Archive Page 2

>Only the Good Die Young

>I've recently been watching (and studying) several cancelled television shows. For the purpose of this post, I don't need to go into which ones, but suffice it to say that they carry strong ratings in online forums and databases. The question is: why do these highly regarded first and second seasons not warrant further development?

I think they do. Now, I know that I lack a full understanding of what happened in each case, and it is the purpose of this post to discuss the general reasons that these shows (or any worthy ventures) fail. In fact, to say they "fail" might be a misnomer—in some cases, they're killed.

Like a lot of mainstream media, broadcast and basic cable are largely funded by ads. Whenever ratings take a dip, someone loses money. I don't know if there is a standard for whose responsibility it is to lose said money, but there really are only two choices. Either, the network loses money if the advertisers pay for results (less eyeballs = less advertising), or the advertisers lose money if they pay for time (less eyeballs = less value per dollar).

Either way, a show with falling ratings represents a liability, rather than an asset. Therefore, the same rules that govern any investment govern television production as well. Network executives, whose job it is to grow the bottom line, are in a hurry to cut liabilities—often at the first sign of difficulty.

However, in any business venture, this behavior is short-sighted and destructive. Long-term assets create stability for an enterprise, however, they are not easily identified by short-term market response. Often, assets of long-term value either start out with little success or enjoy a good reception but then suffer a dip when the bubble created by marketing hype bursts.

This is because stories—those of unique people, products, and services or those of an artistic nature—are about more than easily quantifiable facts. Facts are easy to put together, but what makes a story compelling is how and why a certain combination of facts is important. No one becomes loyal to a list of bullet-points.

The only way to identify long-term assets is to consider the potential of a project, not just what currently exists. If the fan base (or customer base) is small for the first two years, that's not a sign that it's a failure, but a sign that more explanation is required. By that, of course, I don't mean more bullet points, but more depth.

It seems to me that any story which acquires even a small loyal fan base, has the potential to be valuable. In fact, this should be the clue to executives that the project needs to be promoted, rather than cancelled. It may not be a short term moneymaker, but building on existing loyalty with existing projects would save the company "startup" costs.

Traditional ratings don't measure (or don't care about) loyalty, just overall numbers. It may be that the number of overall viewers tends to indicate loyalty, but this sort of numbers view is too remote to accurately measure loyalty in all cases. For this reason, this system is hostile to art, which is unpredictable.

Because art is about breaking new ground, it is in art that value created. This is important not just for a media company's stability, but also to society as a whole. Unfortunately, art cannot be rushed, and too many people are afraid of losing their jobs over a bad call on risky artistic programming.

It's just too bad they don't realize that slow growth is never risky.

Jamie Klueck
theFITmedia.com

>It Could Not Have Been Different

>I saw a license plate today that read, “IF ONLY”. It echoed some of the familiarly haunting thoughts that had been running through my head this morning. We all have things in our past that we wish had gone differently. Some things are painful failures, but others are joyous milestones that have lost their luster. Commitments we made in a time of naivete, can begin to feel like shackles as time wears on. We can become preoccupied with imagining how life would be now if these things were different.

But the truth is that life could not have been different. Everyone makes choices at a moment in time based upon the information they have at that time. Generally, the information is insufficient to make an truly informed decision. The fact that experience comes from making poorly informed decisions is one of life’s many counterintuitive aspects. It is for this reason, that we could not have changed the past.

“If I knew then what I know now.”

At any point in the past, we could not have acted differently without different information. However, different information is not inherently a change maker either. When a lifetime (however young the person) is spent building a library of experience, a brief introduction to life-changing information is bound to be insufficient to make an impact. Regardless of how truthful the information is, or how completely the recipient accepts it as truth, the momentum of conflicting past information will tend to overtake it.

Our brains are built to form habits. Our conscious minds are limited, and so we differ certain regularly accessed data stores and repeated actions to our subconscious mind. The subconscious acts as an autopilot, running our routines in the background so that we can be conscious of more important decisions. Unfortunately, the subconscious tends to be overzealous—or we tend to be lazy with our conscious minds. Either way, we form some habits of thought and action that are counterproductive, then we re-enforce them through repetition.

Consequently, it is more difficult to “teach an old dog new tricks” than it is to teach a younger one. That being said, when applied to humans, this adage judges “old” by how long it has been since the last time one’s habits have been deeply examined. By identifying problem areas in our habitual minds, we can begin the process of re-educating ourselves to think, then act, differently. This takes time, and is a bit like turning a battleship.

All we can do about the past is to learn from it. By rooting out the causes behind our regrets, we can begin to change the course going forward. The more we learn from media sources about the human condition, the better equipped we are to self-examine and to change what we find. And, of course, you have to take responsibility for the problems that you caused. Running from your faults is the surest way to make more regrets.

No matter how much better it seems that life would be now without that “ball-and-chain” from your past, consider the truth of your ideal. Given your mindset, if things had gone differently, would you have made different decisions? Or would you have chased another woman if your wife had snubbed you? If you hadn’t sworn at your boss that day, would you have sworn at him the next? You might wish you hadn’t decided to have a child or hadn’t had that decision made for you (by fate, et al). Just consider how many times you had missed committing yourself before your thoughts led to actions which led to the consequences (desirable or not).

Likely, it could not have been different. Even if you travelled back in time to warn yourself, the odds are that your habitual mind and the surrounding circumstances would have lead you to the same place. The only way to change your future results—to avoid the regrets and “if onlys”—is through continuous, applied self-examination enabled by a mentor and a varied diet of media sources. It may take time to turn the battleship, but the future CAN be different.

>Portable Lessons

>I’ve used this phrase before when describing the importance of Truth in Fiction. However, by its very nature, a portable lesson is something that can be learned anywhere. When I first started studying success principles, I was like most people. I didn’t understand how one thing related to another. I laughed at the concept that business principles had anything to do with raising a family.

It is true that many businesses are run by tyrants whom we would never want to have as patriarch of a family, but it is also true that many families are run by tyrants whom you would never want as a boss. On the flip side, it is a reality that there are both families and organizations run by people of integrity. In both cases, the lessons of one are easily transferrable to the other. The lessons a father learns from raising his children apply to leading a team of people, and vice versa.

The reason this is true is that all people respond the same to basic principles, regardless of gimmicks, that’s why they are basic principles. Helping people identify these and pattern a life-habits after them is the very essence of the Liberal Arts, and why the study and discussion of them is such an important lost practice. Today’s management/positional leadership culture is all about the gimmicks and strategies of getting people to do what you want, how you want it, when you want it. However, people want respect, they want to feel appreciated for their contributions, they want the freedom to pursue things they feel are important, and they need the time and space to do it in.

This runs perfectly counter to the dictatorship paradigm most management schools teach, and so media creators developed “solutions” in the form of endless gimmicks, tricks, bribes, and work-arounds. Endless patches to the human psyche by way of propaganda have brought us to the place in time where we believe that tyranny is the path to success in business, while avoiding relationships at home, is the path to success. We actually believe that one organization is different from another. The adage “people are like snowflakes” is true enough, but organizations are all the same. If you can’t treat your son or daughter the way you treat your employees without repercussions, chances are you aren’t really escaping those problems at work either.

Hence, portable lessons. Because of our complex culture, many of us work in organizations where it is difficult to perceive the total impact of our actions. Short of restructuring the organization tomorrow to allow more interaction between levels in a massive hierarchy, the solution to this problem is to simply look to areas where the impact of human relations is more apparent, then port those lessons to the workplace to give you a better handle on developing your influence and likability. Short of having a solid relationship, turn to the classic books.

These portable lessons are few and timeless. There is something to be said for the techniques of your industry or organization (even if its a family), but without a deep understanding of connecting principles which lead to integrity, you’re doomed to make the same mistake in every single relationship you have in life—and that’s a waste.

>Quality, Not Quantity

>There is a big difference between being long-winded and having a lot to say. Long-winded people—and I’m guilty of this—tend to fill up space with words and content that are empty. People who have something to say don’t waste a minute of your time conveying their message. Media today seems to err on the side of long-windedness.

It’s a classic case of quantity over quality. Proliferation tends to get more attention because it is so visible by its very nature. However, every individual or organization has a limited capacity for creation. To be extraordinarily prolific in words is to be extraordinarily deficient in content.

“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” –Macbeth, William Shakespeare

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=fitmedia-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0198324006&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrShakespeare saw the same thing in his day. As I understand it, plays at that time suffered from the overuse of “special effects” and battle scenes which were meant to captivate audiences but were merely gimmicks, adding little to the story. Today’s movies, television, books, and music all suffer from the overuse of time-consuming, value-deficient, “filler” content which represents an attempt to expand mediocre (or good, but brief) ideas into saleable media products, based upon what has worked in the past. In their rush for market share, executives kill the golden goose.

The context of the quote also suggests Shakespeare understood the parallel between people’s labor for success and the quality of the fruits of that labor. The character, Macbeth, had just learned of his wife’s death, and is articulating (not “proliferating”) how brief life is. Basically, this quote encapsulates the moral of the play. Macbeth realizes that his untimely rush for power and prestige ultimately became is undoing, whereas he was destined for success even if he had not rushed it.

Most people don’t even attempt to be a success, much less go too far. However, those that do push for greatness, often tend to swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. Aside from the well-publicized tendency of driven people to cause direct harm to others, a more insidious and pervasive tendency exists. In a push for success, many people undermine the integrity of their projects simply by cutting corners and “padding” sparse content, rather than waiting until their idea reservoir is legitimately full.

The more solid the foundation—the significance part of the project—the more likely people are to discuss what you’re doing with others. The more discussion, the more likely you’ll get viral spread. Filling up space with long-windedness may be the quick way to get some attention, but if you have to work at keeping your audience, you’ll never get a break.

>The Creep and the Internet

>Nothing stays the same, everything changes. There are many people with many different agendas all over the globe who want to direct the flow of that change. Most of these people mean well. Many have a perfect plan to fit their particular perspective. Many more are willingly ignorant, or even outright selfish. Some think things would go better if they had total control. Shockingly, some are even right on this point—at least for a short time. Most plans center on what someONE is going to do about the problems.

Every time something disastrous happens, someone steps in to offer a solution. Unfortunately, the solutions that look the easiest, fastest, or cheapest to us have an enormous long-term price tag—one that always stipulates a loss of freedom. Just as America went from being the most free nation on Earth to a bureaucratic nightmare, so the Internet will likely succumb to the forces of controlling powers. That will spell the end of freedom in the information age.

The technique of utilizing a disaster like 9/11 to push forward political agenda is not a new concept, but is fundamental to political science. Even before we might have understood what it was, we—collectively as a young race, and individually as young children—developed the ability to get our way by applying pressure to a weak spot. Leadership author, Chris Brady, called this the “creep” in a recent blog article. Sometimes, this technique is necessary, justifiable, and even righteous, but not always. And not just because an individual or elite group perceives a benefit to humanity.

If humanity doesn’t “buy it” then it’s not right for everyone. The obsession with centralized solutions is founded on the belief that one person can’t make a difference. The thing is, this observation is accurate, just not completely true. One person can’t make a difference, but one person can share his vision with two or three others and inspire them to share the vision each with two or three others. The difference between this and centralized solutions is that the direct approach allows for the vision to be adapted to each group or individual. It both encourages understanding of individual situations, and allows for this information to be shared communally to increase understanding in the whole organization.

Think this doesn’t happen? Au contraire! This is what was done in every example of prosperity throughout history. The fact that we feel this is impossible is a creep in media content toward that propagated image. Big media is supported by big-everything-else, and nothing big wants to feel threatened by something little. So they naturally censor—perhaps without even understanding what they’re doing—any nugget of an idea that feels like a threat to their interests. The result is a flock of sheep that think they can’t solve their own problems—and can’t because they haven’t learned how.

The Internet is wild and revolutionary. Just look at Wikipedia. User created, user supported, and free to the general public. Nothing that revolutionary has happened since the printing press! But we all know it’s under fire for just that reason. The carefully laid structure of a bureaucratic society is being exposed to those who care to engage in the conversation at all. So the weapon of mass media tends to discourage personal exploration.

Even more so, it tends to discourage personal growth. When people become independent thinkers and independent operators, they create change—natural, and therefore, uncontrollable change. That is terrifying to anyone who has a stake in the here-and-now because it might mean the vacation is over. No one can stop change any more than one could stop a speeding locomotive with his bare hands, so in trying to tame the wild beast, they rip up the tracks and undermine the whole thing.

As companies—which shall remain nameless—grow larger and more influential on the internet, they will use the power they gain to stack the deck in their favor. The solution is not to regulate them, because that only transfers the power from one big organization to a bigger one. It also tempts wealthy private businesses with the option to hire lobbyists who can further the company’s cause by manipulating the legal system.

The internet still leaves the power in the hands of the people. Let’s be bold enough to come together and keep it free. What we need is to prevent companies from growing large without our approval. An internet company can easily generate $1 billion with the help of its customers, but if we don’t like something they’re doing, we need to lift a different company to that level. It’s possible.

>Re-Educating for Zero Waste

>While actually achieving zero waste in the physical sense is impossible, as an ideal it is a worthy goal to shoot for. The degree to which we use (and reuse) the items we buy is the degree to which they hold value for us. Whenever we buy an item, but do not explore all options for extracting value from it, we waste some of the money and time spent acquiring it. Multiply that by the millions of people worldwide who are doing the same, and you have a significant problem with global economics.

Resources aren’t scarce, we just waste them left and right. In fact, we have been educated to do just that. Any ongoing business model requires ongoing saleable products. The faster the market saturates, the sooner the business is out of business. So businesses have two options: continuously generate new and exciting products that people want or need, or use marketing to convince people that they want or need to re-purchase old products. The second is easier to accomplish, especially for a business that has enough money to launch a mass media marketing campaign.

To be successful in marketing required an increase in the volume of products to be sold, which on turn, required an increasing demand. However, numerous products were becoming mass-produced that were really not consumable—and so consumers were becoming satisfied. How many TVs does one family need? So mainstream marketing slowly evolved into a tool for re-educating the masses.

Media was used to create a culture where the newest and best was emotionally important to people, so they learned to disregard the rational idea of conserving waste (“I don’t need a new one, yet.”) and replace it with the irrational idea of status (“My stuff is my worth.”)

All of this was fine as long as the economy was in a state of growth, but as soon as the problem with waste reached a critical mass and wages began to suffer, there simply was not enough money to continue on that path. Unfortunately, the consumer credit industry stepped in, allowing us to differ fate for more time and make the problem bigger.

The solution, of course, begins with a strategy to approach zero waste in our households, businesses, and communities. And I don’t mean just recycling, but actually using every ounce of value from a product before it goes anywhere—even if it has to go to the dump—or using the waste to create something else of value. This goal presents many opportunities to enterprising individuals.

One of my favorite small businesses sells a product called “Turnadaisy.” These lazy-susan style tabletops are made from repurposed power line spools, and are designed to be used in a number of applications, from greenhouse hydroponics to convenient serving trays. They keep trash out of the landfills, provide a useful product, and an income to their creators. I’d bet they could even pay the salaries of a few marketers as well!

Now that’s what we need to found companies on.

>The Mystery of Selfishness

>Selfishness is a concept that surprisingly sees a lot of debate. Of course, it is a loaded term with which only a few would choose to be willingly associated. Those who choose to call themselves selfish and laud its virtues—such as Ayn Rand—undoubtedly reject its negative connotations. On the other side, the word is used by altruists and hypocrites alike as mud to childishly sling in the faces of people who are not so fearless around the word as others.

In this way, it is one of the chief “weapons” used in philosophical debate among today’s media. I don’t agree with everything Ayn Rand says, but I appreciate her willingness to own an empty, derogatory term. To be sure, selfishness—and all things linked to its roots—is an inseparable part of the human experience. In itself, it is neither good nor bad, but a fact to be taken under consideration. Interestingly, it does not follow the set rules that either side wants to believe it does.

The so-called “Right Wing” believes in the motivational power found in selfishness. They understand that it is an irrevocable fact of humankind, which is better to work with than against. However, they often ignore its weaknesses in favor of its strengths. On the other hand, the “Left” sees selfishness as public enemy number one. They wish it could be bred out, regulated into obsolescence, or forced into submission. They believe in altruism and that a perfect society is one where people serve the whole.

Both these perspectives are accurate, but each only half-true. It is true that many people in many cases actively pursue their own selfish interests, and that rewarding productive behavior encourages productive behavior. Many, but not all. It is also true to say that a society of individuals who each sacrifices his self-interest for the good of the whole would prosper long term. The problem is that, in reality, no one is a purist. One might be a purist for a period of time (or even a lifetime) but this is a rare happenstance and will never be the rule.

As a drive, selfishness always falls short of what would cause society to prosper. Despite what many believe, most people reach an equilibrium at work. They get to the point in life where money satisfies enough desires that taking on more effort is not worth it. People don’t run all the way to millionaire just for the money—they do it because they have a vision, something pulling on their hearts. They see a change to help others (altruism) and they chase it, and indeed, that is the only way one gets to be nouveau riche.

But as for the heart, charity has to be something special. When a government program, special interest group, or other similar organization distributes funds to people, it isn’t charity—it’s entitlement. Most people don’t feel compelled to give back to these organizations, they just want more support. It’s one of the stranger sides of selfishness. When people are given money for being something they had no control over, they generally don’t appreciate it as a gift. To ignore this fact, and to build an organization upon status distribution is to create slaves to your organization.

Seek to understand selfishness, and moreover, how it is manifested in each individual you meet. Work with it, rather than against it, but never assume it is a mechanical push-button, because it will let you down at a critical moment.


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Quotes

"For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction."

- Kahlil Gibran

"All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching?"
- Nicholas Johnson, author:
"We need the media to be presenting pictures of possibility not just continuing to be prophets of doom and gloom."
- Kevin Kelly, Wired

"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it."

- Adam Smith
"And the science is overwhelming that for creative, conceptual tasks, those if-then rewards rarely work and often do harm."
- Daniel Pink, author: Drive

"I wish we had a Problem-Solver Party because we have very big problems that need solving. And I think a lot of our attention is addressed to the wrong problems."
- David McCullough, author: 1776
"The goal shouldn't be to have a lot of people to yell at, the goal probably should be to have a lot of people who choose to listen."
- Seth Godin, author: Tribes
"The role of the media is to disseminate information, highlight important current events, and to essentially stand as a witness, an observer of cultural, political, community, and educational events. A healthy media provides a check on the government and increases the political astuteness of republican citizens."
- Stephen Palmer, The Center for Social Leadership
"Advertisers and politicians rely on a half-educated public, on people who know little outside of their own specialty, because such people are easy to deceive with so-called experts, impressive technical or sociological jargon, and an effective set of logical and psychological tricks."
- Robert Harris
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
- John Adams
"I know no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but people. And if we think them not enlightened enough, the remedy is not to take the power from them, but to inform them by education."
- Thomas Jefferson
"Fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise--as priests, prophets or philosophers are wise. Specialized competence and success are all that they can imagine."
- Allan Bloom, author: The Closing of the American Mind
"He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."
(Proverbs 13:20)
"If you are not a thinking man, to what purpose are you a man at all."

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"I learn a lot from TV. Everytime someone turns one on, I go in the other room and read a book."
- Groucho Marx, comedian: Duck Soup
"There are two freedoms - the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought."
- Charles Kingsley