Balancing Act: The Newsletter

(No. 252, August 2020)

Balancing act is in four sections this month:

  1. Permanent Change
  2. The Human Condition: Attention Bias
  3. Musings
  4. ORTIYKMWOYBNTO
Techniques For Balance

I think about 20 percent of every business is going to be changed post-pandemic. Some of my observations/expectations:

• Remote meetings will remain and grow. The idea of spending $200,000 and more to bring hundreds of people together in meetings that essentially change nothing will be seen for what it is—wasteful. (Most conventions I’ve attended constitute a bunch of people coming together to lie about how well they’re doing.)

• Remote work, however, will turn out to be far less productive than everyone thought or wished. There will be a “porous” company arrangement, with some at home, some at the office, and many of those alternating. There simply is not sufficient discipline or accountability at home, nor does sitting around in pajama bottoms foster a professional attitude.

• Remote learning at primary and secondary levels is an outright disaster. And why wouldn’t it be, online learning doesn’t work for professionals very well. The discipline, absenteeism, distractions, and so on are dysfunctional. Home schooling has proved to work when done well. Online learning hasn’t worked even with the best of intentions and resources.

• Personal savings will climb. The failure of individuals and small businesses to have adequate cash reserves and liquidity to last even six months with basic bills has exploded in our faces. Individual agency is going to grow with IRAs, 401ks, and even money “under the mattress” increasing substantially.

• More than ever, the effective leaders will be those who can lead in ambiguity, who don’t need regimens and routines, and who can “rally the troops” with confidence and belief. Forget about “servant leadership,” business needs benevolent dictators.

• The risk/reward ratio has been skewed. People flocked to the beaches, to protests in the streets, to opening gambling casinos, to political rallies, to some churches. You cannot legislate against strong human desires, you can only hope to mitigate and contain them.

• Talent and education are the keys to success more than ever. In the zero-unemployment economy, these traits were sought by employers relentlessly, to the extent of trying to “steal” talent. In the current, approximately 12 percent unemployment, economy, those who acquire jobs the easiest are those with talent and education.

• Every well-intentioned policy of business and government must be examined for adverse consequences before launch. The subsidies for individuals, for example, have often created more income than the regular job held by the recipient, hence, opening businesses are having a hard time luring employees back who make more for sitting at home.

The Human Condition

Have you ever noticed that you’re suddenly aware of a plethora of issues or items once you’ve been made aware of them? Things that completely escaped your attention before are suddenly all around you.

When we’re made aware of people revealing a hidden bias in their speech and behavior, we tend to be more sensitive to such bias in all speech, including our own. I remember being shocked that a woman of Chinese descent whom I’ve known for over a decade didn’t order in Mandarin in a Chinese restaurant. “Why would you assume I speak Chinese?” she said, with a smile.

Why, indeed?

Once that I was informed that raptors could be identified by the serrated rear edges of their wings, I began to look for that detail on all birds I saw soaring overhead. When I was told an evergreen’s health could be determined by pulling on the needles to see if they could be easily torn off (not good), I began doing this often on our trees. As I pursued my career as a professional speaker and was told that “space fillers” (ah, er, “you know,” mmm) were uttered to give people time to think and avoid being seen as hesitant, I was acutely aware of them with every speaker I heard, and was diligent in avoiding them myself.

I think there’s a positive attention bias, beyond routine and habit, that we should employ. We should focus on the positive traits we admire (honesty, vulnerability, sense of humor) and allow ourselves to see them in others. We should accept what we truly love in life—whether relationships, solitude, travel, coaching—and pursue it without allowing it to be something that simply occurs at times or we have to make time to “fit in.”

In other words, pay attention to the good stuff. As Captain Picard would say on Star Trek, “Make it so.”

Musings

I believe that what we’re calling “social justice” is a noble pursuit. We should provide equal education, justice, and health care to all. And we need to correct current injustices that get in the way of doing this.

I find that “downstream” efforts are symbolic and well-intentioned, but largely ineffective. The Boston Globe, mandating that all interns next year must be people of color, has every right to do that as an independent company. But while well-intentioned, I’m sure, I don’t think it helps much.

Our “upstream” problem is the educational system, where we’re not giving kids an equal shot because public school education is funded by inherently unequal means. Local property taxes are greatest in affluent communities, hence, those communities invest the most in resources, properties, and teachers. Inner city communities suffer the reverse fate.

If we pooled tax revenues state-wide and created equal education across-the-board, we’d be giving kids a decent shot at success equally. I’m aware about housing prices being higher where there are “better” schools, and I’m aware that teachers' unions are usually against such systemic change unless there’s something in it for them (and I think there is).

But I also believe that for every child receiving an inferior education there is a huge economic and societal bill that will be coming due a decade ahead. We have to attack the source of the problem, not merely deal with the effects, which will be ongoing unless we remove the cause.

I find it hard to argue against better education and equal educational opportunities although, since we don’t currently have them, I guess someone has been.

Only Read This if You Know Me Well

I was in one of my cigar clubs, alone in a members-only large room, with a drink and a cigar, and my iPhone and iPad, just a tad short of heaven. I visited the men’s room.

Returning, my iPhone and iPad were gone, as were my drink and cigar. Did they think I’d left and cleaned up? Did someone simply abscond with everything? Was I going mad?

The manager walked in heading back to his office. He looked at me and asked, “Why did you change seats?”

All of my stuff was about ten feet away. The chairs DO look alike….

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