How Do You Do Your To Dos?

Published June 18th, 2014 with 4 responses.

How difficult is it for you to keep up-to-date with your to-do list? In 2010 I wrote a blog on my to-do list problems and it’s turned out to be one of my most popular posts to date, so I’ve assumed that to-do list problems are pretty universal. Funny thing is the article really wasn’t about my to-do list or to-do list management at all, but rather about what to do when in those rare moments when you finally get all the issues screaming for attention done.

Since then, I’ve tried lots of different solutions to try to keep organized and lessen the stress of keeping track of everything that needs to be accomplished. The first thing I did was to read David Allen’s genre-defining book, Getting Things Done (GTD). Allen’s system is comprehensive and complete but turned out to be way too complicated for me – I believe it would actually take more time to manage his system than to simply do what needs to be done. Funny, too, because Allen’s system promises that Getting Things Done is “The Art of Stress-Free Productivity,” but I found it to be even more stressful than just doing nothing.

After that I tried lots of different programs for my computer and apps for my phone. I created lists and codes, scribbled on Post-it notes, dabbled with Evernote, and even wrote Excel spreadsheets. But nothing I tried was clear or simple enough to work for very long.


Somewhere in my quest for the Holy Grail of personal organization, I stumbled across a series of online videos titled The Secret Weapon (TSW). Even though I hate watching online videos – and dislike instructional videos most of all – I sat through all 11 chapters and immediately set up the system they recommend. Ironically, TSW is a combination of David Allen’s Getting Things Done and Evernote software, both of which I had previously rejected as far too complicated and difficult to incorporate into my life. But TSW’s online videos make the system so easy and so sensible that I figured it was worth a try.

After a year with TSW and GTD, here’s where I stand:

  • I’m a total convert to the TSW method. I haven’t looked at other software or tried other systems. TSW just plain works for me.
  • I’ve got my to-do lists cross-referenced across my desktop computer, laptop, iPad, and iPhone. That means that wherever I am I always have access to my lists and notes, and can add information and updates whenever necessary.
  • I have 1,636 active notes, 880 completed tasks, 447 archived memos, and 4,512 notes in the trash. While that might sound like an insurmountable pile, thanks to Evernote’s tags they are all instantly searchable and available at the swipe of a finger.
  • I even have notebooks set up for my assistant, agent, and others in my office so I can stay on top of tasks I’ve delegated and follow up when necessary.

The system combined with Evernote is a lifehack that I can’t recommend highly enough (for the record, I have no connection with either TSW or Evernote other than being a satisfied user of both). Yes, the ramp-up is a little confusing and uncomfortable, mostly because you have to accept new ways of doing things you’ve probably done a different way for your entire life. And backsliding is to be expected although it’s no different with this system than it is with any other meaningful life change you’ve attempted (dieting, exercising, quitting a bad habit, etc.). The good news it that the payoff is spectacular and liberating.

What’s not spectacular is the price. TSW is free and so is Evernote. After you use Evernote for a while you’ll probably pay the $45 upgrade fee to their premium subscription, but you don’t have to commit to that until you’re a hardcore power user and ready for the extra features. And because Evernote is completely cross-platform, it works with the various digital devices you already own. There’s nothing else to buy.

So what have you got to lose? A few hours watching the videos and a few more setting the system up. After that, the only things you might miss are the scraps of paper you scribble notes on, the various datebooks and legal pad lists you might still be using, and the stress of keeping track of whatever it is you need to do next.

Published June 18th, 2014

Work Life Balance is Bullshit.

Published June 9th, 2014 with 31 responses.

When my son was little, my wife got a call from his teacher. She was “very concerned” and wanted to schedule a parent-teacher conference right away.

Of course we were very concerned too and rushed to the school, terrified of what we’d find out. Finally, after what seemed like hours of agonizing pleasantries, Danny’s teacher got to the point:

“Last week we did a Father’s Day project and I asked the kids what their dads did for a living. Your son said ‘my dad travels. He’s never home.’”

While it’s true that I do travel for business, it’s not true that I was never home. Still, that’s the way my six-year-old saw it – and perception is reality.

Mia, Alex, and Micah's work life balance

This morning I met my friend Alex Fraser for coffee. After I introduced him to another friend as “the most involved father I know,” Alex told me the exact same story except this time it was his daughter Micah and her teacher who were concerned about how much time Alex spends at work.

Funny thing is that Alex spends more time with his daughter than anyone except maybe retired or unemployed dad who is home all the time. And when it’s time for her to go to private school and then on to college, Micah’s going to be real glad her dad was busy building a successful business and earning enough money to pay her tuition.

It’s not a matter of work life balance. It’s a matter of doing what needs to be done. Work life balance is bullshit.

Want to spend more time with your family? Work less. Want to spend more money? Work harder (or smarter).

Want both? That’s simple too. Just figure out how to earn more or how to desire less.

Don’t have enough time to work out? Get up earlier.

Too tired to get up earlier? Go to bed earlier.

Too busy to go to bed earlier? Turn off the TV or log off of Facebook.

Ah… it’s simple but it’s not easy. And it’s not what most people want to hear, but it’s the truth. There is no balance – there is only deciding what’s important to you and moving toward it. There are only priorities.

Of course I’m talking about parents like Alex who are smart, talented, and educated and don’t have issues or disabilities standing in their way. But even with all his advantages, Alex understands that while it would be nice if work could always be fulfilling and not interfere with other parts of his life, work is first and foremost about accomplishing something worthwhile and being paid for the results.

Work Life Balance

Maybe that’s why I’m always surprised when I get automatic Out Of Office (OOO) responses to my emails. Sure I understand when people are truly away from their electronic devices for vacation, focus, or for a break from the constant “ping, ping, ping” of their iPhones and Androids. But nothing is more detrimental to work time productivity than returning to your desk and sitting down to hundreds of unreturned emails after posting an OOO memo for some much needed me-time.

So as we look for new ways to deal with the new 24/7, always-on world we live in, the search for balance is a 21st century snipe hunt. Most work life balance advice includes well-meaning but worthless practices such as sending OOO notices and using LinkedIn for business communication and Facebook for personal updates. But instead, by combining work and life into one comprehensive package of who you really are, you can be both more productive and more present at the same time.

Published June 9th, 2014

The Incredible Lightness of Travel

Published June 1st, 2014 with 17 responses.

If you’ve read my blog before you know I’m obsessed with traveling light. That’s because a minimalist mindset makes travel more enjoyable and stress-free. Also I believe there are only two kinds of luggage – carry-on and lost. I’ve written about this before, listing a bunch of road-tested travel tips HERE and HERE.

My business partner and I used to go to a lot of industry events. We’d sit in way too cold conference rooms listening to lectures by the SVP of marketing for Humongo Company or director of international relations for Gigantis Corp. During the speech, Roberto would whisper, “You think this person ever made payroll?” When I’d answer, “No, payroll arrives from HR regardless,” Roberto would walk out. If the speaker didn’t walk the walk, why hear her talk the talk?

It’s the same with travel advice. And knowing Roberto would read this blog, and that he doesn’t suffer fools gladly, I made sure it was accurate and “real-world tested” before I uploaded it for you.

My family and I recently made the trip of a lifetime through Southeast Asia. All of us — my wife, kids, and mom — only took carry-on luggage. But I went further and took as few clothes as possible so I could report back to you.

What I learned is that there are three strategies that make all the difference: color coordination, fabric selection, and clothing utility.

The importance of color palette is easy to understand. I only brought black, gray or blue clothes. That way everything matched everything else and I never ran out of combinations.

Fabric is critical, too. Certain cloths are lighter and easier to pack, wash, and dry quickly, don’t hold odor, and keep you comfortable. The magic words are nylon, merino, and wool crepe. Ultra light merino wool shirts and socks from Icebreaker and SmartWool are comfortable on warm and cool days, easy to wash in the shower, don’t retain odor, and don’t itch. Really.

Woven nylon is another great fabric. Nylon cargo shorts and pants are comfortable and easy to wash, drying more quickly than cotton. Best – the new nylon looks and feels like cotton canvas so you don’t look like a fly fisherman.

What did I take? Here’s my entire list:

Three pairs of pants – one pair of light wool suit pants, Clothing Arts cargos, and a pair of Lululemon nylon pants that look dressy but stretch like sweats — perfect for red-eyes.

Three pairs of shorts – two nylon cargos and one pair of athletic shorts for jogging, gym, and pool.

Three pairs of ExOfficio travel underwear. Two are plenty but I splurged and brought an extra pair. I know, I’m wild.

Three t-shirts – two ultra-light weight merino wool tees and one dri-fit running shirt.

One no-iron cotton button-down. Besides being easy-care, you can wear a button-down with a suit and tie or roll up the sleeves and wear it untucked with shorts. You can’t do that with more formal dress shirts.

Three pair of socks – gray and black lightweight merino wool and one pair of low-cut running socks.

Shoes – one pair of black dress sneakers (mine are from To Boot but they’re available from most designers), one pair of Nike Free running shoes (with collapsible heels that I wrote about HERE) and flip-flops for the pool.


What else? A lightweight merino wool sweater, wool crepe sport coat (folds small and hardly wrinkles – if it does, it straightens in a steamy bathroom), travel belt with leather-covered plastic buckle that doesn’t set off TSA alarms, zip-up running jacket (for cold planes), knit silk tie (absolutely does not wrinkle), and a SmartWool watch cap for rain, cold, and to pull down over my eyes to sleep on planes.

Besides clothes, I brought a few harmonicas, Garmin running watch, Apple MacBook Air and iPhone, Samsung DV300F camera, noise-canceling headphones, a reduced toiletry kit, sketch book, and laptop charger – I charged everything else by running their USB cables into my MacBook. All of this – plus a Mountain Smith day bag, fit in my 22” overhead-sized carryon.

Were there downsides? Sure — some mornings I felt like putting on something different but it wasn’t because my clothes weren’t clean or comfortable. And each night I had to wash what I wore that day in the shower but that only added a few minutes in the bathroom.

I know you women are wondering if my wife also took a single carry-on. I’m proud to say she did. Gloria brought gauzy pants and tops that fold up small, silky dresses that also take up little space and colorful scarves to brighten up her relatively subdued palette. She brought four pair of shoes – loafers, running shoes, and low- and high-heeled sandals. And she brought a set of travel curlers from Hot Tools. My mom and daughter also fit everything in a single carryon.

If this seems too Spartan for you, remember that a credit card in your pocket means you can purchase anything you’ve forgotten or can’t live without. But if you forget some of the selection you’re used to, I promise you an easier and much more enjoyable trip.



Published June 1st, 2014

Beware of Silos and Rock Pits

Published May 26th, 2014 with 4 responses.

Silo-SignWhen I was a kid growing up on Miami Beach, the public service announcements we saw regularly were about the evils of littering and the dangers of silos and rock pits. Because of the constant brainwashing I received, I am a virulent anti-litterer. So much so that when I see someone litter I actually have a negative physical reaction.

I don’t have the same reaction to silos or rock pits because I never knew what they were – apparently there are not a lot of either to be found on Miami Beach.

They haven’t gotten any safer, though. reports that accidents in the rock pits found at abandoned mines and quarries claim 20 to 30 lives per year, mostly due to drowning. And silos are just as dangerous. A 2012 article in The New York Times blames silos in farming communities for more than 80 deaths since 2007 and at least 26 deaths in 2010 alone.

Funny then that the advertising industry is fond enough of the word “silo” to use it to describe the different groups of consumers that it reaches out to. Different demographic populations are differentiated and placed in silos based on their various attributes, so that marketing messages and media can be created and utilized based on whom the advertisers are trying to attract. And so strategies, campaigns, and even specialty agencies are created to reach not only general market consumers but also African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and LGBT customers as well as groups defined by age, income, marital status, education, and more.

You can often see this especially targeted work when you watch television, read magazines or surf the web. And if you spend time with specialized niche media – magazines aimed at the gay and lesbian consumer, for example, or a TV show that targets younger consumers, or a Spanish-language website – you’ll notice that the advertising is chock-full of the people, languages, and cultural cues (fashion, music, dances, etc.) that the advertisers assume their intended viewers will appreciate.

Unfortunately, these seemingly well-reasoned attempts at consumer-specific advertising often go awry because the practitioners ignore a simple fact of the modern demographic experience: Today’s niche consumers don’t live in one silo but can occupy many at the same time. So it should come as no surprise that a consumer could be a black, Spanish-speaking, gay man with small children or a young, affluent, single Asian woman. And both consumers, as different as they might appear, could have a preference for J.Crew jeans, Starbucks Coffee, Rolex watches, and Prius hybrids.


But it gets worse. Not only do these multiple-silo consumers make up a greater and greater percentage of today’s population but, in fact, we all move from one silo to another depending on what, when, and where we’re purchasing our favorite products.

Think about the last time you went to the grocery store. If you were buying items for a fancy dinner party or your most special recipe you probably splurged on the ingredients without much regard to cost, much the same as a one-percenter might shop. But then if you were buying laundry detergent, say, or cat litter – something you don’t care much about – you might be as price conscious and penurious as a low-income shopper because the product you were purchasing had little value to you.

When you’re buying over-the-counter drugs, perhaps you save money by buying generics because the FDA requires that “generic applicants must scientifically demonstrate that their product is bioequivalent” and you know you won’t sacrifice performance. But then maybe you splurge on luxury vodka because you think it tastes better even though the ATF’s (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) standard legal definition assures us that “it’s neutral spirits… treated as to be without distinctive character, aroma, or taste.”

And so, like their lethal counterparts that dot the rural landscape, marketing silos can be just as dangerous to advertisers who treat them casually and without thought and respect. The answer is to be sure that your marketing messages are carefully created to be All About Them, built to generate specific consumer responses, and not to simply meet a convenient demographic standard.

Published May 26th, 2014

Have You Seen the Future of Radio? Have You HEARD it?

Published May 18th, 2014 with 2 responses.

Are you mature enough to remember when radio was a significant influence in your life? I wasn’t old enough for the golden age of radio – Amos N Andy, The Thin Man, Tommy Dorsey, and the like – but for me radio was the soundtrack of my childhood in the sixties and seventies.

Numerous musicians and writers talk about listening to radio in their formative years. Boz Scaggs said, “I’ve always listened to the black side of the radio dial. Where I grew up, there was a lot of it.” And Salman Rushdie wrote, “In the ‘50s, listening to Elvis and others on the radio in Bombay – it didn’t feel alien. Noises made by a truck driver from Tupelo, Mississippi, seemed relevant to a middle-class kid growing up on the other side of the world.” Of course we’ve all seen the movies where a pre-teen in the fifties or sixties brings his radio to bed and listens to faraway stations under the covers. And speaking of movies, nostalgic shows like American Graffiti and Diner used radio broadcasts as their defining soundtracks. Cousin Brucie, indeed.


Like many things we loved when we were younger, radio grew long in the tooth and lost its vibrancy to the encroaching powers of commercialism and new technology. Local DJs and programming went the way of the dodo bird as multi-state networks such as CBS and Clear Channel gobbled up hometown stations. Real live voices with local accents and geographically specific music gave way to computer-generated song lists and nationally recognized celebrities and bland voiceovers. And many listeners abandoned traditional radio when they turned to iPods, CD players, satellite radio and Internet music providers such as Boomer Radio, Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, and others.

But while the industry is being consolidated, disrupted, and disintermediated, it’s also being innovated. And entrepreneurs are figuring out what they can do with the newly democratized technology.

On April 23, 2014 Apple announced a new milestone when it uploaded one billion podcast subscriptions via its iTunes store. “From comedy to hard news to sport to innovative educational content and so much more, podcasting has transformed the global media landscape,” Apple said. “The heart of podcasting is finding your favorite voices in this exciting field, and subscribing to the best ones.”

One billion! And that’s just from Apple’s servers. Clearly podcasting is not a passing fad but a genuine and quantifiable new media. Perhaps it will actually be more influential than traditional terrestrial radio. Maybe it already is.

Speaking of influential new radio ideas, my friends Marcy Rosenbaum and Seth Werner have just thrown their hats into the fray, debuting their online streaming concept, Entrepreneur Radio. According to their website, “we provide programming in the ‘how of success’ for people launching and growing new businesses. We provide unique insight and perspective into the entrepreneurial mindset through in-depth interviews with successful business creators.”


Rosenbaum, a management development coach and Internet radio pioneer, and Werner, a veteran real estate and finance businessperson interview successful entrepreneurs and ask them how they started their companies and what they’ve learned – what worked, what didn’t, and what they wish they had done differently. Every two weeks, they upload new interviews with business creators who are willing to share the true stories of how they got where they are. It’s one part inspiration, two parts information, and a whole lot of entertainment. With their direct and insightful questions, Werner and Rosenbaum draw out honest, personal perspectives you won’t hear anywhere else.

I was lucky enough to be the first guest they interviewed. Not truly convinced of my own entrepreneurial standing, I mostly talked about the most powerful entrepreneur I was lucky enough to know – my father. By sharing the things he taught me I figured I could both honor his memory and provide the show’s listeners with real, proven information and anecdotes they can use to build their businesses. Give it a listen HERE and let me know what you think.

Only time will tell if Entrepreneur Radio has figured out how to take advantage of radio’s future. But it’s clear that Marconi’s invention is now about on-demand programming and unrestricted access to voices and information free of corporate filters.

Published May 18th, 2014

Do You Read The Signs?

Published May 12th, 2014 with 4 responses.

With his dark sunglasses, slicked back hair, and untucked short-sleeve shirts, Mr. R was the coolest dad in our Miami Beach neighborhood. He’d pick us up in his enormous navy blue Lincoln Continental, and let us slide across the slickly mink-oiled cordovan leather bench seats while he screeched around the corners. He’d never even ask us to make sure the car doors were locked before we slammed into them.

At bar mitzvahs and weddings, Mr. R was always the cool dad slipping us drinks – usually screwdrivers or Jack & Cokes – even though we mostly didn’t want them. And Mr. R even let me fire his handgun when we were tramping through the sable palms up in Cocoa Beach, looking at a piece of property he was interested in developing.

No-Parking-FinalBut the best part of being with Mr. R was that he would park anywhere – in loading zones, in driveways, even on the sidewalk. When we’d tell Mr. R that he was parking illegally, he’d tell us that he wasn’t – we were just reading the signs incorrectly. According to Mr. R, the signs didn’t say, “No Parking Anytime” but were actually responding to the question, “Is it true I can’t park here?” with the answer, “No. Parking Anytime.”

Of course, we now recognize all of this as bad behavior but back then we felt like we were living large with a real-life member of the “The Rat Pack.”

Mrs. S wasn’t a cool mom but she was a great cook. The best night to have dinner at her house was when she grilled lamb chops. With three sons between 12 and 16 and their friends sitting around the table, Mrs. S would bring out never-ending platters and platters piled with the fragrant crusty chops. At some point, one of us would stop stuffing our faces just long enough to compliment Mrs. S on the great dinner.

“Of course, sweetheart,” she’d respond “I always get my lamb at Maxwell’s. You can’t beat their meat.”

“YOU CAN’T BEAT THEIR MEAT??!!” Hearing our friend’s mom say, “You can’t beat their meat” would throw the table full of adolescent boys into paroxysms of laughter until one of us could catch his breath long enough to sputter, “And you can’t lick their chops either,” before erupting back into waves of hysterics.

Mrs. S would just “tsk tsk” bemusedly and shuffle back into the kitchen, never letting on that she was aware of what just happened. Of course now we understand that Mrs. S knew exactly what was going on and the joke was on us, but back then we had no idea.

Slow-Kids FinalMy hilarious friends Brian Walter, Ron Culberson, David Glickman, and Bill Stainton have taught me that humor comes from the unexpected – Mr. R’s sign reading, perhaps; or Mrs. S’s double entendres. When you anticipate one thing but experience something else, that can be funny.

I’m not a customer service expert like my friends Shep Hyken and Holly Stiel, but I do know that your brand is built not just with logos and banner ads but also through every touch point between your company and your customer. Where this gets dicey is when our interpretation of the messages we’re sending out is different from the messages our customers perceive.

Just like Mr. R’s interpretation of Miami Beach’s parking signs, our customers look at what we say and decipher our messages the way they want to – not necessarily the way we plan. And so, my mantra of All About Them reminds us that we have to work doubly hard to make sure we are building brands and brand messages that not only reinforce what we offer, but also resonate with our customers. Otherwise, our actions can actually work against our desire to build our brand value.

Whether they knew it or not, Mr. R and Mrs. S built their brand value not with logos and taglines but with every single bit of their actions and behaviors. Whether you know it or not, you do too.

Published May 12th, 2014

Paying Attention

Published May 5th, 2014 with 9 responses.

Walking into a meeting, church or synagogue, or maybe a theater, I’m sure you reach into your pocket and turn off the volume on your phone. But because not everyone is as thoughtful and considerate as you, a phone invariably rings during the presentation. Sadly, that’s no surprise.

What always is a huge surprise is that a second phone rings a few minutes later. Didn’t the first interruption remind everyone else in the room to turn off their own phones? How is it possible that a phone will ring every few minutes throughout the same session?

I was listening to an entrepreneur talk about her new business and how she’s reaching out to men and women simultaneously. Over and over she explained how her perfect customer is not defined by sex and how her outreach has to consistently be gender agnostic. But when it came time for Q&A, the very first question she got was whether she’s marketing to just men or to both men and women?

Aren’t these people listening?

Gritting my teeth through these annoyingly common occurrences has led me to believe that in today’s digital, always-connected, 24/7 world, people are simply not paying attention. This is particularly troubling because I’m in the business of advertising, and speaking and pontificating about branding on television, so if I’m going to get my clients’ messages across I need people to watch and listen.

Case in point – this blog you’re reading is successful not when I write it but when you read it. If people aren’t paying attention, that means I could be yelling into a bottomless chasm just waiting for the occasional echo to stumble back to me. Like the proverbial tree falling in the empty forest, I make no sound.

Today’s digital communication comes jam-packed with metrics that tell us how many people clicked on our sites or received our emails, but those metrics don’t tell us if anyone is actually paying attention. It’s only when people reply to our posts – either online or in person – that we have any idea if they actually read what we wrote.

Last May I spoke at TEDx and a few months later they published my talk on their site. I did nothing to promote it and a few months later it had attracted about 1,800 views. Last week I found out that TED had selected my video as their Editor’s Pick Of The Week, and already the watch list has increased to over 4,000. But before you act impressed, you should know that there are videos with millions of views out there.

Of course, view counts don’t mean people actually paid attention to the videos – they only mean people clicked on them. In fact, because I want to increase my viewership numbers I am shamelessly asking you to click on my video link. Just like The Beatles sang, “Dear sir or madam would you read my book, it took me years to write, would you take a look?” my presentation also took me weeks of writing and at least twice that much time rehearsing, and I’d love it if you’d watch and enjoy it. But you can’t do that until you first click on it.

What happens after you click on the link is where the magic lives – perhaps you’ll like the video so much you’ll forward it to others or tweet the link or post it on Facebook or Google+. Maybe you’ll take a point or two that I discussed and actually use it to increase your brand value. Maybe someone you send it to will also pick up a great idea they can put to work for them. And maybe, just maybe, just like singing “Alice’s Restaurant,” we’ll start a movement.

Alices-Restaurant-FINAL“… the only reason I’m singing you this song now is cause you may know somebody in a similar situation, or you may be in a similar situation, and if you’re in a situation like that there’s only one thing you can do and that’s walk into the shrink wherever you are, just walk in say, ‘Shrink, You can get anything you want, at Alice’s restaurant.’ And walk out.

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and they won’t take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony… they won’t take either of them. And if three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out? They may think it’s an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out? And friends they may think it’s a movement.”

The point is that while there’s a world of potential bubbling under every opportunity to tune in, nothing will happen until we actually do pay attention. Otherwise the content of my TED talk (c’mon, have you clicked on it yet?) – and everyone else’s – along with all the wisdom in unread books, unheard lectures, unwatched movies, unviewed art, unlistened to music, and unheard sermons, will lie as fallow as unsewn seeds.

Published May 5th, 2014

The Clippers and Things You Don’t Want Your Mom to See.

Published April 29th, 2014 with 5 responses.

You’ve all seen the sordid headlines by now—there’s nothing useful I can add. LA Clippers’ basketball team owner Donald Sterling made disgraceful racist remarks, and now the team’s market value is plummeting and the NBA and others are scrambling for a way to rescue their failing brand.

WTF Final

But let’s look at the big picture for a minute – the WTF moment. As we’ve discussed here so many times before, WTF doesn’t mean What The F**k any more than it means Whiskey Tango Foxtrot or Wow, That’s Foul. What WTF means is Where’s The Future? In other words, what’s going on here that we can learn and benefit from?

Simply learning that racism is ugly is something we all should have picked up on a long time ago. And finding out that billionaire bigots say things that make the rest of us cringe isn’t news either. What is interesting is the knowledge that this is not going to be the first of these disgusting occurrences we’re going to watch play out on the public screen. No, Sterling’s descent into infamy is just an early harbinger of things to come.


Blustering bullies and bigotry have always been a bad combination. But in the good old days (read pre-smartphones and social media sites) most blowhards could shoot their mouths off without much chance of getting caught. After all, few people would be stupid enough to act badly when a camera or recording device was around (except of course for Gary Hart who sacrificed his run at the U.S. presidency after a photo of model Donna Rice sitting on his lap was printed by The National Enquirer).

Today, however, everyone’s listening to what you say and do. And it’s not just the NSA. Sterling was outed by his very own girlfriend who allegedly recorded his racist outburst and then anonymously posted it online. It’s one thing to have to be wary of the government and corporate espionage. Now your misdeeds are just as likely to be shared with the world by your friends and loved ones.

Yes, the ready availability of digital recording equipment is one important part of the equation. But it’s just the tool that makes the crime possible. There’s something else even more to blame for the outburst of “private” conversations and activities we’re about to be subjected to.

The images and recordings we’re talking about are going to be uploaded to social media sites such as Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, among others. But it’s not just the availability of these sites that incites usage. Instead, it’s an entire generation that has grown up without a traditional sense of privacy. Because today’s most ardent social media users have grown up online, where things don’t actually exist unless they’re posted—and liked—online, moving private conversations and activities into the public is going to become more and more common.

Whether or not this virtual transparency is ultimately good or bad for society is something that will be discussed by technologists, ethicists, historians, and more for a long time to come. But what is clear is that we’re going to see a lot more digital train wrecks before bad behavior catches up to the potential for its distribution and promotion.

It used to be that public figures—like actors and politicians—were subject to the intrusions of paparazzi because the belief was that by putting themselves in the public eye celebrities gave up some of their right to privacy. And it can be argued that by owning a professional sports team, Donald Sterling also gave up his right to and expectation of privacy. But now, every person you talk to or walk in front of has the technological means to publish your words and deeds while lacking the discernment to know the difference between the public and private sector. Citerazi – citizen paparazzi – are all around you and you engage with them at your potential peril.

The universal learning – which we all need to accept, prepare for and maybe even exploit – is that there are no longer public and private worlds. Those quaint notions have collided and will never be torn apart. What this means is that people in business—not just in the public eye—need to change their SOP, ASAP.

When social media became commonplace, the rule of thumb was to avoid a public post of anything you wouldn’t want your mother to read. Today, it would be more prudent to say that you shouldn’t even utter something you wouldn’t want your mom to know. After all, if you say it there’s a very good chance she’ll hear it.


Some very good news (or my shameless bid for self-promotion)

My TEDx talk, Forget Mindfulness, Try Nevermindfulness, was chosen as TED’s Editors’ Pick Of The Week. This is a pretty big deal because my talk was chosen from over 40,000 speeches and is featured on their home page.

I’d love for you to watch it (CLICK HERE). And then I’d love for you to share it on your different social media sites and ask all your friends to watch it. I’m eager to see how many people I can get to view it and your help making it go viral would be truly appreciated. Here’s the link if you’d like to share: Thank you.


Published April 29th, 2014