.) It became less necessary for us to get along, as we sorted ourselves into more like-minded neighborhoods.

I recently called North Carolina--a "red state"--home, but lived in a decidedly "blue" area. The day-to-day banter I would engage in was either pro-democrat, neutral, or laughably conservative. Gradually I began to see that my current understanding of conservative America was being shaped by extremes--whether it was Rush Limbaugh, or those friends and neighbors brave or foolish enough to broadcast their conservative beliefs in the midst of the very liberal enclave of Carrboro, NC, I wasn't getting a good representation of moderate politics in my day-to-day discourse. 

In short, I had a very jaundiced view of conservatives. What I lacked was the viewpoint of mainstream, everyday-and-decidedly-not-grandstanding conservatives: the sort of people who aren't going to take extreme positions, but who might just self-select themselves out of my neighborhood, over time, to re-aggregate with more like-minded individuals.

This kind of re-sorting is an everyday occurence. We apply different names to it, but the fact remains: as soon as we have the economic means to do so, Americans choose to live with like-minded Americans. You might call it "school system" or "culture" or whatever. But liberals eventually sort with liberals and conservatives eventually sort with conservatives as soon as they are economically equipped to do so.

As a result, the "real life" political debate--where a passionate conservative engages a passionate liberal over a beer at the local watering hole--it less common than it used to be. When I do business in France, I've become accustomed to the fact that the French love debate--they love to engage me and even argue about politics. It isn't nastiness. It's a desire to understand me--where I come from, and if I have some kind of integrity.

Such confrontiational debate is not how average Americans do business, and has probably contributed to some uninformed opinions about the "surly" French. But I always enjoy these debates with my French colleagues and clients. Once I figured out that they wanted me to take stands, even ones they disagreed with, it was in fact a liberating experience. They actually wanted to know who I am--and chose to do business with me anyway. Not because they agreed with me (they generally didn't), but because they saw me as someone who said what they meant and meant what they said.

Today I look at my Facebook feed and I see comments from my friends, real and virtual, that I might disagree with. Some of them are inflammatory, and certainly not an invitation to a reasoned debate. I get that. But our continual impulse to shut off those comments, to block those views and to filter out strong positions has a self-selecting effect that is not only ultimately harmful to us, it's an active discouragement to our more moderate friends, who might share positions we disagree with but do not share the vitriol with which those positions are often debated in "public" life.

In our real lives, we have to get along with people who are at sixes and sevens with us politically far less than we've ever had to. Which makes our tolerance of those people on social networks, which know no geographical bounds, far less than it ever used to be.

So here is where I eventually have ended up: If you post something on my Facebook page or my Twitter feed that I disagree with, I am not going to unfollow you. I am going to ask you why you hold that opinion. If your answer is reasoned, I'm going to engage you. If your answer is disrespectful, I will in fact unfollow or block you. But I won't unfollow you if you disagree with me--even if your position is strident. I will only unfollow you if you are disrespectful. 

Ultimately, what I want from my social networks is not more liberal or more conservative content. It's more civility.



Time Constraints

An odd phenomenon this week: I am currently in Dubai (my 8th trip here) and Internet access is as miserly and usuriously priced as ever. I have one hour in the morning to get everything I need to get done on the Interwebz, and then it shuts off. Bang.

Interestingly, though, I think this has had a positive effect on my productivity. I know I'm not saying anything new here, but with one hour to get all of my email processing, responding and posting done, I've been ruthlessly efficient. As I type this now, I have 4:10 left on my Internet clock. I'm reminded of the last scene in Blade Runner, as Roy Batty's time runs out. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

And so ends my Internet time. A furiously productive hour. I might try this when I get home.

Time Constraints

An odd phenomenon this week: I am currently in Dubai (my 8th trip here) and Internet access is as miserly and usuriously priced as ever. I have one hour in the morning to get everything I need to get done on the Interwebz, and then it shuts off. Bang.

Interestingly, though, I think this has had a positive effect on my productivity. I know I'm not saying anything new here, but with one hour to get all of my email processing, responding and posting done, I've been ruthlessly efficient. As I type this now, I have 4:10 left on my Internet clock. I'm reminded of the last scene in Blade Runner, as Roy Batty's time runs out. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

And so ends my Internet time. A furiously productive hour. I might try this when I get home.

Godin, Goading, and Guts

I used to read Seth Godin, back when he wrote about marketing. In recent years, though, he's become a scold, and I don't much cotton to scolds. My aversion to his scolding started a couple of years ago, when he obliquely derided my profession by proclaiming that "too much data crowds out faith" and that data killed innovation. I responded to that with a sentence I am still proud of to this day: "'s wrong to say that 'data crowds out faith.' Data is a crutch for the faithless."

We love the myth of the "golden gut". It's a populist rant, and when you are in the business of pushing books, populism is just a sales strategy. Yesterday, Godin beat the drum on another populist myth, the "inadequacy" of MBA graduates to take risks. I'll quote his opening, verbatim:

Too many MBAs are sent into the world with bravado and enthusiasm and confidence. The problem is that they also lack guts.

Make no mistake, this is just another calculated populist rant. The vast majority of Godin's readers won't have MBA's, and to hear Godin denigrate them as--let's face it--gutless, is meant more to validate the life choices of his mainstream readers than to reform the educational system.

It saddens me to see a smart man attack people, and not ideas.

See, the gist of Godin's post is this: MBA students get all that book learnin', but no *wisdom.* They are crippled by data; too reliant on "proof" to take the risks that others might. People like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, who didn't even need undergraduate degrees. Because, you know, they have "guts."

Know this: using Gates, or Zuckerberg, or any other extreme outlier as an "example" is intellectual chicanery. Gates and Zuckerberg are once-in-a-generation outliers. Proclaiming, as some populists do, that you don't need an education, all you need is the "entrepreneurial spirit" and some "street smarts," is a false choice. The outliers make do with one, or the other. For the rest of us--myself included--having both is a better strategy.

I know plenty of people who didn't get undergraduate degrees, let alone MBA's, who are successful. But when those people make the leap to say that you don't need a degree to be successful, they are offering unqualified advice--a dangerously undiagnosed prescription. My other half has something to say about "advice;" needess to say, it's typically more about the advisor than the advisee. What those people would say is that they don't need an MBA or a college degree, because they attended the school of hard knocks. Again, that's a false choice, and a dangerously prescriptive one. At some point, we all get to attend the school of hard knocks. And some of us get to do it with the added benefit of an education. Why would anyone bash that?

Most MBA-bashers don't have an MBA. I have one, and let me tell you why I have it. In 1999, I took a BIG risk. I showed some guts. I was the youngest VP in the largest pure-play radio company in the world, and I quit my job, moved to London, and became a partner in a startup. I made this move purely on a vision. I put in long hours, made decisions based upon imperfect information, and took that great leap of entrepreneurial faith.

The company ended up folding 18 months later. We had a poor revenue model, and our operational reach exceeded our grasp. When I returned to the US, I made up my mind that even though marketing was my discipline, I was never again going to be put in a position of ignorance about the operational and financial aspects of my business(es), whatever the future might hold. I already had two degrees, but decided in my mid-thirties to return to school--full time--and earn my MBA. I'll never regret that decision, nor would I ever presume to advise anyone that they should get an MBA. It was the right decision for me.

When people tell you that you don't need an MBA, they are presuming to tell you what the right decision is for you. Those people are spectacularly misguided, if not arrogant. Only you can make that call. Anecdotes and outliers are fine, but ask yourself this: why would anyone try to talk you out of furthering your education, except for their own personal reasons?

When I got my MBA, I already had guts. I think a lot of MBA's do. Re-examine the Seth Godin quote I printed above, and replace the word "MBAs" with the word "people." See it differently now?

We all must make our own choices. I wouldn't presume to advise you on yours. The choice to get ANY degree must come from within you, not from gurus trying to sell books or drive traffic.

I think commiting to continued education shows its own kind of guts. Vilifiying advanced education is gutless.