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My Top 5 Moments in “Authentic Response”

In Business, Culture, Lifestyle, Politics on September 25, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Unfiltered honesty in today’s society is revolutionary. It stands out. When you hear it in a public form, it captivates you. It might even make you uncomfortable. It incites these reactions because it is surrounding by pontificating, lip service, spin, double speak and virtually every other brand of bullshit one can think of. Corporate leaders, politicians, celebrities and other public speakers go through painstaking lengths to learn to massage, modify, mitigate, manipulate or flat-out mask the truth. They are trained by professionals to manage images and appearances through the most ingenuine of ways. However, every so often, someone decides to say “fuck it” and actually speak or act without constraint or concern for the resulted perception. A truly authentic response. As expected, some are rubbed the wrong way while others are intrigued and admirable towards the authentic gesture. The interesting thing about it, is that the latter feeling tends to last a lot longer. America’s relentless distrust and suspicion of virtually any and everything is a direct result of being flooded with bullshit for so many years.

As a major proponent and subscriber to the “No Bullshit” policy, I would like to celebrate five of my favorite Moments in Authentic Response.

#5 Slain Former NFL Star Pat Tillman’s Brother Rips Maria Shriver and John McCain for their Religious Gesture

Richard Tillman is so raw and unfiltered, we had to include his entire segment on Real Time with Bill Maher’s where he talked about the unfortunate circumstances surrounding his brother’s death in Afghanistan.

#4 Kanye West Gives his Take on George Bush

Kanye West has stated on several occasions that he has denied media training and coaching. The result is perhaps the king of Authentic Response. Visibly angry towards the delayed response for help during Hurricane Katrina, Kanye went into a now famous several minute rant that has come to be perhaps the most memorable moment in his stellar career.

#3 Kanye West Politely Disagrees with an Award Recipient

Remember when I said Kanye West’s rant about George Bush was perhaps the most memorable moment in his career? Well, I lied. This one was.

#2 Steve Jobs Tells Student to Take a Hike

http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/09/20/apple-ceo-steve-jobs-student-leave/

Journalism student Chelsea Kate Isaacs was looking for a response from someone at the technology giant Apple. When the media relations department didn’t respond, she figured she’d give Apple’s quirky Steve Jobs a shot. She was successful in getting a response. In fact, she was lucky enough to receive one of the most authentic responses in recent memory. “Our goals do not include helping you get a good grade. Sorry”. When that wasn’t enough of a hint that Apple would likely not be of much help to her and Isaacs responding, Jobs concluded the discussion with a simple “Please leave us alone”. Ouch! Steve Jobs willingness to berate a customer makes Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s open criticism of Obama’s healthcare plan look like a conservative move. Both are far left of the traditional expected behavior of a Fortune 500 company CEO which made them both pretty extraordinary and refreshing.

#1 John Legend’s Critique of his Humble Midwestern Upbringing

The first four moments were authentic responses delivered in the most brazen of ways. However, sometimes people are able to deliver truly authentic responses that cut incredibly deep with the delicacy of butter. John Legend’s UPENN commencement speech which included a remarkable segment where he speaks candidly about questioning the validity and truth of certain aspects of his humble, religious midwestern upbringing. Legend does it with such intricacy and poise but make no mistake about it, this was a speech full of subtle criticisms of much of the “truth” that he was taught while growing up in Springfield, Ohio. This was both one of my favorite moments in authentic response and speeches of all time.

Will Sugar Shane’s less than sweet showing vs Mora depreciate Money?

In Business, Sports on September 19, 2010 at 5:26 am

Floyd Mayweather

“Sugar” Shane Mosley’s September 18th fight with Mora ended in a draw and by most accounts seems to have been a lackluster performance from both fighters. Before proclaiming to HBO on Twitter that he wanted Mosley next, undefeated Welterweight Andre Berto stated some people were questioning Mosley’s physical conditioning. Regardless, what many Floyd Mayweather Jr. detractors will now argue is as much as people hyped Mosley as a “tough” opponent for Mayweather, he clearly fought a man well past his prime; a man who badly hurt Mayweather early in that fight yet could not seem to find Mora tonight. Perhaps now those detractors may have more than just a genuine dislike for Mayweather to fuel their position.

But really, does it even matter?

As an avid fan of boxing, this only makes the fact that Mayweather and Pacquiao seem further away from fighting each other today than they were during the first round of negotiations late last year all the more heartbreaking. Pacquiao seems like he will continue to take on undermatched fighters. Mayweather’s future has been uncertain all Summer. Considering his recent legal troubles, it may become even more grey. For all of the great the network does for the sport, HBO will likely continue to use its Boxing branding brilliance to prop up Boxing’s stars of yester year. Meanwhile, fans will continue to question the future of the sport’s return to glory clinging to exciting rising stars like Amir Khan and Andre Berto. Oh, and Dana White will continue to laugh all the way to the bank.

UFC's Dictator Dana White

Why the small business jobs bill won’t work

In Business, Culture, Economics, Politics on September 17, 2010 at 9:14 pm

The Senate passed the Small Business Jobs Bill which is aimed to stimulate job growth via the nations vast number of small businesses. The bill will flood $30 billion in funds to small business owners in the hopes they will use it to increase hiring to shave the near double digit unemployment rate. The bill however is not addressing the the biggest concern of most small business owners today; consumer’s unwillingness to spend (evidenced by increasing savings rates).

Aside from rising costs most significantly associated with health care, small businesses continuously cite a decreased demand as their biggest concern. With that said, how likely or even smart would it be for a small business owner to invest in resources to increase productivity (labor), when demand is simply not there? Businesses currently in survival mode don’t have the luxury of accumulating more debt in preparation for the upswing. They simply want to be around when that upswing occurs.

The only thing that will encourage sustainable hiring is a need to increase productivity. Demand generates a need for productivity. I think everyone agrees that sustainable job growth is our best route to economic recovery. I see essentially two paths to sustainable job growth to accomplish that. The question will be which will come first?

1. Bye Bye Boomers – Labor statistics estimate that nearly 80 million baby boomers will exit the workplace in the next decade. Generation X will then backfill those positions allowing the nations most unemployed Generation Y to finally enter the job market. Result = Increased Sustainable Demand.

2. Innovation Nation – Attempting to hold onto jobs that globalization has deemed unsustainable is an upstream battle that  the stream will ultimately win. The innovation of a new industry to create incremental jobs is needed. Result = Increased Sustainable Demand

Since income disparity has been a hot topic this week, here is a thought.

How about a progressive corporate tax based on the wage disparity between a company’s Top 1% and its average worker? It’s simple. If the people at the top of your organization make a disproportionately higher amount of income compared to your average worker, you will pay dearly in taxes. That would undoubtedly encourage corporations to increase long stagnate labor wages and provide considerable raises to many. A sustainable increase in personal income will create a sustainable increase in demand. Sustainable demand (not stimulus demand) is the only kind of demand that will get our economy out of the mud.

Now many who will read this suggestion will scream “Socialist!” Maybe. But to those who say “let the laws of the markets sort it out”, haven’t we learned what markets left unchecked leads to? The housing and financial market collapses were not simply the result of natural economic laws and forces. The only natural drivers of those market collapses were greed and reckless disregard. Those markets were abused and perverted by those willing and able to do so. At some point, moral hazard and human behavior has to be accounted for in our economic system. If we have yet to learn that, then perhaps this recession was not harsh enough to drive this point home and we are doomed to repeat our same mistakes.

Blocking the American Dream

In Business, Culture, Lifestyle, Politics on September 17, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Timothy Noah of Slate.com has been uncovering the growing income gap in America. He also explores the concept of The Great Divergence; an economic period beginning in the late 70s when the top 1% of the country’s share of income began to grow at a fast pace. While his findings are both provocative and disheartening, they aren’t at all shocking.  Here are some highlights:

  • The top 1% of Americans today earn more than $368,000 per year
  • The share of income that 1% commands has increased 4 fold since 1979
  • As of 2005, the top 1% of share of income in the United States is the highest in the world (tied with Argentina at 17%. The U.K. and Canada are tied at #2 with 14%)
  • The income gap between whites and blacks has only closed by 4% in the last 35 years; blacks now earn $.62 for every dollar whites earn
  • The income gap between women and men has closed by 17% in the last 20 years; Women now earn $.72 for every dollar earned by a man.
  • The tax rate of the top 1% has decreased 7.5% in the last 28 years; I must also note that the tax rate for the bottom 20% has been cut in half from 8% to 4% in the same time span. 

The issue of income disparity is a complex one. The above statistics only scratch the surface. What we do know, is there are two general ideological beliefs that drive a person’s stance on income equality and the American Dream.

1. America is the land of opportunity for all. Everyone is born with obstacles. The great rise above their personal obstacles and succeed. Our capitalistic system rewards hard work and dedication towards one’s personal success. Society’s failures are simply a byproduct of a fair system that does not reward the weak, undisciplined, lazy or unwilling.

2. America is the land of opportunity for those privileged enough to have access to those opportunities. In America, you have to know somebody or have a special skill to get ahead. Hard work does not guarantee success if there are no opportunities. Uncontrollable factors such as favorable environmental upbringings, nepotism and cronyism grant opportunity access to society’s elite. Sure there are examples of successful people whom have reached success from nothing, but they are the exception, not the rule.

The more likely reality is that both of these are correct. Society falls short by framing the discussion as if it has to be one or the other. Regardless to what side you favor, this trend’s current trajectory has the potential to cause a lack of confidence in the viability of the American dream. The education one obtains or the risks entrepreneurs take are all benefits to a society. However, for those efforts to be deemed worthwhile, one has to believe they will pay off. The ROI of home ownership and higher education for example are more in question today than ever before. When all of the upside continues to be concentrated by the top 1%, at what point does the rest of the players deem the game rigged and grow discouraged? 

Despite this negative income disparity trend, I’m inspired to see how layoffs and growing contention towards “Corporate America” is creating an influx in Entrepreneurship. For now, many may not believe the game is entirely rigged but acknowledge that the rules have changed drastically. Rising unemployment, non-existent job security and stagnate wages has brought the perceived risk between a good job with a salary vs. entrepreneurship more in line.

This dynamic is one of the few remaining hopes to reverse the negative trend of income disparity. The blocking of the more traditional roads to the American Dream seems to be spawning a renewed interest in alternative routes. Let’s see what happens.

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