Deflate-gate and you.

Have you heard about “deflate-gate?”
The sports controversy centered on underinflated footballs?
It’s a perfect example of media air.
Frivolous, high-drama communication.
A spectacle that ignites our storytelling minds.
By making us wonder.
About possibilities, right and wrong, good and evil.
And, like the very best stories, one with no clear-cut answer.
And that’s what makes it air.
I’ve encountered a lot of air in my life.
Overblown situations in which meaningless debate drags on and on.
Either with others, or with myself.
“Should we or shouldn’t we?”
“This way or that way?”
And make no mistake, that air can smother you.
Because while you’re focused on unknowable and idealistic concerns.
Others have shut down their fascination with cerebration.
They’ve tuned out the critics and ended the meetings.
And are passionately moving forward.
Laser-focused on reality and the challenges at hand.
I know, we want to get it right, to be right.
But life is too complex.
There are no easy answers, no definitive user’s manual.
So enough with the air.
Not everything can matter.
Heed Goethe’s words and remember:
“Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.”
Get on with it, be passionate.
The air will come and go.
But it’s the strides you take, and the difference you make, that will be valued.
And long remembered.

The value of vinyl.

Nielsen released its final review of the music industry for 2014.
Digital downloads and CD sales are shrinking.
Streaming is booming.
And the biggest music comeback of 2014?
Vinyl. LPs.
A groove that needs a needle.
Last year more than 9 million vinyl records were sold in the US.
The best year since 1991 when Nielsen first started measuring them.
Factories are struggling to keep pace.
So what’s the value of vinyl?
That is the brand question, after all.
And it’s typically not what you think.
It’s not the aesthetic quality of sound.
And, in my very simple book, there are only two meta components of value left.
Control and identity.
I’ll go with identity.
Vinyl feels more raw, more real, more personal.
Like how it feels to get a tattoo.
The value is emotional.
It helps the owner feel more connected to the artist.
The great management philosopher Peter Drucker was almost right.
He wrote, “What the business thinks it produces is not of first importance. What the consumer thinks he is buying, what he considers ‘value’ is decisive.”
It’s what the consumer feels she is getting in exchange for her money that is decisive.
Value is a complex and puzzling notion.
Economists can’t agree on a definition because it’s not an objective concept.
Value is multifaceted.
Value is highly contextual.
Value is subjective.
Value is delivered and imagined contentment, happiness, and self-worth.
Value is about desire.
And whoever develops and delivers the best evolving composite of value, for their particular audience, wins.
We’re not rational creatures.
We don’t optimize our choices to survive in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible.
We buy to blossom.
We select to show that we belong.
We purchase to get a sense of control and meaning.
We decide in order to feel good.
And for millions of people, vinyl helps them do just that.

We become what you expect.

In 1967, thirteen-month-old Daniel Kish had his second eyeball removed.
And his mother had to make a crucial decision.
Lower her expectations and protect her blind son from the world.
Or treat Daniel like any other boy and let him do what he wanted to do.
She chose the latter.
And that conscious act of faith changed everything.
Daniel didn’t wither, he thrived.
He became one with his world and learned to negotiate it.
To run, climb, play, and even ride a bike.
Primarily by making palatal clicks with his tongue.
Echolocation, like a bat.
(You can listen to Daniel’s amazing story at this link.)
Daniel Kish blossomed into an amazing human being.
But it was his mother who made that possible.
By giving up control and setting Daniel free.
Free to experience.
Free to fail, free to discover, free to learn.
And, eventually, free to see.
We’re living in a low expectation world.
One where leaders place us in tight little bubbles.
And feed us intravenously with bland, risk-free nutrients.
Hoping to protect us, and themselves.
God help us, they’ve even banned sledding.
Anaïs Nin wrote:
“Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.”
Because without suffering, without defeat, without adversity we’re subjected to a grave, unintended consequence.
We eventually go blind.

The randomness of reality.

Human beings crave control.
We want to believe in the power of our choices.
To inevitably determine our destinies.
Why else do we make resolutions?
Indeed, thoughtful planning and disciplined behavior matter.
It’s how dreams are made.
But control is an illusion.
This became distressingly clear to me on New Year’s day.
When I read an article about cancer.
It turns out that two-thirds of cancer incidence is random.
Having nothing to do with genetics or environment, nature or nurture.
It’s simply noise, biological bad luck.
It’s unpredictable.
And so is life.
Sometimes we bump into opportunity.
At others we bump into walls.
So yes, keep moving and bumping.
Have the courage and discipline to follow your passion and pursue your dreams.
But also embrace Göran Persson’s compassionate New Year’s resolution and
“be there for one another as fellow members of humanity,
in the finest sense of the word.”