Ignoring the rest of the world, a break for working stiffs, and our surprise when normal things happen…
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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Why I want to be like Theda Bara, plus my brush with the most dangerous pop-up on the internet, among the items rattling around in my dormant mind these days…
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I sure hope nobody finds out that the password for this blog is "PaSsWoRd!" Otherwise, they might sign on as me and post something that you find offensive, demeaning, or borderline mansplaining. So, if you see anything here that gives offense, I was hacked.
The same thing applies to written documents. Back in third grade, Eddie Greenboogers learned how to copy my handwriting and continually wrote all kinds of terrible notes that seemed to have my signature, and he has continued doing that until, um, well, he’s still doing it today. So if you see any paper copies of any documents that suggest I wrote something bad, it was absolutely Eddie Greenboogers, not I.
Am I safe now? Probably not. In fact, nobody is safe today, because we live in a gotcha world, where a video of your least articulate moment will be shared by all your “friends” and your kindergarten coloring book will become Exhibit A in your public shaming. Or your murder trial, if you end up raising tigers for a living.
Life was so simple when our teachers threatened to make a note of our misdeeds in the “permanent record” that would follow us throughout our lives. As with (spoiler alert) Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and those X-ray glasses they advertised in the back of comic books, our “permanent record” turned out to be more legend than reality, and we all breathed easier as a result.
Of course, that was pre-internet and before the time that anyone, anywhere, could dredge up a bloody scent for the posterazzi. Clearly, it’s all gotten out of hand and we need some new rules to make sense of it all.
First, we need a statute of limitations for all the perpetrators of racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, anti-American, anti-religious, nasty, vicious, foul, revolting, offensive, nauseating, sickening vile, ghastly, repugnant, inexcusable statements, posts, pictures, texts, e-mails and emojis.
I’d give anyone a pass for anything they said before the age of 16. Even if it’s really, really awful, I will accept that the offender is still developing mentally, is overwhelmed by hormones and peer pressure, and has time to grow out of their wretchedness.
After 16 though, your driver’s license comes with the burden of accountability. If you’re old enough to take responsibility for a car, you’re old enough to take responsibility for your actions. Yeah, you’re still a kid, partly, but you’ve been online since you were two and you’ve probably been part of the mob more than a few times, so suck it up and be ready to take the heat.
Along the same line of reasoning, it’s time we rejected all claims of “youthful indiscretions,” which is the favored excuse for people in powerful positions who do terrible things or make terrible statements that, without a doubt, they knew were terrible at the time. And, if they didn’t know, they were pretty damned stupid and they really don’t belong in positions of power in the first place.
At the same time, we need some form of parole for people who see the light and change their ways. Maybe we can agree to ignore statements or (most) infractions at least 10 years in the past, if the person has not made similar statements or committed similar infractions since then. With elected officials, C-Suite executives, educators and clergy, I might lengthen that to 15 or 20 years. But if a person goes a decade or more without repeating the sin, it’s likely they don’t represent a current threat.
I’m okay if we never forgive someone for murder, rape or child molesting, though. Some things are just too venal for forgiveness on this Earth. Everything else is on the table, though, because we want people to have an incentive to do better and be better.
We talk a lot about healing our wounds in this society. Maybe we can start the process by committing less bloodletting.
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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.