I know a woman who always thinks she has inside information. We’ve been connected for about two decades and I can’t recall a time when she wasn’t ready to set me straight about whatever misconception I had about the world and its workings. No matter the topic, it seems, she has recently spoken with someone who knows better, a real insider who enlightened her about the truth that’s being hidden from the rest of us.
Almost invariably, her special source seems to be just another Joe; maybe someone in a relevant industry, but not a person we’d expect to have their own hotline to the truth. It might be someone in the financial industry who’s explaining what’s really behind a market move, or it might be a government worker who claims that published data are skewed. Rumors abound in large organizations, so there are undoubtedly conflicting stories floating around at any given time, but she thinks she has an unerring ability to identify the truth that’s hidden in the static.
Usually, she’s wrong, or at least I think she’s wrong because pretty much everyone tells a different story than she’s getting from her “inside source.” The preponderance of evidence against her view doesn’t dissuade her, though. Once a person decides she has found a hidden truth, every contradiction makes it more hidden and, therefore, more truthful.
The strangest thing, to me, is the contrast between her acceptance of unproven claims and the sharp reasoning skills and fact-driven approach she brings to her career and finances. In her career, she is strategic and discerning, but outside of her business she is the easiest of marks.
She’s also more than a bit smug about the whole thing, as if her “inside information” makes her better connected or smarter or more Chosen than I am. Maybe she’s just proud of herself for her ability to follow the rabbit trail back and forth until she reaches the conclusion she was going to reach either way.
I’m a pretty lazy guy, so I don’t have the energy to jump through a dozen hoops to get from one fact to a global conspiracy. My acquaintance, on the other hand, is much more agile and energetic, jumping through multiple hoops on the way to whatever conclusion supports the view she had when she started.
Clearly, we need to implement the One Hoop Rule to bring some sanity back to our conversations. If all you need is a single leap to get to your conclusion, maybe it’s worth considering. If you need to play hopscotch, expect to be ignored. In fact, my new mantra is going to be, “Two hoops. You’re out.” I expect to be repeating it frequently.
Fox Mulder said, “The truth is out there,” which was clearly a coded directive to subscribe to Dad Writes by clicking Out There right here.
I rolled up on a cop in the forest preserve parking lot the other day. He might have been running a little speed trap or maybe he was just secluded for a bit of “me time.” Who am I to judge?
Anyway, I needed a favor.
Bald eagles nest along the rivers near Chicago around this time of year, heading south from their normal haunts to find open water where they can spot and snag their RDAs of fish. I knew they were supposed to be trawling along the Fox River, but there’s 200 miles of river and I was hoping he could narrow my search.
I’d asked a few locals for directions to the eagles’ hunting preserves, but local insights ain’t what they used to be and nobody seemed to have a clue. I was on my way home when I spotted the cop car and decided to give it one more try.
I got lucky. Like me, he’s a photographer and, like most people, he’s a better photog than I am. In fact, it turns out he shoots weddings as a side gig and his work looks pretty sharp. He gave me his card, just in case I knew anyone about to take the plunge, and then we compared notes about our cameras and lenses, how many crappy photos you have to take before you get one great one, landscape versus wildlife photography, and, finally, our feathered tourists. Over the years, he’d seen our national symbols on the prowl near a dam just north of the government center, so he gave me detailed directions and I went off to scratch one more item off my bucket list.
As I drove away, it occurred to me that it’s not that hard to find common ground for a friendly conversation with a stranger, any stranger, even one who’s strapped. I lucked out on the first question, because he was also a photographer, but there were probably at least ten other topics we could have discussed amicably, and we never touched on the third rail known as politics.
I have no idea what he thinks about impeachment, Antifa, Proud Boys, deficit spending or pandemics, and both of us can live our lives just fine without that conversation. Maybe we’ll live our lives even better if we have fewer of those conversations along the way. I can’t imagine that the cop saw me pull away and wondered, “Wait, I wonder what he thinks about the Second Amendment,” or “Gee, I wish we had a chance to talk about fake news.”
I didn’t wish for a return conversation about those topics, either. In fact, I was reminded how much I’m on edge in my conversations these days, hoping to avoid doom in the tar pits of politics, flailing at each other on the way down. I recognized that I’m more likely to avoid the traps when I’m talking with strangers than when I’m engaged with family and friends, possibly because there are fewer boundaries when we’re with our closer contacts. Maybe I need to talk more with strangers and less with my inner circle.
If I ever get my eagle shot, I’ll be sure to share it with all our subscribers, including you if you click here and subscribe now.
Thanks to the pandemic, I’ve finally caught up on all the TV shows that I meant to watch, but somehow missed over the past twenty years. Now that I’m up to date, though, I’m finally in sync with Newton Minow on that whole “vast wasteland” thing.
Way too many shows are predictable claptrap or so-called reality shows that have nothing to do with the real world that most of us inhabit. Bachelors and Bachelorettes and Kardashians and Tiger Kings and frustrated hotties and…really, there’s nothing out there that reflects my reality, or yours.
I’m tired of watching people who are cooler and richer and better looking than I am doing things I’ll never get a chance to do, especially since I have spent my entire life watching people who are cooler and richer and better looking than I am doing things I’ll never get a chance to do. So, no, that’s not the kind of reality I’m talking about. What we need right now is a reality show that connects with us as we are, a show where we can see ourselves not only as contestants, but as winners. Isn’t it time we had something more approachable, something along the lines of:
Endless Zoom: Young parents must navigate 12 hours of Zoom meetings for work while caring for two children, a side job and a custom-bred labrapoodledoodle. Challenges include feeding an infant while delivering a PowerPoint, toilet training a toddler during a sales call, and remembering to mute while interviewing for a better job.
Meme Swap: This will remind everyone of wife swap, but there will be much more violence. Each contestant is required to post horrific, offensive and fraudulent content to social media for 18 hours per day, but the content must be the exact opposite of whatever they post otherwise. Challenges include: Convincing your friends your account wasn’t hacked, setting up a GoFundMe account for your worst nightmare, and flaming your grandmother.
Vaccine Nation: A group of 20-somethings with no pre-existing conditions or relevant jobs must move up in line for a vaccine so they can attend an immune-only gathering of A-Listers. Challenges include relocating to a state with excess vaccine supplies, creating exotic diseases that change their status, and catfishing a senator. (Actually, the last one probably isn’t much of a challenge at all.)
Monotony Island: Senior citizens who have been isolating for the past 10 months must prove they should still have their wits about them. Challenges include: “What day is it?”, “Did I eat lunch yet?”, and “Why am I in the closet?”
Local sponsors: Now that all the restaurants and local businesses have shut down and there’s nobody to support the park district sports teams, contestants will be required to sign up as sponsors for the summer season. Challenges include: stenciling 50 matching team shirts, feeding the kids and their families after the games, and making sure all the kids get exactly the same amount of playing time.
Pot luck dinner: Maybe we should call this lotsa luck dinner, because survival is not guaranteed. Contestants must assemble dinner from whatever items in the kitchen are well past their expiration dates. Challenges include: “Was it this color when we bought it?”, “That mold is penicillin, right?” and “Where’s the Ipecac?” (Actually, we think Top Chef already did this a few seasons ago, so never mind.)
Now these are the reality shows we’d all watch, and for two very good reasons. First, of course, they’d feel much more real to the rest of us and, second, they’d give us a chance to feel superior to the contestants instead of marveling at their wealth/style/looks/skill. And really, don’t we all need to feel superior to something these days?
Of course, the really superior people subscribe to Dad Writes. You can join them and be super-superior just by clicking here.
There’s a very important sticky note over my desk, reminding me to focus on a very, very, important project that I absolutely must, must, must complete…in 2018.
This project is so important to me that I placed the note in a very prominent place, announcing my commitment every time I turn on the computer. I want to be sure I don’t forget how urgent it is that I get around to achieving my incredibly critical goal.
After more than two years of ignoring my reminder, though, it’s time to face facts. That project isn’t really important to me; otherwise, I would have done it by now. The same is true for several other notes around my office that cry out for my focus and my diligence. They’re all on my to-do list, but essentially none of them will ever get done.
I was going to learn to speak Polish, and Mandarin, along with Italian and Spanish. I had plans—and I put them in writing!!!—to read an encyclopedia from cover to cover, to develop the world’s most popular app, to digitize all my photos and change all my passwords from password1 to password123. I made a note, several notes, to pay for my retirement by selling my copies of Spiderman and Mad Magazine for $billions on EBay. And if those didn’t generate enough cash for retirement, I could also organize my dad’s stamp collection, and his coin collection, to raise a few $million in pocket change. Also, just in case anyone wants to make a bid, I am planning to cash in on my Beanie Babies and Pogs very, very soon.
Alas, all is for naught. My to-do lists are overloaded with TO and devoid of DO. They mock me for my failure and my foolish hopes for achievement. Late at night, as I pass my office door, I can hear their muffled snickering.
Clearly, to-do lists are the devil’s spawn, a morass of futile hopes and unrealizable dreams that torment us with endless reminders of our laziness, our incompetence and our mortality. Some of us are addicted to them, which makes us even more pitiable as we’re visited by the ghosts of aspirations past.
In my lucid moments, I realize I’m never going to learn Mandarin or read the encyclopedia or fulfill any of those other pipe dreams that I added to my to-do lists over the years. If I was really all that interested, I would have done it. If I haven’t done it, it wasn’t really that important to me in the first place.
That explains why I have become truly adept at Words with Friends, Free Cell, shouting the wrong answers at the screen during Jeopardy, and arguing with the thousands of total strangers that Facebook assures me are really my friends. It turns out these are my true priorities in life, and I prove it by spending so much of my time with them.
Now that I think about it, to-do lists are also one of my highest priorities in life. If we’re going to grade my commitments according to hours of effort, these exercises in futility would certainly rank in the top five. In fact, according to Malcolm Gladwell, I qualify as a true expert.
Wait. That changes everything. Suddenly, I realize that I should never implement any of the plans on any of my to-do lists. If I complete the projects, I destroy the to-do basis of my lists, and no true artist (other than Banksy) would intentionally destroy his masterpiece.
I am not a failure at implementing my plans. No, not at all. I am a creative genius who paints beautiful portraits of admirable intentions. I have no need to actually do anything on my lists, because creating the list is the entire achievement.
In fact, these to-do lists of mine are so incredibly valuable, I could probably make my fortune selling them at Sotheby’s. I must remember to add this to my next to-do list, if only for the irony.
To-do lists are where dreams go to die, but that needn’t be the case for your hopes of snagging a subscription to Dad Writes. Just click here to subscribe now and please, please, please don’t add it to your to-do list.
Trapped in yet another Zoom call, I’m listening to a dozen colleagues as they discuss the virus, the economy, protests, elections and what-not and I had only one question:
Who are these people and what planet do they inhabit?
Then I realized they might be wondering the same thing about me.
Yes, I know I’m supposed to say we’re all in this together or some other claptrap, but the fact is that we’re all living in different worlds and we see only what’s in front of us in our personal version of reality. For instance, I know some people…
…who are making a killing as a result of the pandemic and others who probably will be out of business by the end of winter.
…who are raking in cash from Wall Street’s exuberance and others who are trying to scrape together lunch money on Main Street.
…whose careers will be mostly gone a few years from and others who are on an arc of long-term growth.
…who plan to be self-quarantined for many months to come and others who venture out without masks, getting up close and personal with anyone who crosses their paths.
The space between our daily lives and our fundamental perceptions can be huge, which makes it a major challenge to bridge the gap and understand each other. That assumes, of course, that we care enough to try, and that turns out to be a frequently flawed assumption.
Many people in my business/social circles have a tendency to reject the legitimacy of any ideas other than their own. When we do engage in a conversation, I’ve noticed that their goal is to convert, not to understand, so we are stuck at square one forever.
It’s our fatal flaw that we all praise innovation and American ingenuity, but we make almost no effort to be praiseworthy in our own lives. We marvel at tech upgrades and medical advances and new industries that overwhelm the traditional world, but we duck and hide when it’s our chance to become truly marvelous ourselves.
Reconsider our approaches? Challenge our conventions? Rethink our paths? No way, Mr. Feliciano. We’re fine with our thinking inside this box. New ideas are nice, in theory, but let’s not go crazy here.
We tend to think of change as something that the other guy needs to do, even though the only person we can change is ourselves. The funny thing is that we do change, multiple times, as events and our own evolution progress over time. Most of those changes, though, are unconscious, unintentional. When it comes to the type of changes that we can control the most, we suddenly become acutely aware and very, very resistant.
I’m not expecting much from the next Zoom call. We’ll all “walk in” with the same perceptions as the last time and it’s almost guaranteed that we’ll exit the session with our worldviews unaltered. From my screen, the new normal looks exactly like the old one.
When my views are accepted by everyone else in the world, our subscribers will be the first to know about this historic event. Just click here to subscribe.
I know a couple who finally put away enough money to retire, so they sold their business and invested their sweat equity in the stock market.
It was 2008, just before the crash.
I ran into the wife earlier this year, still working part-time at the store she used to own and making plans to retire, again. She’d had a dozen years to adapt to her “new normal,” knowing that her old normal, the one that seemed absolutely certain in 2008, isn’t coming back.
I think about her and her husband whenever people tell me about their hopes for returning to normal after this pandemic subsides. Normal, the one we were counting on in January of this year, isn’t coming back.
On one level, we should recognize this as a fundamental truth. We tend to think of the current situation as the norm, or think back to a specific point in time as the benchmark for normalcy, but the only real normal is change. We, the world, are eternally in flux.
I have some friends who believe the pandemic is a hoax that is being promoted to affect the presidential election, so they also believe it will fade into the background on November 4. I have other friends who think access to a vaccine will enable us to reboot the economy to our bookmark date of January 1, 2020. I know more than a few guys who seem to think we can return to normal by reopening everything and getting to herd immunity as quickly as possible, because it’s worth the trade-off in lives lost.
Me? I think they are kidding themselves. Too many people, and organizations, have been changed by this for us to bounce back to the days of yore.
When/if there’s a vaccine, for example, an above-average percentage of the population won’t take it at first. I am included in that group. I get my flu shot every year, but the race for a vaccine has become so politicized that I can’t find my way to trusting whatever gets approved first, or second, or maybe even third.
All the political wrangling has achieved its goal of causing distrust, but that distrust translates into an extended crisis. I probably will wait six or eight or twelve months before taking any vaccine and that means I will wait six or eight or twelve months before I dine indoors or go to a casino or fly on a plane.
How many people will skip the vaccine? Certainly, the people who refuse to take any vaccines already will sit this one out, but millions more will wait a long time before they accept that the vaccine is safe. Whether it’s 5% or 10% or 0.8% of the population, this caution will slow our economic recovery and delay our return to “normal.” Herd immunity, if it could be achieved for this particular virus, might remain out of reach as the vaccinated cohort makes up too low a percentage of the population.
Meanwhile, dozens of industries and about a million companies will need years or decades to recover, if they manage to survive at all, because their profit models are based on cramming a large number of people into a small space for an extended period. That includes restaurants, bars, mass transit, airlines, casinos, hotels, health clubs, sports arenas, convention centers, churches, schools, office buildings, theaters, and probably a few dozen I haven’t thought about.
Well-capitalized companies, which tend to be larger, will tend to be the survivors, while mom-and-pop stores fail, accelerating the concentration of wealth and commerce that has been underway for decades. As small businesses fail, their owners might simply decide to retire, increasing the impacts for the Social Security system.
On the other end of the working years, millions will discover that their career paths have been washed away by social distancing, online commerce and working from home. Whether it’s the people who cleaned the now-empty offices or the chefs who have no restaurants, the disruptions will be significant for enough people that their social and financial progress might be delayed for an extended period.
Changes that are already under way, such as the rise of online shopping and communication, will accelerate during this period of reduced personal contact. Changes that might have taken another 5-10 years might be compressed into one or two, making any disruptions more rapid and severe.
However the world changes, and changes us, the ripples will be sustained, like a thousand butterfly effects competing for influence. It’s impossible to pinpoint the exact impact of each shift, which is a truth that applies to every change we encounter, but we know enough from prior upheavals to recognize that shifts will occur.
Every day is a new normal, a new life, and the only thing we can know for sure is that we’re never getting back to the way things were in the time before.
In a world of upheaval, the only real constant is the incredible value of a subscription to Dad Writes. Just click here to become a subscriber and your life will always be both new and normal.
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.