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

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Are You Smarter Than Elon Musk?

By on May 31, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

I’ve written before about Elon Musk. He’s impressive on many levels, but he needs a bit of humbling on behalf of his peer group. He knows what he knows. He doesn’t know more. I don’t need Elon Musk to teach me about free speech. He doesn’t have the credentials. I also don’t need Mark Zuckerberg to teach me about community, openness, or how we’re going to live in the meta future. He’s a guy who sells online ads. He’s not a futurist. The opinions of these people outside their realms of expertise aren’t just conflicted; they are arrogant, self-serving, naive, and potentially dangerous. Wisdom is not fungible. Insight is not fungible. A person can be really good at something and nothing else. They just don’t know it, or perhaps they choose to embrace a platform of pretension. Self-aggrandizement is often a spoil of war. A thought leader with demonstrable success in one category has no de facto claim to distant adjacencies. A celebrity, even a business celebrity, doesn’t become a subject matter expert beyond their recognized success simply by claiming the public microphone and turning up the volume. Knowledge is not transferable by sheer force of will or cult of personality. An ego like Musk would have you believe he can layer meaning where none exists. An agenda is not the same as a common belief set, or even a clearly defensible philosophy. Your opinion of what constitutes the normal social limits or lack thereof around free speech is every bit as valid as that of Musk. He can spend billions and buy anything he wants, but that does not make him right, only influential. He can call himself a free speech absolutist, but he made that up. It’s a pithy expression meant to draw attention to himself, but consider Los Angeles Times writer Michael Hiltzik’s extrapolation of Musk’s mandate in a more chaotic application of the extreme unleashed: “If that means that users will be able to post anything they wish on Twitter, no matter how redolent they are of ‘sexual harassment, group harassment, insults or name-calling, posting private info, threatening to expose private info, violent event denial, violent threats, celebration of violent acts’ or any of the...

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My Will Smith Reflection

By on Apr 6, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

So much has been written about “the slap heard ’round the world” in such a short time that it already seems a tired target. It is all of that, but I would feel I missed a moment if I didn’t share my own reaction. For me, it has almost nothing to do with Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock, the Academy Awards, or any of the specific elements that surrounded that night. I stopped watching the Oscars years ago, mostly because I love the craft of storytelling far too much to see it devolve into a compromised, increasingly irrelevant dress up pageant. My take is more personal, a series of artifacts stored deeply in my mind that have molded me over the decades. I began my career in entertainment, both as a writer and on the business side. I was even in the legendary William Morris mailroom for an abbreviated sequence of heartbeats. Here’s what I discovered in the entertainment business: wealth + fame = the equivalent of royal privilege. Most of my observations of high-ranking talent—creative or executive—encompassed abysmally bad behavior. There were exceptions of course, but most of what I encountered involved arrogance, rude backbiting, uncontrolled spending of other people’s money, and a tone of disdain fearing ordinary competition might unseat an incumbent player. I discovered the novel phone etiquette of “Please hold for so and so … ” when someone calls you, where that someone is rolling calls and can’t be bothered to dial. On my very first round of job interviews out of college, I asked a producer at the top of his game for his business card; he laughed at me and told me everyone knew who he was, he hadn’t had a business card in 20 years (his name wouldn’t even make a good Jeopardy question now). I saw a celebrity at the top of her game order a bottle of Dom Perignon at a lunch meeting, take one sip from her glass, and the rest went untouched. I had a stapler thrown at me, not because of anything I did but because I was in the room when a big deal went south. Small stuff? Sure, but the message was clear....

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Moments of Clarity

By on Mar 23, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

I just finished another trip around the sun (they seem to come annually for some reason), and to the extent it was a bit of a numerical milestone, it certainly got me thinking about things that matter. I like living in this world, despite all its faults. When I am immersed in places like Yosemite Valley and looking up at Half Dome, I have less desire than ever to partake in meta. Learning how to navigate in this reality has never lost its appeal to me. Being an avatar in a virtual world has almost no appeal to me. I find it deeply troubling that regardless of how technology has accelerated global interdependence, ruthless despots continue to pursue egomaniacal, territorial wars of vast destruction like we are seeing in Ukraine. I find it more troubling that in the 21st century, more humanitarian societies remain largely clueless about how to circumvent crises without accelerating conflict. I love our democracy, our nation, and the limitless opportunity this generational child of immigrants continues to experience, but the divisive politics of rhetoric and hyperbole leave me sleepless most nights and concerned about the reemergence of authoritarian populism. I like our U.S. currency and monetary system. It is not flawless, but I understand it and trust it enough to park my assets in its floating value. I don’t have an interest in cryptocurrency, particularly those that began as jokes and trade in wide ranges on speculation. I am intrigued by blockchain technology and see its potential in future accounting systems, but I don’t think that has to be tied to flavor-of-the-day money brands. Similarly, I have no plans to purchase NFTs. Maybe if people like me sit out the NFT market, the price will be lower for others who see value here. Consider it our invisible gift to you. I like trading equities on fundamentals. I like owning shares in companies that either generate earnings or are on a path to generate earnings. I want to understand traditional ratios and multiples that determine the price of stocks. I don’t care if a company has sextupled in current market value because “everyone” is buying it. I want to buy it at fair market value where...

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The Root Word of Contemporary Is Temporary

By on Feb 15, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

Sometimes I wonder if the advancing of age and a leaning toward old-fashioned values are a hindrance to relevancy in our contemporary workplace. Then I remember who taught me the most about workplace navigation in the early years of my professional career. It was bosses and colleagues advancing in age and leaning toward old-fashioned values. I don’t think a bit of traditional thinking about the nature of workplace relationships is incompatible with rapid innovation, agile thinking, evolving workplace paradigms, and aspiring to more meaningful jobs. I think a bit of grounding is precisely what the doctor ordered. We all can learn from each other if we choose to listen. One of the simplest and most striking plain language aphorisms I learned from a writing teacher many decades ago has never failed to inform my internal litmus test of change management. His name was J.D. McClatchy and he was a renowned poet. To my knowledge, he had no interest in business, but these words he taught me about writing have guided much of my business thinking: ”The root word of contemporary is temporary.” Why is this gnawing away at me this particular moment? I am seeing a lot of individuals make terrible decisions in real-time that I am reasonably certain they will regret. They are trading the tangible present for a fragile future, often believing their choices are well-considered when they are unintentionally impulsive. Much has been written of late about the Great Resignation. There is no doubt that Covid madness has wreaked havoc on our psyches. It is likely we will never see our lives the same way again after two rollercoaster years of public policy and uneven human isolation. Ostensibly as a result, we see people quitting their jobs in record numbers to explore new paths. If handled elegantly, the liberation of a life change can be an enormous expression of creativity and empowerment. I’ve personally done it no fewer than four times in four decades with no regrets. What’s my secret weapon for not burning bridges to embers? I’ve hung onto some of those old-fashioned values I learned early in my career. Do what you want, when you want, where you want, and how you want at...

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Don’t Look Up

By on Jan 18, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

I don’t often write about movies. The last few times were out of concern and offense. That’s not the case this time. Don’t Look Up is an honorable accomplishment, brilliant in aspiration if not execution. Bob Lefsetz may have summarized it best: “Don’t judge the movie as a movie. Judge it as a cultural exposé.” It’s not a great movie. It is an important movie. It’s not a laugh-out-loud funny movie. It is a twisted, masterful mirror making it a profound movie. It’s leafy green vegetables dipped lightly in ranch dressing, not a snack without compromise, but still good for you. Most of the movies we see released these days are either popcorn tentpoles with superheroes meant to fill actual theaters, or esoteric art pieces that win awards but stream largely in obscurity. What happened to issue-based, mainstream entertainment movies like The China Syndrome, Erin Brockovich, or Midnight Express? The bottom line finance culture running the studios couldn’t possibly come to terms with those kinds of bets today. Throw in a platform of satire, dark humor, or caustic irony like Dr. Strangelove or Network and the chance those movies get backed today approaches nil. Today we would call greenlighting medium to high budget films like those a bad business decision, and we would probably be right. Yet there was a time not long ago when many of us experienced these releases as popular culture events. Perhaps the most important thing these flicks accomplished was to inspire conversation. We might like or dislike the stories. We might accept or reject the message hurled at our psyches. We might enjoy or be bored to tears by the characters. We could agree or disagree with the premise. It was the very act of talking about them that made them worthwhile as events even when art and science failed. I miss those discussions and debates a lot. They made me think about things differently, They opened my mind to different points of view. They helped me get to know people better, both interacting with strangers and close colleagues. It doesn’t happen much anymore. Show business has changed too dramatically. The distribution landscape is too fragile. The stakes are too high to take these...

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Separately and Together

By on Dec 21, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

With the holidays upon us and two extraordinarily difficult years behind us, I’ve been reflecting on the impact of long periods of isolation many of us have experienced. Curiously it’s not all bad, because I think we have learned to appreciate the time we have alone as well as with others. Balance offers us a framework for interpreting our thoughts and actions in a dynamic set of circumstances we can neither predict nor control. Resilience is all about never ceding optimism to defeat, but all of us have a breaking point where too much uncertainty creates doubt in our sense of self and others. I think we need both individual and shared strength to be at our best, and holding onto hope that we can overcome doubt is very much an exercise we pursue separately and together. As we ready ourselves for another year of daunting and exhausting challenges, here are a few perspectives I’m attempting to balance to better navigate the always unpredictable social landscape: Separately we study in quiet; Together we validate the suppositions of that study. Separately we examine the data collected from our experiments; Together we wrestle that data into a platform of possible directions. Separately we read from the infinite library available to us; Together we exchange ideas about those writings that inspire us to rethink our interpretations. Separately we meditate and pause to block out compounding noise; Together we find common ground in agreeing on what is noise and what is dialogue. Separately we examine our values and define a personal mission; Together we align our interests and develop a shared vision. Separately we have control over our time to address personal distractions as they emerge; Together we temporarily eliminate those distractions to focus on our vibrant interactions. Separately we find comfort and reassurance in our chosen tribes of like opinions; Together we break down the unnecessary barriers that fuel divisiveness and obstruction. Separately we know truth in the privacy of our minds unless we are lazy in inquiry or choose to deny known facts; Together we openly acknowledge honesty regardless of its inconvenience in recognizing the integrity of objectivity. Separately we contemplate the complex nature of right and wrong; Together we form...

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