Through an unusual sequence of events, I ended up investing in a small company alongside a famous financier. It’s kinda cool, since it makes me sound like I must know something about investing, but let’s just say it’s more serendipity than strategy.
Of course, if you want to think I’m an investment genius, that’s okay, too.
Anyway, I was comparing notes on the situation with a friend who's plugged into a lot of business deals, and he expressed some views about how to work with, or around, the big dog in this deal. I took his words to heart, considered how I might respond to various actions, and then I had a flash of insight.
My friend doesn’t know this other guy and he hasn’t worked with him on any deals. He was making some assumptions about the way a wealthy investor would act in various situations, but my friend really doesn’t know one way or another. He could be right, or not, but there’s no reason for me to accept his ideas with any sense of certainty.
But that wasn’t the real flash of insight.
The real lightning bolt was that I was now accepting one of those conspiracy theories that I rail against all the time. I was taking his opinion as fact and incorporating that “fact” into my plans. I’m on guard against this all the time, pointing out the failure of skepticism that turns my friends into chumps, and it took all of ten seconds for me to take the bait from a friend who has solid credentials…but no specific knowledge.
See how easy that was? A person with some standing in the world, maybe a doctor or a public official or a celebrity, presents a statement that’s really just an opinion and we add it to our arsenal of 100% true facts for future discussions.
The reason it slips by us so easily is that we’ve been learning this way all our lives. Mom said something when we were six and we’ve never questioned it since then. We watched a "based-on-a-true-story" movie five years ago and we believe we know all the details. Intellectually, we recognize that we don’t know which parts of the movie were fact and which were fiction, but we have nothing in our brains to refute any of the facts(!?) presented on the screen. Almost everything we think we know about the outside world comes at us this way.
As is often the case in situations like this, my friend’s predictions have not come to pass. He made a general observation that seemed more credible to me because there was a specific name attached, but that didn’t make his observation any more valuable than a general statement from my dry cleaner.
If my dry cleaner had said it, though, I would have discounted the view immediately as coming from someone who isn’t in that particular business. Because my friend is in a related field and knows many investors, I gave him more credence, which was more credence than appropriate.
Lesson learned, again.
The next time I buy into an urban myth, or a rural myth for that matter, our subscribers will be the first to share in my embarrassment. Doesn’t that make it worthwhile to click here and subscribe to Dad Writes?
Send this to someone you know who’s been stuffed in the wrong bucket...
I had the opportunity once to visit the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas for a tour and meet with the guy who was running the outdoor fountains at the time. He showed us how the system worked, discussed the ways they updated the sequences to keep it fresh, and generally displayed a ton of enthusiasm for the giant bathtub he played in every day. One of the guys in our group asked how much the hotel spent on the free water show and he responded with pride that the hotel made $millions from his work.
Huh? Anyone on the street could see the show for free, so how was he making money on it? Because, he explained, hotel guests paid a premium for rooms with a view of the show, and as long as he kept them happy, he was running a profit center.
I was thinking about that experience recently when I went to a hospital for a test and the lab had a note on the wall with their “cost center” identification number.
Huh? The lab generates fees for the hospital and those fees help pay the rent. So, really, this is a profit center and the employee is part of the team that drives revenue and earnings. He might not realize it, though, because hospital management has hung a sign on the wall to tell him he's a necessary evil.
It occurred to me that we sometimes do the same disservice to people who are helping us succeed in our own lives. Are there people in our companies, our associations, our social circles, or our families who deserve to be recognized as part of the winning team? Is there someone we're treating as a burden, when they’re actually part of our lifetime profit center?
Like the guy running the water show or the lab tech who’s booking tests, it makes a big difference if we describe people as benefits or as burdens. Too often, we mis-classify people at both their expense and our own. Maybe we should encourage someone to think about themselves differently. Maybe we can change their perceptions of themselves and their place in the world by letting them know they’re builders, not drags.
And, just maybe, we should start with ourselves. Perhaps we are the ones who need to change our personal narratives, shift our point of view, and rethink our contributions to those around us. Perhaps we’re looking at our contributions from the wrong side of the ledger and feeling lesser for it.
Today might be a good day to start.
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Sometimes, when I’m in the middle of my second hour with customer support and I’m rattling off my account number for the 40th time, I’ll think about the appropriate penalty for the person who set up the system in the first place.
I’ve often said that the guy who invented speed bumps should be strapped to the bottom of a sports car chassis and driven over a few of those monsters at high speed. For the people who design websites and medical forms, we need to come up with something decidedly more severe.
We’ve all been through the drill. We try to open an account and the system rejects our password because it doesn’t have an ampersand, or because it does, or it has no caps or too many caps or not enough irony. Or we call customer support and we have to enter our account number at least twice before a human being picks up the phone…to ask for our account number.
As the customer service rep reads her required script, I try to shorten the process by answering all the questions I know she’s going to ask, but she still goes through the recitation of data points—or risk being fired. I’ll tell her I know she didn’t make up the rules, or the script, but I really, seriously, desperately want to get my hands on the person who is responsible for the extra 35 minutes I’ll spend on this nonsense.
It’s the same thing when we’re offline in the doctor’s office, where they hand you four pages of questions to answer while waiting for your appointment. Yes...
...all the information you’re about to give them is the same thing they asked when you contacted them the first time and...
...all of it is already in the portal they made you sign up for when made the appointment, and...
...it’s absolutely certain the doctor will not look at the form after you fill it out,...
...but that’s no reason to let it slide.
There’s no way to fix it, as we know, because the nameless and faceless drones who put the hamster wheels in motion left the company a long time ago. Since then, there’s no one on the payroll with a career interest in making their processes more user friendly, or efficient, or sensible.
Strapping them to the bottom of a sports car and driving over a speed bump is too good for them, but they aren’t the only ones who come up with rules that make no sense. For instance, who was it that decided:
The world is filled with arbitrary rules that we follow as if they flowed logically from a font of wisdom, including rules we have to comply with in order to get support from the doctors and businesses we frequent. If you know who came up with any of these gems, let me know how to find them. I know a guy with a sports car.
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The pastor actually seemed irritated that there were no reporters in the church.
“You don’t see The Media covering this,” he said as about a dozen congregants literally took the plunge in their baptisms.
And all I could think was, “Even here?”
No matter where I am or what the situation is, somebody is going to take a gratuitous swipe at The Media. We haven’t reached the point at which everyone is required to wear a mask, but it seems we all have a media-slap quota that we must meet.
Even people in The Media love to pile on, dismissing viewpoints they don’t like as “something The Media wants you to believe.” On the left, they deride the right-wing outlets and websites. On the right, they attack everyone else as “leftist,” “mainstream” or “lamestream.” And that’s especially weird, because it’s pretty clear there is no single “media” with a single slant or a singular focus. “Media” is a plural word for a reason. In this country, we have left wing and right wing, mainstream and niche, online, broadcast, corporate, social…even retired guys who take up blogging for fun.
Within that confused maelstrom of views, The Media is whatever message I don’t like. If I think the message is wrong or the emphasis is misdirected or the timing is bad or my side isn’t supported unconditionally, I’ll blame The Media. If I’m not getting the attention I want, The Media are biased against me. If I’m getting attention that I don’t want, The Media are biased against me. If I’m getting what I want, The Media finally got it right.
Meanwhile, as much as we spit on the Fourth Estate, we rely on The Media for about 90% of what we think we know about this world. I’ve never been to India, never attended a session of Parliament, never rode a rocket…but I know at least something about them from reading the daily news. I’ve never attended a BLM march or a Trump rally, never subscribed to a QAnon site or discussed motivations with anarchists. Over the past several years, it’s become more and more clear to all of us that we live in relative bubbles, restricted to a small social and familial sphere, relying on other sources to flesh out our sense of the world.
We rely on The Media.
I don’t think there’s any other institution that we rely on so intimately and loathe so flippantly as The Media. It might be the one thing that unites people of all faiths, political views, tribes, cities, states and pronouns. We all hate The Media.
Actually, this might be a good thing. Buried somewhere in our universal scorn for the people we depend on so much, hidden in the constant sniping at the people who hired fact checkers before anyone had heard of fact checkers, just maybe there is the kernel of cohesion. Perhaps our disdain for The Media can form the spark of unity this country needs so desperately.
It’s not ideal, I know. It’s not like we can agree that there’s a Covid pandemic or that Joe Biden is the president or that internet dress is gold, not black, but at least we can agree on one thing: We all hate The Media. And if we can all share in the glow of our hatred for just a few moments, maybe we can begin the healing our nation craves so deeply.
It isn’t much, but it’s a start. Join me in shouting, “I hate The Media,” and we can begin the long journey home.
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Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.