Author of "This Is Rage" and "Endless Encores"

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Trust Is Not Negotiable

By on May 26, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about trust. I’ve been thinking a lot about truth. I’m trying to wrap my head around what I thought for fiftysomething years were the basics: If we’re going to climb a mountain together, we have to agree on what mountain we’re climbing, where it is, are there airports nearby to get in and get out, has it been climbed before and under what circumstances—you know, the facts. We won’t necessarily know the exact temperature at the top, the weather patterns tomorrow or the next day, the precise condition of the trail at every turn, those sorts of variables. There are always unknowns ahead of us that we’ll discover together, but if we can’t start on the same page, how can we possibly agree on plans to address the unknowns? I find these days truly unsettling, not just because there is a debilitating health crisis before us, but because I don’t have enough trusted information to know what the crisis is and the ability to share in that belief set collegially with a vast majority of the population. We are confused. We are bombarded with conflicting information. We are scared, anxious, and divided when we need to be informed, building consensus, and united. How do we address monumental problems when we have little idea what we can believe? In the age of the Internet, with the ability to share more factual information globally than in all of history, we are mired in noise. How do we navigate a crisis and ask people to make personal sacrifices—not the least is the temporary surrendering of certain personal liberties—without a unified voice in leadership speaking with sound judgment and reverence for the impact of expert advice? To me, the deepest impact of the Covid-19 pandemic beyond the tragic loss of human life remains the nagging head fakes that cause me to have no idea what to believe. Contradictory information is not just a health concern. The unrestricted blending of fact and speculative opinion can undermine our entire economy. If truth blows in the wind, if we have no idea what basic financial information constitutes truth, how can we wisely invest? How can we guide careers? How can we...

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5 Key Learnings in Crisis

By on Apr 21, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

Many of us are trying to decipher some level of meaning in the Covid-19 crisis. I must admit, I’m unable to find any. This is an act of nature, an act of environment. I see no message in either the depths of pain and loss this disease is causing globally, or the resulting social and economic havoc that is its byproduct. I think if you’re looking for a clear definition of existential occurrence, this is as clear as it gets. For better or worse, the dialogue doesn’t have to end there. Like any shock to the system, Covid-19 does offer us some learning opportunities. I’ve been thinking a lot about this the past several weeks. Here are five modest headlines I believe can be some of our more instructional takeaways once we together find a way to cross the chasm. Leadership and trust are inseparable. In the absence of recognized authority, chaos will fill the vacuum. We are seeing this and suffering with it day after day. The issue is not whether we are politicizing a deadly disease, whether our polarization is obstructing more sensible activity. In times of distress, we all crave calming leadership around which we can rally. As I have written many times before, trust cannot be assigned, it has to be earned. Effective leadership cannot be mandated. Leadership is acknowledged by example. There is no such thing as alternative facts. A fact is a fact. While scientific practice can be revisited by disproving the conclusions around previously applied data, it can only be done so with more disciplined inquiry and even more rigorously evidenced data. An intelligent, educated population hungers for touchpoints of agreement that can be demonstrated empirically. without hype, manipulation, or ulterior motives. Our nation and our planet have indeed managed through historical crises worse than Covid-19. If you look back at how those triumphs occurred, you will likely see the link between leadership and trust on grand display. Investing in readiness is not a luxury. I wish I could find the words to express my dismay in how flat-footed our nation has proven itself in addressing a severe threat to our fundamental health and wellness. Even the most basic understanding of chain...

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Embracing Puerto Rico

By on Mar 31, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

It wasn’t exactly a slow news week. Covid-19, a.k.a the novel coronavirus, was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. The President of the United States declared a national emergency. As he described his proclamation, those were “two very big words.” The stock market crashed. The NCAA canceled March Madness. The NBA and NHL suspended their seasons. MLB postponed Opening Day of the 2020 season. Disney closed all its theme parks. Travel between the United States and most of Europe was announced to be suspended. Schools began closing and attempting to move course instruction online. Thousands of classroom teachers who had never heard of Zoom quickly discovered modern videoconferencing. Other than 9-11, I can’t remember a week like that. Meanwhile, I had arrived the previous weekend with a team of volunteers in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We had committed to a service trip there more than six months ago partly to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, but also to begin a wide-ranging relationship between our university alma mater and our clearly underserved fellow American citizens about 1150 miles southeast of Florida. While we were getting media snippets of the chaos on the mainland, we found ourselves highly engaged in a set of more basic, everyday challenges faced by the people of Puerto Rico. We learned about the historic struggles of Puerto Rico, approximately 400 years under Spanish authority and just over 100 years under American governance. We learned about the deeply personal, unique, and diverse culture of Puerto Rico in music, dance, mural art, proper apparel, naming public buildings, storytelling, legends, heroes, and political argument. We learned that there seems to be an infinite number of delightful ways to combine rice and beans, in much the same way many on the mainland think of pizza or burgers. Puerto Rican cuisine, particularly Mofongo, is a source of creativity, pleasure, and national pride. Locally grown artisan coffee is exquisite. Although sugar cane is no longer harvested in Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth is the largest producer of rum in the world. We learned through our host partner, Instituto Nueva Escuela (INE), how Montessori education is making a seminal change in the efficacy of Puerto Rico’s public school system....

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The Problem with Joker

By on Feb 17, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

I don’t write about movies often. On the occasions I do, it’s likely because something bothered me. Joker really bothered me. I can’t deny the performance of Joaquin Phoenix. He is a gifted actor. He gave a masterful depiction of a troubled, anguished, sick character. That only makes my criticism more severe. I’m also not going to argue against First Amendment expression. The creators have an inalienable right to make and distribute this work, for profit or otherwise. That simply makes them guilty of intellectual laziness at best, and self-serving irresponsibility at worst. I think both have occurred, and I am deeply troubled by this because of the film’s enormous audience reach. Its success makes the laziness and irresponsibility all the more pernicious. They could have done better. They deliberately elected not to do so. I’m going to tell you why I think this movie is psychologically problematic, but first, let me warn you, this will be one of the worst spoilers ever. Do not read a sentence further if you intend to see the movie and don’t want the ending ruined. Okay, if you’ve seen it or don’t care to see it but want to know why I’m upset, please read on. It is important to remember that the core source material for this literary work is a comic book. I read comic books a lot as a kid, and in fact I was about as big a fan of Batman as they come. That was in the escapist pages of a comic book. The character portrayal in this onscreen depiction seems to me evolved from the school of naturalism, extending the realm of realism to a more interpretive form of social commentary. The extreme portrayal seems less a form of entertainment than it is a comment on cruelty and its origin. The clown makeup does not separate the storytelling from the gritty suffering in the streets. The imagery throughout could appear as hyperrealism, as Stanley Kubrick approached similar territory in A Clockwork Orange, but that would have required artistic choices that aren’t evident in Joker. There can be obvious real-world consequences to confusing the worlds of fantasy and framing souped-up slice-of-life imagery as somehow predictive or inevitable....

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Can Business Be Philosophical?

By on Jan 23, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

Recently I shared with you my passion for philosophy. You probably know I also have a profound passion for business. And music, The Beatles, The Dodgers, wine, literature, children’s needs, social justice, and other stuff. Back to philosophy and business: can they intersect? This is where a lot of cynicism enters the picture. Mark Zuckerberg says he is all about free speech and building global communities. He would have us believe a business—at least his business—should not be editing political expressions, even for accuracy. He asserts this is up to individuals to assess, or for the government to regulate if it can figure out a reasonable and fair way to impose guidance. Should we believe Zuckerberg the visionary or Zuckerberg the voracious competitor? It doesn’t take a lot of analysis to know his goal is to keep selling ads, that any restrictions on free expression create a slippery slope for the addiction of his site contributors (i.e. all of us powering his pages with free content). It’s pretty clear he wants a level playing field around restrictions, meaning if the government regulates Facebook, he wants it to regulate all his competitors where he maintains a competitive advantage and is likely to win with ubiquitous rules. Are free speech and “leave me alone to make money” compatible ideals, or the best possible excuse for self-interest? Let’s try again. Google’s stated mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” They are all about creating a definitive archive for global knowledge, about ensuring the best customer experience, and once upon a time about not being evil. That’s some philosophy! Have you done a search on Google lately? Remember when organic search returns were clearly separated in columns from sponsored search returns? Yeah, that was before mobile made that largely impossible with much smaller screens. Today you practically have to be Sherlock Holmes to know what’s a paid ad on Google and what’s global knowledge. The keyword ads are everywhere. There’s a reason. They figured out how few bills the world’s information actually pays when displayed. They know which clicks are bankable in that trillion-dollar valuation. One more for the road? Apple wants us to believe it...

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Unfit: A Memo

By on Dec 9, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

TO: DJT, POTUS FROM: Ken Goldstein, Author & Businessperson RE: The Trump Legacy SUMMARY ASSESSMENT: You were unfit to hold the title of the executive office you won in election. You were unfit to issue executive orders empty of study and laden with self-interest. You were unfit to appoint cabinet officials whose job it is to challenge your opinions. You were unfit to seek loyalty from the subordinates you bullied. You were unfit to be seen as a role model by children in homes and classrooms. You were unfit to talk of family values, ethical mandates, or moral imperatives. You were unfit to order military action or report on its efficacy. You were unfit to lay a wreath at Arlington. You were unfit to represent our nation in state visits or international forums. You were unfit to offer comment on science, health, or climate change. You were unfit to speak of business norms or effective negotiation. You were unfit to hold authority in the age of “Me Too” reform. You were unfit to broadly attack our free press as perpetrators of fake news. You were unfit to demand intellectual credibility when you lied consistently without regret. You were unfit to be taken seriously as anything other than a threat to world stability and security. You were unfit to embrace the gravitas of the immense power you commanded and the lack of humility you celebrated. CORRECTIVE ACTION: We will heal while you are mired for the rest of your years in shame. We will recommit to values that embrace compassion and empathy. We will again celebrate learning and understanding, particularly in matters of science and empirical knowledge. We will rejoin the community of nations in saving our planet. We will address income inequality. We will recommit to healthcare justice. We will acknowledge the safe haven of asylum and treat immigrants with dignity and kindness. We will welcome the stranger. We will not viciously insult distinguished participants in our democracy whose views reflect diversity of thought or background. We will not embrace humiliation as a strategy to undermine those with whom we may disagree. We will appreciate journalism and distinguish facts from dangerous manipulation. We will reject the cynicism of pattern...

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