An Identity Crisis

An Identity Crisis
mr-ed-the-horse-with-alan-young
Horses don’t vote, but they do watch television, like Mr. Ed.

I didn’t watch a second of the election night coverage. I watched a Mid-American Conference football game, listened to a hockey game and the Lakers on my SiriusXM radio app.

I was in no mood to read the instant whining from losers and the obnoxious gloating from winners. Neither of them serves any purpose.

Social media are inundated with people who spent all week ranting and finding new complaints to rant about. No wonder why people “detox” from social media, namely those who are still butthurt and upset over the results.

Here is my suggestion: create and write a blog. No one wants to spend their time on Facebook reading a 1,000+ word blog. No one cares, except for those who are interested in reading your thoughts.

Or hit up Medium and Huffington Post, where pretty much anyone can write for them (I would advice Medium. I hear that Huff Post has a reputation of not paying their bloggers).

With that in mind, since I do have a blog, and 1300 words to hammer out…

…there are several observations that stood out to me during the last two  election cycles (2014 and 2016): disgruntled voters, lack of quality candidates, and an identity crisis.

Let me preface: I’m not a political analyst or some campaign insider, nor am I a Democrat, Republican, or a  Communist.

  • When faced with deciding between two unpopular candidates, nearly half (roughly 47%) of the eligible electorate said “screw this” or “no thanks” and did three things…
  1. …either they voted for a third-party presidential candidate…
  2. …they did not mark a presidential candidate on their ballot. They voted for everyone else, but they were not going to be pressured to vote for two of the unpopular candidates in American history to date…
  3. …or they didn’t vote at all.

There is no such thing as the lesser of two evils. In the eyes of many voters, both of them were unfit to run the United States.

Rebuffed for President for a 2nd time, Hillary Clinton will have to figure out her next chapter.
Rebuffed for President for a 2nd time, Hillary Clinton will have to figure out her next chapter.

This is the candidate’s fault for not doing enough to prove to those voters that they best represent those voters’ views. It was clear that a sizable number of the electorate did not feel that both Clinton and Trump represented their views.

You want more voters to support your candidate?  Tell your candidate to do better next time. Check that, demand it. Tell your candidate not to be a disconnected jerk to potential voters. Voters are not stupid. They can see through bullcrap. After all, they are the ones who voted for that person.

It is an indictment on both Democrats and Republicans: they only cater to certain groups and shut out those that they really need. Mind you, some Democrats, notably Sanders supporters, bail on the Dems and supported Jill Stein. Some Republicans bailed out and supported Gary Johnson.

Time and time again, voters’ displeasure of the dog-and-pony show in Washington have built up to a boiling point. Continued gridlock, “politic-speak”, posturing, and egos have been the norm. It also doesn’t help that there is more distrust of the political infrastructure as it relates to how much money and power is permeated within both political parties.

Straight cash, homie. 

  • 2014 should have been a wake-up call, but 2016 provided a harsh reality:  the talent pool of elected officials are weak, crappy, and awful. There’s no way to sugarcoat it.

Iowa State Senator Rob Hogg was the leading Democratic candidate to go up against Chuck Grassley in the U.S. Senate race. Then, out of nowhere, the powers that be at the DNC endorsed former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge to run for the Senate seat. Maybe it was Judge’s name brand over a lesser known Hogg.

Hogg never had a chance as Judge defeated him in the primary, and was the Democratic candidate against Grassley.

Everyone knew she had no chance.  The cows in the pasture knew she had no chance.

Judge got clobbered in the general election.

Hogg would have been a new face and possibly brought a new line of thinking and opportunity. The DNC didn’t see it that way, for whatever odd reason.

Here in Iowa, the Congressional delegation was re-elected. Very typical of Iowa voters: we keep sending incumbents back. That’s what we do.

  • Which leads into this observation: today’s Democratic Party and Republican Parties are at a crossroads.

They have an identity crisis.

The old-school establishment of both parties got “trumped” by a loose cannon with a brand who was not going to play their game. He played his own game…and won. The biggest losers were the Republicans and the Democrats.

"They laugh alike, they walk alike, and sometimes they even talk alike..." The Republicans and Democrats are both identical in that they have some rebuilding to do in their organization and with those who support them.
“They laugh alike, they walk alike, and sometimes they even talk alike…” The Republicans and Democrats are both identical in that they have some rebuilding to do in their organizations and with those who support them, after getting cold-cocked by Donald Trump.

Voters have no faith in government to operate and do things in the best interest of the public. Secondly, the attack against the media is fair, but let this famous story about Leslie Stahl and the Reagan White House teach you that no matter how much the media tries to tell a story, campaigns and viewers will see another story.

Mass chaos was bound to happen…but this wasn’t the  candidate or the perfect storm everyone expected.

Or was it??

It’s time for both political parties to seriously look at themselves in the mirror and figure out how to change with the times and the evolving world, because whatever they are doing, it’s not working, and last week it showed.

The Dems went through that in ’68, and the GOP did the same after Watergate. It takes something pretty big to make organizations, people, and entities to refocus and shift priorities to keep up.

Both Dems and GOP had internal fighting and strife among their ranks. GOP members distancing themselves from Trump on one end, and Bernie Sanders supporters who steadfastly refused to trust and support Clinton and her campaign.

As Strother Martin said in “Cool Hand Luke”

No, enhancing social media, pushing more absentee voting, or getting on MTV to do town halls isn’t going to entice voters to come back to the fold. And no, running out celebrities to tell people to vote isn’t going to work either…unless you’re gullible enough to listen to people who live in mansions in California and have little interaction with you unless you’re paying money to see them perform.

Who are the Democrats? Who are the Republicans? What do they stand for?

Do they represent everyone or only a few? Is it an open door policy or just the “establishment” reign supreme? Everyone knows that about the GOP, but as we learned publicly with the Sanders supporters, shutting out populist ideas in favor of the perceived “establishment” makes Democrats mirror Republicans to a “T.”

Will they continue to align themselves with the business world? Will they finally get around to addressing the African-American community and the continuous issues involving race and human treatment, or will they talk about the black community to the white audiences that they are trying to court? That’s pretty much with Clinton and Trump were doing according to ESPN’s Bomani Jones.

The silly notion of whites shaming each other for anything is more amusing than anything I’ve ever seen.

Being out of touch isn’t good for both of them. Not willing to “change up” their game will make voters consider walking away from both in the future.

A quick fix isn’t going to work. Similar to 1968 and Watergate, it’s going to take several years for Dems and GOP to figure out who they really are and what direction they are going from this point forward. Disgruntled voters will seek other candidates and organizations that mirror their views. Sooner or later, that idealistic third-party will evolve and become an option.

Filling in the Gap: What Five Years of Unemployment Has Taught Me

Filling in the Gap: What Five Years of Unemployment Has Taught Me
When unemployment happens, it sucks and the worst feeling in the world. It still is the worst feeling in the world, but you make the best of it by wits, survival, and determination.

Five years ago last week, I went from the working world to being unemployed. I wouldn’t wish unemployment on anyone…it’s been a rough journey, and at times, I feel like hiding from the world.  I don’t know how I have survived this long not having full-time employment, but I have and continue to do so. 

I have gone through experiences that has shaped and reinforced my perspectives and surroundings.

Here are a few lessons I have learned during the past five years of being unemployed.

“As the World Turns”: The world does not stop or end when you experience a life event. Losing your job, divorce, death, or an election (you see what I did there), it doesn’t matter, the world keeps moving. So do you. You can’t stay frozen in time, ruminating about what happened.

“Friends in Low Places”: Very good friends (better yet, friends you never expected) are the ones who know how talented you are and will find a way to help you find work. One pal had me work for him at his company for three months, and another friend got me work doing social media, writing online content, and stats for prep football.

Not all of your friends and networks are going to help you. Most of them don’t have the time to help. Be wary of the person who say  “I’m sorry for you” and facetiously act like they’re sad for you. They are the ones most likely never to offer support, encouragement, or assistance. 

“Jack of all trades”: After I became unemployed, I wanted to do something that was not insurance-related. When you’re in an industry or career for a period of time, you are stereotyped as doing that one thing forever. I went out on a limb and applied to be an unpaid intern for a local art agency. After that, three different stints as a temp for a human service agency, and two of the largest employers in my city. 

Since my first job out of college, whatever job I was supposed to do, evolved. I wore different hats and took on roles that I didn’t expect to do. Being adaptable in the workplace should be considered as a benefit, but most employers, sadly, prefer to hire a candidate who is proficient in one skill over one who is multi-skilled.  

Richard Lewis knows what it's like to get stood up.
Richard Lewis knows what it’s like to get stood up.

Move on after getting “stood up”: After a panel discussion in my mentoring class in 2013, a well-known retired local executive approached me. We spoke about my reasons for being in the class and my hope that the class could help me be fully employed again. He asked for my business card, told me there was someone who might be interested in me, said thank you and left.

I have not heard from him for two years now, despite attempting to reach out to this person.

This has happened several times with other local business leaders I have encountered. If I hold up my end of the bargain, how bad does it look if a leader/mentor doesn’t do the same?  

There will be people or groups that are not worth dealing with. If they have no interest in you, don’t bother attaching yourself to them. They are not worth the effort…and that’s their loss.

“Breakdown Dead Ahead”: All of us are going to have a breakdown. Not just mentally, but physically and emotionally. I have written about my health issues in the past. No, I don’t blame elected officials. That’s on me. I didn’t ask for help.

Just because we have a nation-wide health care plan, that doesn’t mean that you should let your health go south. Your doctors are not with you everyday to ensure that you are following orders. That’s your job.

What have I accomplished over the past five years?

  • created a personal blog (this one)
  • worked short stints in the human resource and marketing fields
  • created social media channels for a non-profit organization I serve on the board for
  • writing online content for a sports website
  • received two awards for community service
  • listened more to people (I already do that, but do it more intently)
  • learning about startups and entrepreneurship and its local impact (Bloomsnap, Dwolla, and Bawte for example)
  • not afraid to write something that could be unpopular or not considered as conventional wisdom

What do I hope to accomplish down the road?

  • be employed (of course)
  • start dating (I’m 38. How I haven’t done that is beyond astounding.  Hello Andy Stitzer.)
  • find another non-profit organization to volunteer for
  • do a better job of leveraging my networks
  • write a guest column for dsm Magazine (I doubt it’ll happen, but a guy can dream, right?)

The pieces we need in our lives are around us…we need to put them in the places that fit in our jumbled puzzle we call life. Hopefully, I will return to the working world. I need it, not just for the paycheck, but for the opportunity to have a passion and drive again to make something better and do good in society.

You Can’t Stop Them, You Can Only Hope to Contain Them: Zach McCabe Fiasco

Iowa State basketball coach Fred Hoiberg didn’t hold back his displeasure towards social media during his press conference on Monday. After Iowa’s loss to Wisconsin, several Iowa fans typed out their frustrations at Hawkeye senior Zach McCabe. McCabe was called for a blocking foul (that could have gone the other way), and he air-balled a 3-pointer that could have tied or at least cut down the Badgers’ lead.

Fred, if you want to combat as many trolls on social media as possible, I suggest you start using your Twitter account a lot more. People will read it.

After listening to Hoiberg, and reading the great Mike Hlas‘ column about the McCabe meltdown, I do understand that fans have greater access to voice their feelings, and unfortunately at times, cross over the line.

But if a coach thinks that cutting off social media to his or her players is going to keep them from reading message boards, texts, and Twitter, I hate to deliver bad news…

…good luck stopping them from doing that, or in that matter, using it.

It’s ironic that the NCAA has now granted permission for programs to use Instagram, to go along with texting and social media as forms of “soft” recruiting. Athletic departments uses social media to promote and build an audience for their sports and brand.

I think it has become hypocritical of us, as fans and media, to expect and demand that student-athletes block out the “distractions” in the stands and on social media. Eighteen, 19, and 20-year old kids are going to read and hear everything, because their families, friends, and classmates are on Facebook and Twitter.

If we want them to block out distractions, then how come we can’t do it ourselves?

The onus is back on the coach. No longer can coaches use the old tired excuse of “I don’t read the papers/message boards/tweets/texts” and hope that it will go away. Social media experts have long advocated athletic programs and professional teams to educate and show athletes how to use Twitter and learn how to not take stupid and demeaning comments personally.

I don’t know what took place between McCabe and several posters, but I do know one thing: I don’t hide behind a fake name or a fake avatar. When I tweet, you see my name and my face.  I use social media as a way to learn something, contribute, and to have conversations.

John Calipari can rub a lot of people the wrong way, but how is it that he understands the evolution of college sports, athletes, and social media better than everyone else? Because he adapts to it.

Which brings me to an interview that was done last week, that I feel that you should listen to. John Calipari of Kentucky was asked last week by Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic about how he uses social media. Calipari’s response will rub a lot of coaches the wrong way, including Fred, but the more I thought about what he said, it made sense.

Cue to the 5:00 mark of the interview to hear Cal’s take.

It’s ironic that Fred Hoiberg has a Twitter account, but does he actually uses it, or is someone else tweeting for him? There is no question that Kirk Ferentz doesn’t use social media. That’s why he has a ban in place for his teams. it’s a chore that no coach wants..but they need to understand and be proactive about it.

See?

The very same social media users Hoiberg is blasting…includes him, Randy Peterson, Mike Hlas, Keith Murphy, and me. Fred could’ve used his Twitter account and posted his feelings about what happened to McCabe.
It would have elicit the same response, if not greater, as a way to stimulate conversation on how we can better use social media.

What a missed opportunity, Fred.

Shutting down Twitter is a short-term solution. It’s not going to stop your players from using it…and reading everything. Calipari was spot on when he said “If you’re reading (only) the responses (of what people say about you or the team), you shouldn’t use it.” If you can’t dismiss the negative comments and interact with others who don’t stoop to that level, then you’re not ready to use social media. It’s a conversation piece.

Which brings me back to the fans. I’ve said a few weeks ago, I’ll say it again. It’s time for fans to either start policing ourselves and curb-stomp the clowns who gives us a bad name, like Jeff Orr, and the “jihadic” wing of the Hawkeye Nation (h/t to Steve Deace).

Maybe it’s me, but it’s no wonder why I’ve started to sour on some Hawkeyes fans. For the most part, Iowa fans are loyal, dedicated, and supportive. There’s a lot of them I like and respect immensely thru social media (Graham, Schmitty, PSD, BHGP, etc), but there are too many assholes in that fan base for me to stomach. They give Iowa fans a bad name.

And Dan Dakich is right…sadly. And I grew up a Hawkeye fan.

They Made Social Media Fun: Lava Row

Lava Row helped make social media “cool” in my book.

It started as an idea. A simple idea.

How do you teach companies and entities how to use this new thing called “social media”?

Since 2007, Lava Row went out and taught companies and corporations not only how to use social media, but to learn about how powerful it can be…for good…and for bad.

Hillary Brown (Blue Compass)

Lava Row was no ordinary company. Never stale, rigid, they made social media sound and looked cool. I can attribute that to people who were behind Lava Row: Nathan Wright, Hillary Brown, and Norah Carroll.

This past Wednesday, Nathan announced that Lava Row will end its operations, as he has accepted the position of Digital Marketing and Innovation for Hy-Vee, Iowa’s largest grocery chain. Lava Row did what it was intended to do, but it did more than that: it put a face on social media.

They made it easy to embrace social media and get past the fear of it. From education to branding, Nathan, Norah, and Hillary made it fun and interactive. Even their pets got in on the act: Arlo the Corgi, Weezer the Beagle, and Woz the Hedgehog. There was always something interesting going on at Lava Row, and everyone wondered what was next.

Norah Carroll (Drake University)

It was either Nathan describing two guys at a suburban bar “popping collars” before a scrum, Weezer rooting for Iowa State and Hillary’s love for gymnastics, or Norah being wowed by a certain guy who got a crowd to stop talking at an magazine unveiling party (to paraphrase, she tweeted “that was so badass.”)

If not for Lava Row, individuals and companies would continue to wander in the wilderness, trying to make sense of how to market themselves, connect with a new niche of customers, and learn what not to post on Twitter.

Secondly, if not for Lava Row, all three (Nathan, Hillary, and Norah) wouldn’t be sought after social media experts in the Silicon Prairie, especially in Des Moines: with Nathan heading to Hy-Vee, Norah recently heading to Veridian, and Hillary going to Integer and now working for Blue Compass.

Nathan T. Wright (Quora.com)

Social media is not a form of science or convoluted procedure. It is an avenue, a form of communication to interact with people, gauge their interest, converse about like-minded interest, and to engage them in what they like, detest, and observe.

As companies move forward, it is imperative for them to open access to all lines of communication to their customers, vendors, and to their own employees, to foster ideas, address issues, and promote goodwill. Our society evolves with every new idea, an idea that is destined to make it better for us to communicate.

We’ve gone a long way from the Pony Express and telegraphs to blogs and iPhone Facetime to connect to our world.

Hopefully as the final chapter is written about Lava Row, it would be said that Lava Row was one of the leaders who helped with the creation and cultivation of the Silicon Prairie, assisted in the building of a community of collaboration, and importantly, the way we use social media in our daily lives.

As the signature logo, the Lava Row iguana, prepares to hang it up, let’s remember, for the good times, how much fun it was and the lessons we have learned and put it to use when it comes to social media.

Thanks Lava Row for making it cool.

Feeding Frenzy

Before she was convicted of 1st degree murder, I didn’t know anything about Jodi Arias. It’s probably why I don’t watch cable television. I haven’t had had cable in two years. (National Enquirer)

Former college classmate Chris Thomas penned an entry on his blog last month on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombing. Chris wrote about how the zeal of “being the first” with a story causes the media to make too many mistakes and trip over themselves.

He points out that viewers, and society in general, are also to blame for the “gimme gimme gimme” culture of immediate information. We have become so impatient for information right away, that if a media outlet doesn’t crank out the story first, we’ll find someone who will give it to us first.

I felt his post deserves to be mentioned on the heels of two major stories over the last couple of weeks.

I didn’t follow the Jodi Arias murder trial. I don’t know anything about Arias. All I know is this (after I read the back story): her boyfriend was stabbed and shot multiple times, she changed her story several times, and some weird sex stuff was mentioned.

The next thing you know, Nancy Grace, Jane Velez-Mitchell, and Ashleigh Banfield were all over this trial like vultures on a dead body (seriously, vultures were all over a dead body).

The media is giving us what we want to see and hear: murder, sex, and lies. We love stuff like this.

Is that the media’s fault?  Nope. It’s us, the viewers.

Charles Ramsey, the unlikely hero who freed and alerted Cleveland police of three missing women held captive in a Cleveland home for nearly a decade, is not only a household name and YouTube sensation, but his past history is now part of the story.  Ramsey has had a history of physical abuse.

Ramsey isn’t perfect. Many of us has had past transgressions that are shameful. With that said, all of us wanted to know so much about Charles, that his past, eventually, was going to be brought up.

Some are quick to blame the media, but as Chris pointed out, we the viewers and consumers of information have to share the blame as well. In our obsessive quench for immediate information, we don’t think about making sure the information is vetted properly, until an outlet like CNN makes a mistake and we take them to task.

So, the next time a breaking story comes across Twitter, Facebook, or on television, show some restraint and patience. If we expect the media to “get it right” than to “be the first”, then we have to adopt that principle as well.

Relevancy Doesn’t Need to Be Personal

As a sports fan and a voracious reader, I read different perspectives on sports topics and stories that are interesting, insightful, controversial, and thought-provoking.

Call me crazy, but what we’re seeing on the internet between sports writers and bloggers on a national level has turned into an online street brawl filled with bravado and egos.

Michael Lazerow wrote a column on LinkedIn about the recent rash of entrepreneurs bashing each other publicly, and on social media in particular. His article can easily be applied to the pissing matches on Twitter between sports blogs and websites like Deadspin, Will Leitch, among others.

Lazerow said the purpose of bashing others is to stay relevant among followers, readers, and fans. I don’t mind reading a multitude of sites for information and to get a different view of topics, but has it become necessary to be assholes to one-up each other, all in the name of getting eyeballs to your site?  You know, to be edgy, fresh, and “cutting edge.”

Bryan Goldberg, formerly of Bleacher Report, explains his case against Will Leitch with respects to the backlash towards Bleacher Report. There is one statement that Goldberg that stood out:

I take a lot of pride in co-creating Bleacher Report, but I got a lot of help from the arrogance and antediluvian attitudes that emanate from so many newspapers and journalists over the age of forty. They have no idea how hard it is to make it as a writer today, and maybe if they were more compassionate, or saw value in doing anything other than saving their own skin, they would look in the mirror before criticizing the 20-year-old “scabs” who write for Bleacher Report.

I disagree with Goldberg with this generalization. Not all newspapers and journalists are arrogant and have a disdain towards younger online journalists like Goldberg.  Not all older reporters consider young reporters and bloggers as “scabs”, as Goldberg claims. A good number of older journalists have started to use social media, write blogs, and have become comfortable with how news and sports are being covered.

Maybe it’s because I live here in Iowa, but the interaction between those who cover sports or hard news, whether it’s print, television, social media, or online, isn’t hostile as many nationally want to claim. The overall goal is to provide content and news to those who need it, be it Twitter, newspaper, texts, et cetera.

Not all older journalists are as grouchy, or disheveled, like Oscar Madison, or look down upon younger journalists who use social media to make a living in journalism.

Goldberg claims that older journalists are arrogant. Ironically, his attitude towards older journalists, along those like Drew Magary and Will Leitch, is starting to emulate those they accuse of doing the same to them, because of their hatred towards not being accepted by a large sector of traditional media.

The culture of reporting is changing and many are making an effort to embrace and use new tools.  It’s no different when the computer started to slowly replace the typewriter in the newsroom. 

With that said, childish Twitter fights (Richard Deitsch vs. Darren Rovell) and slamming others, sooner or later, will turn a good number of readers and viewers off, or seek another site to get their news.

If you provide content and facts, give an informed opinion and willing to hear all angles of a topic, you become relevant.

Being juvenile, and personally attacking others to be relevant, in effect, makes you less relevant, no matter how cool and edgy, or old school and stale you are.

The Value of “Skills and Expertise” on LinkedIn: What Does It Really Say About Me?

The fabulous Becky Mollenkamp posed a question this morning on Twitter

“Wow, I must be really good.  People I don’t know are endorsing me on LinkedIn. (Seriously, why would you endorse someone you don’t know?)”

I was wondering the same thing.  Not that I don’t mind being endorsed by people I know, but I have to ask myself about the skills and expertise that I profess to be great at. 

What am I an “expert” in? 

Let’s go down the list of the skills and expertise I’ve been “endorsed” for: 

Social media:  I know how to use social media, mainly for recreational use and to help plug a few people, things, and causes.  I know nothing about measuring the “return on investment” and “value” social media provides to a business, and the metrics of who follows what on social media.  I toss stuff on Twitter to see if it sticks.

Event planning:  I should clarify this.  I don’t consider myself as an event planner.  I don’t plan events.  I help “coordinate” events so that the logistics are in sync, people are where they should be and doing what they are assigned to do, as well as putting out small fires.  I’m not really a coordinator.  I keep things in order.

Fundraising:  the one area where I need the biggest improvement in.  I don’t know how to raise money (translation = get on my hands and knees and beg you to give money to a cause).  I suck in asking for money.  

Program management:  see event planning.  I keep things in order.

Editing:  I’ve never edited a book, magazine, or anything on a grand scale.  But give me a manual and ask me to proofread it or tweak it, yeah, I can do that.

Microsoft Office:  everyone knows how to use Microsoft Office.  It shouldn’t be considered a requirement on job descriptions, because we all use it as a function at work every day..

Social networking:  I network with people…socially.  I admit, I’m still having a difficult time learning how to use LinkedIn as a virtual business networking tool.  As far as networking in person, I’m still intimidated by people in high places (or are in better jobs/have better job titles).  What do I really offer as a service to them if we decide to network? 

I know there has to be a better way to use LinkedIn effectively, without using it as a way to collect virtual business cards from people to add to my online Rolodex.  I feel like a sleazy used car salesman doing that. 

Don’t misconstrue that I’m selling myself short on my skills.  I have to be honest in what I have done with my skills and how I have used them.  With that in mind, what does my “skills” tell others who see my LinkedIn profile?  Is it of value enough to be hired by employers?  Is it “business”-focused?  Does it offer “return of investment” for an employer? 

What does your “skills and expertise” really say to you when you read it?