Tag Archives: opinion

Unique Success Insights From Today’s Greatest Entrepreneurs

 

In a crowded “nothing new under the sun” world, being successful no longer means having more or being at the apex of a vocation. That narrative is a dime a dozen. The richest man on earth is as forgettable as the average speaker at a TED Talk is memorable.

Being successful in a digital, multichannel age means transcending the constraints of your field, the expectations of your culture, and even the guarded borders of your identity. It means reinventing yourself to the point few will forget your brief tale in this universe. That context of achievement is easy to grasp when thinking of such modern “success” stories as Steve Jobs, Tim Ferris, or Reed Hastings.

How to do these lords of transcendence do it? Is there a code? If there is one today, it might be found in a book aptly called The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, written by Vishen Lakhiani. Although known as the founder of Mindvalley, trying to label Lakhiani is as hard as labelling the complex figures mentioned above—individuals who can thrive as both entrepreneurs and social activists, captains of commerce and spiritual servants of the common good.

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind is also hard to pigeonhole. You could say the book is a manual on how to upgrade and reboot your existence with an equal mixture of common sense and mysticism. You could say the book is transcendent.

Lakhiani’s work provides a blueprint for any individual to find his or her potential without having to run to a cave in Tibet (although that is optional). He is no mere guru of anecdotal experience dressed in New Age lingo. His writing is brutally honest, humble and intimate. At the same time, the book’s content is laser-like in its practically—drawing partially from Lakhiani having 17 jobs in 17 years, from washing dishes to founding (and losing) companies. He also draws heavily from many of today’s “success” stories.

Thus, I present here the wisdom Lakhiani learned from other lords of transcendence and revealed in The Code of the Extraordinary Mind.

 

Elon Musk

 

 

Lakhiani asked the famed founder of Tesla this questions: “Elon, you’ve done some pretty epic things, stuff most people would never even dream about. Yet what makes Elon Musk? I mean, if we could put you in a blender and blend you to distill your essence, what would that essence be?”

Lakhiani writes that Musk laughed at the blender metaphor and then thoughtfully answered:

When I was just starting out, I walked into Netscape to get a job. I just sat in the lobby holding my résumé, waiting quietly for someone to talk to me. No one did. I waited and waited. But no one spoke to me. So I said: ‘F**k it! I’ll just start my own company.’

Obviously, few of us can be like Musk. He also did tell Lakhiani that “I have a high tolerance for pain.” In any case, many us forget that before we can think outside the box, we must understand we’re trapped inside one.

 

Richard Branson

 

 

While spending time together on the beach at Richard Branson’s private island, Lakhiani shared openly about various philosophical issues with Branson.

At one point, Branson interrupted him and stoically said, “You should write a book.”

That was it. Lakhiani took the suggestion. Why? Because Branson found him interesting? Maybe or maybe not. It was likely that Branson simply knew everyone has an important story to share. Lakhiani had merely been brave enough to take the first step of disclosing one’s soul to later expand it.

Later on, Lakhiani asked Branson why he always seemed happy. Was he ever sad? Branson answered, “I can’t remember the bad times. I only remember the good things that happened in my life.”

Branson’s view reminds me of a Tom Robbins quote: “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” The past is a stern classroom, sure, but eventually the bell needs to ring and we need to venture into the playgrounds of our positive experiences. Your mileage and metaphors may vary.

 

Arianna Huffington

 

 

Lakhiani recalls asking Arianna Huffington the same questions offered to Musk: “What makes you Arianna? If we could distill you and try to extract your essence, what is it that makes you you?”

Arianna replied:

I would say trust. I have an incredible trust in life. One of my favorite quotes is a little misquote: ‘Live life as though everything is rigged in your favor.’ I really profoundly believe that whatever has happened in my life, including the biggest heartbreaks, the biggest disappointments, was exactly what was needed to help me get to the next stage of my own personal evolution and growth. I always had a sense of that, but now I believe that so profoundly. I can literally see the hidden blessing in every bad thing that happened.

In essence, I would say, every person has a history and that history is unique—filled with wonder and insight.

 

Peter Diamandis

 

 

Lakhiani recalls in his book a quote by Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman of the X Prize: “If you can’t win, change the rules. If you can’t change the rules, ignore them.”

Not much can be commented on this quote, especially once you’re involved in writing the script that is your life (as with Musk and Branson) and are enraptured in the lessons of your past (as with Branson and Huffington).

 

Conclusion

 

 

In The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, Lakhiani proffers his own insights that correlate with the figures mentioned. He furthermore presents his personal journey, as Rudyard Kipling wrote, of meeting with “Triumph and Disaster” and treating those two impostors as they were one. It is quite a journey, and he calls for each one of us to take that journey.

As mentioned, being successful today means transcending until you find the best, unique, and helpful version of yourself. It’s not so much about reinventing, though, but rediscovering who you were meant to be—and that is a person whose tale is unforgettable in this universe.

 

The Ron Burgundy of Tech

 

A book taking the business world by storm is Disrupted: My Misadventures in the Startup Bubble, written by Dan Lyons. The work is a scathing critique of tech startups and their Wonderland-meets-the-Hunger-Games sensibility, centered mostly on Lyons’ stint as a marketer for inbound software company HubSpot.

I haven’t laughed out loud in years while reading a book—although weeping might have been a more suitable reaction in various sections. Lyons describes the new normal of tech startups: a work culture that exploits workers within racist, misogynistic and ageist ecosystems; a business model that fosters neo-feudal economic realities where a few get very rich while the middle class gets atomized; an Orwellian atmosphere of mystic Groupthink where workers fall on their swords while simultaneously glorifying egomaniacal founders and supporting mediocre management.

Lyons, a former Newsweek reporter and current writer for the HBO hit Silicon Valley, makes HubSpot the centerpiece to his case for the toxic malady that are tech startups on the American workforce biology. Witness hallways teaming with beer taps, free candy, orange bean bags and overworked Hipsters. Witness endless meetings where a founder bestows a teddy bear an exclusive seat at the conference table. Witness realms of magic realism math where a company that has never made a profit can go public. And witness that Doublespeak tech lingo where a fired employee is called a “graduate” and never spoken of again, while management goes around telling employees that 1+1= 3 (and they better believe and make it happen).

That’s just scratching the surface of Disrupted. However, one can tell that Lyons does have fondness, empathy and even admiration for HubSpot. Personally, I can say HubSpot has brought value and useful information to my marketing life.

Lyons’ true wrath falls on an individual who seems to exemplify the corruption and greed of tech startups.

“The Ron Burgundy of Tech,” Lyons calls this person (and is the title of a chapter in his Disrupted). This is none other than Marc Benioff, the billionaire founder and CEO of Salesforce. Lyons’ revelation of Benioff occurred when he attended Dreamforce—Salesforce’s annual conference in San Francisco in late 2013. We might as well get to his insights from the book.

He starts the chapter by offering this formula:

Imagine Joel Osteen pumped up on human growth hormone. Imagine there’s a secret government lab where scientists have blended the DNA of Tony Robbins with the DNA of Harold Hill, the aw-shucks shifty salesman from The Music Man. Imagine a grizzly bear in a pinstriped suit, standing on his hind legs and talking about changing the world through disruptive innovation and transformation.

That’s how Lyons sees Benioff, watching him give the keynote speech at the Moscone Center.

The critique gets worse.

Lyons calls him “a buffoon, a bulls**t artist, and such an out-of-control egomaniac that it is painful to listen to him talk.” He says Benioff is like “some kind of cheesy talk-show host, roaming up and down the aisles, a man of the people” saying astral remarks like “the speed of now” and “the internet of customers.” He further mocks at how Benioff states: “Have you transformed the way you innovate?” (you can switch the two buzzwords around, and it makes just as little sense).

“There’s an art to this kind of horses**t, and Benioff is its Michelangelo,” Lyons declares, dejected at the speech while thousands of techies eagerly drink Benioff’s Kool-Aid. It gets worse for Lyons, as such figures as Sean Penn and Deepak Chopra appear to edify Benioff, while Huey Lewis and Green Day are prostituted to play at the festivities.

The rest of Dreamforce is a mixture of Roman debauchery and New Age spirituality. As mentioned, this where Lyons has his epiphany, the point the Red Pill fully goes down—for he sees Salesforce and the rest of the tech startup industry for they are (not companies who claim falsely, like Google and Apple, that they want to change the world). As he writes:

Having the best product has nothing to do with who wins. What matters is who can put on a great show, who can create the biggest spectacle, who can look huge and unstoppable and invincible, and who is the best at bluster and hype.

When it comes to these things, nobody comes close to Benioff. Nobody has cashed in on the bubble as well as he has. In 2012, Salesforce.com lost more than a quarter of a billion dollars, and in 2013 it will lose almost as much. In 2013 the company is fourteen years old and not making a profit. But its revenues are growing more than 30 percent each year, and growth is what investors are looking for, so even though Salesforce.com is bleeding red ink, its stock has doubled over the past two years, and Benioff’s personal net worth has soared to $ 2.6 billion.

Now, here in the Moscone Center, the P. T. Barnum of the tech industry is giving a master class in how the game is played. It’s the Marc Benioff show, brought to you by Marc Benioff, with special guest Marc Benioff. Fifteen thousand people are packed into this hall. Thousands more are packed into spillover rooms. It feels like a rock concert. In fact it is a rock concert.

Oddly enough, Lyons admits that he wanted to buy Salesforce software, such is the charisma of Benioff under the spectacle of watery lights and frenzied sound in the auditorium. More than a rock concert, the keynote speech event (and conference) is more like a religious revival where the audience devours the software like Communion.

Lastly, Lyons criticizes Benioff’s philanthropy because he makes it public and way to leverage customers—instead of being discreet like Bill Gates or other old tech guards. Okay, there’s more, but hopefully you have gained a taste of Disrupted and the alarm it sounds.

Personally, I’ve never used Salesforce and know little of Benioff. I suspect he has probably brought more light than darkness into the world. Still, Lyons characterization of the mogul, at the very least, is an allegory of what has befallen the tech startup industry. He is obviously not alone in this assessment (hey, there are more writers on Silicon Valley). The worst is not the dog and pony show of the tech startup industry, the smoke and mirrors full of self-mythologizing, or its vicious, Darwinist work philosophy dressed in Star Trek themes.

No, it’s the reality that, according to Lyons, another tech bubble bursting will soak the middle and lower classes even worse than in the 90s. Then the whole country will be disrupted in ways that might make the 2008 crash seem like a small interruption.

 

Note: A similar story appeared in Valleywag, Marc Benioff Is the Ron Burgundy of Tech, in 2013 and written by “Anonymous.” It’s not secret, though, that Lyons went to write for Valleywag after leaving HubSpot. No plot thickening here.

 

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The Hero Guide To Destroying The Death Star Of Procrastination

Man defying an exploding Death Star above him

 

I would like to think I put the “pro” in procrastination (maybe not the “fun” in funny, but alas). I relate well with what author Robert Mckee once said:

I hold Olympic records for procrastination. I can procrastinate thinking about my procrastination problem. I can procrastinate dealing with my problem of procrastinating thinking about my procrastination problem.

Mckee and I are surely not alone in being the masters of our procrastination domains. Statistics would agree, revealing that procrastination is a widespread malady. According to The American Psychological Association, an estimated 20% of Americans are chronic procrastinators, costing one trillion dollars a year for businesses.

Yes, Dr. Evil, that was one trillion and not one million (or even billion). Procrastination is a problem, as you can see, layered like Shrek and confounding like Donkey.

There are solutions, though. They involve realizing we’ve misdiagnosed and mischaracterized procrastination for far too long. It’s time to know the enemy even if the enemy is mostly us.

 

Procrastination Is Not About Time But Emotion

 

 

In The Atlantic article The Procrastination Doom Loop, Derek Thompson provides an extensive evaluation on procrastination. Thompson quotes several experts, one a prominent psychologist who declares that procrastination “really has nothing to do with time-management. To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”

In essence, we procrastinate because:

–  We delay action because we’re in the wrong mood to complete a task.
–  We assume that our mood will change in the future.

All of this results in what is called a procrastination “doom loop,” where that negative mood begins a continuous feedback of anxiety, guilt and anger, all due to the very notion of confronting a task.

Here is a doom loop diagram from the article:

procrastination doom loop chart

The Solution:

To combat the doom loop, Thompson’s research offers these remedies:

–  Schedule one-shot reminders as late as possible—even slightly after you were supposed to start the project. Last-second reminders tend to exorcise any negative moods and ignite our fight instinct.
–  Have others create deadlines for us. Deadlines imposed by outsiders tend to be more effective than personal ones, even from friends or family.
–  Fool yourself into thinking a task is enjoyable or leisurely. Procrastinators are more likely to complete a piece of work if they’re persuaded it’s not truly work.

 

Procrastination Is Not About Being Passive But Impulsive

 

This might seem like a surprise, but an insightful article in Lifehacker offers the Red Pill to this aspect of procrastination. It’s actually very logical.

The articles explains:

In reality, impulsivity simply means that you act immediately on your impulses. When the mood strikes you to do something, you do it. Your actions are largely dictated by whatever your most immediate desire is, regardless of the long-term consequences of that action.

Procrastination is not so much about choosing not to work, but choosing the easiest task first, that proverbial low hanging fruit. As an example, we might decide to check Facebook instead of starting a report. Also, unhinged impulsiveness leads to unhinged anxiety, shutting down productivity across all spectrums.

People with ADD and substance abuse problems are pathologically impulsive. They tend to make the wrong choices to experience instant gratification. For the rest of us, it’s just damn Daniel all the way as we struggle with facing our projects.

The Solution:

–  Practice mindfulness (even two minutes of meditation a day can assist in nurturing a poised mind).
–  Learn your red flags and plan around them (cursed be that “buy now” Amazon button!), as well as recognize your triggers and weaknesses.
–  Indulge in some productive procrastination. Scheduling some social media time at work can actually improve productivity, no matter what the HR people caw about in their memos.

procrastination meme3

Procrastination Is Not Fear of Beginning A Task But Fear Of The Big Picture

 

As research explains, for procrastinators a journey of a thousand miles starts with breaking down the journey into a thousand pieces. Both subconsciously and consciously, people may feel stupefying anxiety at visualizing an entire project—much in the same way the crew of the Millennium Falcon felt when they saw the Death Star in its entirety.

The solution:

A piece from PsychCentral states:

The whole may be too much to contend with, so the easiest way to overcome a tendency to put things off is to break a project or task into smaller pieces. Call them bite-size chunks.

Not only is the resulting amount of work more manageable, it doesn’t loom as overwhelming. Besides, once you complete the smaller pieces of the task, you can relish the feeling of accomplishment. This helps reinforce your determination to tackle other things on your list.

In other words, when it comes to procrastinations, seeing the trees and not the forest might be the best way to go on that journey of a thousand miles…or inside the Death Star’s trash compactor, when things don’t go well.

procrastination meme

 

Procrastination Is a Ritual That Can Be Destroyed By Rituals

 

Perhaps you should worship St. Expeditus, the patron saint of procrastinators. Expeditus was not the founder of Expedia Travel, but a Roman in the 3rd century who decided to convert to Christianity. Allegedly, the Devil appeared to Expeditus and urged him to wait until the next day to switch dogmas. Expeditus refused and faced his task that day. These days, one might see icons of St. Expeditus turned upside down like an hourglass.

Okay, St. Expeditus might not solve procrastination, but he might, when he’s seen as a representation of something greater.

The Solution:

Find rituals that work for you or at the very least entertain you. All that matters is that you believe these rituals. The examples are legion from notable figures—like poet Edith Sitwell lying in an open coffin before writing because she believed it increased her focus; or Charles Dickens placing ornaments on his desk in a specific order to help him concentrate on the task at hand.

If you’re just too secular-minded, there are more practical (albeit) extreme rituals you can incorporate into your existence. Here are some illustrations from famous individuals:

–  French novelist Victor Hugo wrote both Les Misérablesand The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame in his birthday suit. Being butt-naked meant he wouldn’t be able to leave his house. As an extra precaution, he also instructed his servant to hide his clothes.
–  Greek orator Demosthenes would shave half of his hair off, making him look ridiculous, but it forced to stay home and focus solely on his projects.
–  Herman Melville reportedly had his wife chain him to his desk while he struggled to finish Moby-Dick.

If you’d rather embrace more gentle and superstitious rituals, understand that some have compared rituals to mind algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result, and these can scientifically fight back impulsiveness, anxiety and other negative symptoms of procrastination.

procrastination meme2

 

Conclusion

 

 

These solutions are not necessarily meant to be employed collectively. Yet if you draw from this pool of procrastination-killers with healthy doses of self-knowledge, you will find some silver bullets to finishing projects.

It’s your onion and your Death Star. As a last piece of advice before you shave your hair and strip naked in the middle of the office, I recommend Steven Pressfield’s book, The Art of War. I’ll leave you with a quote from the book:

“Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”

The problem is that tomorrow always seems to come, doesn’t it?

 

As a bonus, enjoy this time-management infographic:

4 Scientific Tips to Always Being on Time Infographic

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26 Quotes To Inspire Market Research Success

Man celebrating under a rain of floating numbers

 

Market (and Marketing) Research is an odyssey of numbers and an epic of depth psychology. It’s commonly an intense road of discovery, and many who have traveled it tend to leave their wisdom for us.

We did say intense, which we’re sure most of you agree with when it comes to research. That hasn’t changed since ancient times.

For example, in the 7th century B.C., we have the story of philosopher Thales being so engrossed in studying the stars he didn’t notice a well and fell right into it. There is also the 3rd century B.C. story of philosopher Archimedes, famous for this cry of “Eureka,” who would not look up from his mathematical diagram when a conquering Roman general entered his tent wanting to meet the famous thinker; in a fit of rage, the Roman general killed Archimedes.

And it continues today, though with not so many painful endings. Researchers are as engrossed as ever, but again, when we pause from staring at the stars or mathematical diagrams of our projects we can find insights from seasoned thought leaders.

We’ve compiled a list of this wisdom in the form of 26 quotes, some sound and some quirky (also found in a more visual format at the end of this article in a SlideShare). We hope you can both applaud and laugh at yourself:

 

“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”

– Albert Einstein

 

“Bad news sells papers. It also sells market research.”

– Byron Sharp

 

“Research is about engaging in a conversation with a brand.”

 Matthew Rhodes

 

“Telling a story remains one of the biggest challenges facing market research today.”

 David Smith

 

“Torture numbers, and they’ll confess to anything.”

 Gregg Easterbrook

 

“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.”

 Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

 

“Research is the process of going up alleys to see if they are blind.”

 Marston Bates

 

“The bad news for our industry is that we periodically forget that people are notoriously bad at telling us the truth.”

 Stephen Needel

 

“Asked about the power of advertising in research surveys, most agree that it works, but not on them.”

 Eric Clark

 

“Market research can be not just misleading, but disastrous for people who work on instinct.”

 Terence Conran

 

“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.”

 Wernher Von Braun

 

“Traditionally, market research has not made a strong claim on the future. Its traditional methods… are inevitably limited to discovering how consumers feel today.”

 Dr. Rachel Lawes

 

“What is research, but a blind date with knowledge.”

 William Henry

 

“Research is four things: brains with which to think, eyes with which to see, machines with which to measure and, fourth, money.”

 Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

 

“Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.”

 David Ogilvy

 

“The market research department is increasingly perceived as being not just responsible for the organization of research, but also for sharing and distributing knowledge and expertise in a credible and convincing way.”

 Christoph Palmer

 

“People are unlikely to know that they need a product which does not exist and the basis of market research in new and innovative products is limited in this regard.”

 John Harvey-Jones

 

“He who asks is a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask is a fool forever.”

 Chinese proverb

 

“The pressure on marketers to deliver faster advertising return on investment should be a good thing for the research industry because it forces us all to question some fundamental research practices.”

 Jill Telford

 

“Traditional measurement has been so comprehensively attacked it is amazing it is still used.”

 Peter Field

 

“Eighty to ninety percent of our behavior is determined by our subconscious mind. The problem market researchers face is that they communicate with the conscious mind of consumers.”

 Ralph Poldervaart

 

“Much of the discussion among marketers about the so-called “multi-channel” shopper has focused almost exclusively on the channel and hardly at all on the shopper.”

 Dr. Alan Treadgold

 

“To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism, to steal ideas from many is research.”

 Unknown

 

“USA Today has come out with a new survey – apparently, three out of every four people make up 75% of the population.”

 David Letterman

 

“Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.”

 Mark Twain

 

“Some people use research like a drunkard uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.”

 David Ogilvy

 

Let us know if there are any quotes that inspire or warn you. In the end, we hope you can appease those angry Roman generals that are your clients when you’re too engrossed instead of fully engaged with a brand during a research project.

 

6 Lies About St. Patrick’s Day You Foolishly Believe

Group celebrating St. Patrick's Day in leprechaun costumes

 

Perception is reality, but often both perception and reality are not based on fact. Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb and eight glasses of water a day are not necessary for good health. The Big Bang Theory is not funny.

This St. Patrick’s Day there will usher merriment, but also a plentitude of wrong facts. We’ll get to these commonly-believed myths quickly and briefly. We know your email or social media feed is being bombarded by an avalanche of St. Patrick articles from Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post and that annoying cousin who has to share everything with you.

The truth might not be pretty, but as someone with Irish heritage, it’s never an excuse miss out on the day’s merriment (even if they’re fictional).

 

St. Patrick was Irish

 

 

He was actually born in either Wales or Scotland, in the 4th century, from a wealthy family who for some reason never invested in maps or GPS. In those days, the Romans occupied the British Isles. Therefore, St. Patrick was probably a Roman, although no records exist naming him a citizen of the empire. He wrote in Latin, according to the two surviving documents bearing his name, and signed his name Patricius.

Hey, when it Rome can mean have a green beer!

 

Green is the national color of Ireland

 

 

Traditionally, it’s blue, something like a sky blue. It seems green became culturally adopted in the 20th century mainly because of soccer. It’s a bit more complicated, and wearing blue on St. Patrick’s Day probably won’t save you from being pinched.

It’s Paddy and not Patty. Patty is short for “Patricia.” Paddy is short for the Irish male name deriving from the Latin Patricius, which is Patrick as we just saw. In any event, Paddy in many contexts is considered a racial slur. Only the Irish can use the “P” word freely.

Oh, and please no ordering Irish Car Bombs at bars this year, while we’re on the topic of political correctness.

 

St. Patrick was a Saint

 

 

I’m not saying I’ve got TMZ information on St. Patrick’s weekend adventures, but that he was never formally canonized by the Catholic Church. His title simply was woven by folklore. On the topic of folklore, legends state St. Patrick drove out the snakes from Ireland, but since the country still boasts politicians the story is likely a fable. In reality, there were never any snakes in Ireland to drive out in the first place.

 

St. Patrick’s Day started in Ireland

 

 

That’s like saying fajitas started in Mexico, even if they’re popular now in that country. The truth is that the holiday—as we know it—began late in the 18th century in Boston and New York when Irish immigrants marched against American racial prejudices against them. The event gradually evolved into the drunk fest we have today, and then made its way to Ireland.

Sure, March 17 has long been a day of devotion in Ireland, with pubs not even allowed to open. Only in the 1970s did the Irish start taking St. Patrick’s Day as a cultural celebration. And man, those pubs stayed open…

 

Most Irish are Catholic

 

 

Okay, they are, but the reality is that most Irish American are Protestant. The main reason, it appears, is that during colonial times Irish immigrants arrived from Protestant regions of Ireland like Ulster. My father, for example, was a proud Irishman who was raised Lutheran (and later became an atheist, probably to fully celebrate St. Patrick’s Day).

 

Keep in mind and other than that…

 

 

Just so you know, Leprechauns were originally lecherous, drunken elves rebranded by American marketing; and that the luck of the Irish makes no sense at all considering history’s ass kicking of the Irish. But it was Tennessee Williams who said, “Luck is believing you’re lucky.” I’ll leave it at that.

It is sensible to assume that St. Patrick was indeed captured by Irish slaves as a child, spent seven years in brutal bondage (forced to listen to prehistoric U2, perhaps?), converted to Christianity, and then returned home only to go back to Ireland to become a bishop.

Between leprechauns and St. Patrick’s history, however, I think you can find the essence of what is an Irishman: life is fiction, history is harsh— so you might as well believe you’re lucky and make your personal history an enjoyable fiction, full of oppression and liberation. Or should I say Irishperson, as I rail against saying Paddy or ordering Irish Car Bombs?

 

Please enjoy our infographic:

St. Patricks Day Infographic qSample

 

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Work Meetings Are Destroying Business (and how to destroy them back)

Frustrated workers in a business meeting

 

My brother is a vice president of a large company. He often tells me he gets anxiety on Sundays because of an incoming Monday of long, byzantine meetings. I asked him once who was responsible for all these work meetings. He answered, “I schedule most of them.” When I asked him why, he dully answered, “Well, it’s just what you’re supposed to do.”

Welcome to corporate America, a parody so accurate of itself you don’t even need movies like Office Space or Working Girl to understand it.

It’s a parody, sure, but the reality is that workplace meetings are often counterproductive (surprise!) and waste inordinate amounts of money. As renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith once quipped, “Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.”

Beyond the common wisdom, the statistics on the absolute bleed that are business meetings are so alarming you might never attend your next meeting:

 

workplace meetings meme

 

How bad is it, really?

 

 

It’s bad. Larry Kim, CEO of Wordstream, presented several studies in an Inc. article to expose the black hole that is the workplace meeting. Here are some of the takeaways:

–  Executives spend more than two days a week in meetings (like my brother).
–  Organizations spend 15% of their time on meetings, a number that’s increased progressively since 2008.
–  Over $25 million is wasted per day on unnecessary meetings, resulting in $37 billion thrown away on meetings that simply aren’t productive.

Before you schedule a meeting on this crisis of meetings, it gets worse. Research from the Harvard Business Review found that one executive meeting from a typical company devoured a dizzying 300,000 hours a year. Yes, that’s a year, by Jove! And yes, a year only has 8,700 hours. How did that happen without a Skynet time machine? Simple: The preparation and collateral (aka more meetings) for a meeting burns additional time from many employees including the executives. Meetings cost time and resources before and after they happen.

Ready for more, as you fall through a dimensional hole and into a Dilbert comic? Okay, here are some more soul-numbing statistics:

–  Sixty-three percent of meetings have no planned agenda.
–  Most executives attend 62 meetings a month.
–  Seventy-three percent of meeting participants admit they do other work during meetings. (This would be multitasking, and our research shows it’s as negative on the mind and business economics as bad workplace meetings).

Before your next meeting is an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting after you binge drink due to this information, the problem with work meetings is being addressed as we speak and your boss is scheduling another meeting.

 

workplace meetings meme2

 

Yes, give me the solutions to work meetings!

 

 

Okay, the problem with meetings has sorta been addressed. As Kim writes in the Inc. article, Jeff Bezos at Amazon.com employs the tactic of not planning a meeting in which two pizzas aren’t enough to feed everyone. Business leaders like Donald Trump and Steve Jobs screamed a lot during meetings; maybe that wasn’t for efficiency, but they kept attendees on schedule and on track.

In between stuffing your mouth with pizza and stuffing your ears cotton balls, well-used technology like Uberconference and iMeet can trim the fat of meetings. On the other hand, companies such as LinkedIn are creating meetings that are more productive by using less technology. In other words, those slide presentations that lull you into a coma or ignite golf fantasies are being ditched—instead offered before or after the meeting. Yes, PowerPoint just ain’t what she used to be.

In the end, what is truly necessary to have productive meetings is a change in thinking and culture.

This transformation is covered in Al Pittampalli’s groundbreaking book Read This Before Your Next Meeting. Pittampalli explains that meetings create a culture of compromise and speculation, which is the anathema to the battleground that ought to be a company’s boardroom. In fact, Pittampalli says, “Like war, meetings are a last resort.”

This attitude of war is key to reforming the workplace meeting. Fighting is a minor part of winning a war. Preparation and decision-making are the major elements of winning a war. A meeting should be first and foremost about making decisions. By the time participants sit in a meeting, they all should have all the pertinent information necessary. It’s really up to the “generals” attending to make decisions, based on that information, which will move the company forward. It’s as simple as that, and Jobs and Trump would agree.

Pittampalli outlines seven principles for a successful meeting:

1.  Supports a decision that has already been made
2. Moves fast and ends on schedule
3. Limits the number of attendees (only two pizzas!)
4. Rejects the unprepared
5. Produces committed action plans
6. Refuses to be informational. Reading memos is mandatory
7. Works only alongside a culture of brainstorming

Good meetings are indeed wars. All good wars are won before the first shot. Good generals make quick decisions as soon as they have all the available data. If the war motif is too much for you, then maybe you don’t belong in a competitive business society. Just sayin’.

Other suggestions from Pittampalli include having everyone walk around even if they’re not speaking, allowing people to come and go, and giving everyone a bloody time limit. Brainstorming and conversations have their places, but never at a workplace meeting.

In the end, an executive makes an unpopular decision is nothing more than a leader, and leaders are rare in workplace meetings.

Today, too many executives are more like politicians. That is tantamount to kicking the can down the proverbial road, and we’re back to wasting those 300,000 hours a year.

Instead, kick that bad addiction that is bad meetings.

 

workplace meetings meme3

 

Conclusion

 

 

This article or anyone cited doesn’t make a case for vanquishing workplace meetings altogether. Meetings matter. As Pittampalli says in his book:

We work in a business of complex problems. Meetings were the invention created to provide the needed coordination. We need meetings to ensure that intelligent decisions are made and to confirm that our teams are interacting effectively on complex projects.

What we don’t need, though, are standard meetings, the mediocre meetings and the meetings that actually and actively cripple our organization.

Furthermore, it was famed economist Peter F. Drucker who said, “Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer meetings the better.”

In summary, efficient meetings should rest upon these four cornerstones:

1.  Meetings are only about decisions. In fact, their sole existence is to foster decisions.
2. The same fervor, urgency and agility we manifest in our jobs should manifest in meetings. Let’s go to war.
3.  Meetings shouldn’t take time, but more like destroy time.
4.  Mix it, shake it up, try something weird at meetings. At least a decision will come about from this, and that’s already a good meeting.

These type of changes are not easy. A culture of compromise just seems sooo sensible, but radical change is certainly necessary for any company that wishes to fully be a member of this age of information…including my brother’s.

 

As a bonus, please check out this infographic. Multitasking is also another work-destroyer:

The Negative Effects of Multitasking

Download this infographic.

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The Most Accurate Parody Movies Of The Workplace

 

To parody the workplace one doesn’t necessarily have to leave the workplace. The American workplace is largely a self-fulling, eternal loop of satirical moments—from byzantine meetings to black hole paperwork, from faltering tech originally meant to save time to Wonderland jargon spoken by so many management emperors wearing no clothes.

At least this seems to be the case on a bad day at work. However, one can also look at some of the data:

–  Over $25 million is wasted per day on unnecessary meetings, resulting in $37 billion thrown away on meetings that aren’t productive.
–  $650 billion are lost yearly because of multitasking, mainly due to the fact most companies will not embrace automated prioritization solutions.

I’m sure you have your own statistics and empirical evidence. Sometimes it’s a wonder any of us gets bored during work once we open our eyes and notice the quirks of the workplace (or move our eyes away from watching the same YouTube video for the tenth time at work).

We always have movies to showcase existential realities, and when it comes to satirizing the workplace no shortage exists. Most of these films are comedies, although their “Ha-ha!” is more of the sad type of “Ha-ha!” and not the funny “Ha-ha!” type.

In the spirit of work sanity and this weekend’s Academy Awards, here are the ten most accurate parody movies of the workplace.

 

Office Space (1999)

 

 

office space

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Judge’s creation is as close as you can get to nailing it when it comes to the Mad Hatter aspect of the workplace. The film was not a hit, but quickly blossomed into a cult flick and documentary of sorts, because it’s so bloody true! It contains all the keynotes of a sanity-sucking job: the jammed printer, the soulless but suave boss, the Kafkaesque memos, the cubicles-as-coffins, and much more. In the end, the lesson of Office Place is clear: mediocrity tends to rise to the top of the business world and a postal, pyrotechnic mindset wins the American Dream.

Same as it ever was, as the Talking Heads song goes.

Notable quote: Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements.

 

9 to 5 (1980)

 

 

nine to five

 

 

 

 

 

Not only does this film reveal the absurd side of the workplace, but it’s also a groundbreaking feminist exposition. Dolly Partner, Lilly Tomlin and Jane Fonda—a trinity of the female plight in business—go up again Dabney Coleman in all his genius as an actor and all his misogyny and bigotry as a character. We’ve all resented our bosses, but kidnap and torture one? Mmm…certainly a plausible fantasy long before sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and racial discrimination laws were actually enforced.

Notable quote: What are you, a man or a mouse? I mean, a woman or a wouse?

 

Working Girl (1988)

 

 

working girl

 

 

 

 

 

Melanie Griffith makes a dream move to forge her own deal at a Wall Street Investment bank, regardless of her lowly position and education. She goes up against the dark side of feminism: a haughty Sigourney Weaver in between fighting Aliens. This movie is more of a romantic comedy, with Harrison Ford playing her love interest and business ally. Yet Griffith’s narrative as someone attempting to break the bonds of business fate and caste systems is touching and uplifting.

Notable quote: You can bend the rules plenty once you get to the top, but not while you’re trying to get there. And if you’re someone like me, you can’t get there without bending the rules.

 

Fight Club (1999)

 

 

fight club

 

 

 

 

 

The story doesn’t exactly center on the workplace. However, one of the chief quests of the main character, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), is to deprogram all the other characters of their views on careers and the business world in general. The movie takes pointed shots at American consumerism, runaway brand loyalty and modern masculinity. But it’s the day at work that is the great tumor at the center of the human imagination—according to Durden—even as he tries to bring all of society crashing down around him in an act of global terrorism. I’m sure none of us have imagined bringing the system down after a long day of paperwork and bureaucratic nightmares.

One has to wonder what kind of team the women from 9 to 5 and Durden would have made if they joined forces in 2016.

Notable quote: We’re consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don’t concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy’s name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.

 

Up In The Air (2009)

 

 

movie shit

 

 

 

 

 

Many of us wonder at times if this will be the day we will lose our job. Even Steve Jobs was fired once, when he was head of Apple. This movie deals with the downsizing issue in nuanced and moving ways—as George Clooney and Anna Kendrick fly around the country as firing consultants during our never-ending reality of continuous corporate layoffs. The hunter must become the hunter, as they say, and Clooney finds himself a firing expert threatened to be fired.

History and art portray many heroic versions of those who face death, but so far very little heroism on how to gallantly fire someone or handle being fired. Up In The Air at least makes a noble attempt.

Notable quote: On a street level, I’ve heard that losing your job is like a death in the family. But personally, I feel more like the people I worked with were my family and *I* died.

 

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

 

 

devil wears prada

 

 

 

 

 

Bosses are scary and demanding. If they’re not, our imagination and office gossip can make them scary and demanding. Meryl Streep plays a scary and demanding in both reality and her company’s imagination. She is the true archetype of the severe boss, ruthlessly pilling tasks on the Anne Hathaway character. Whether it’s getting coffee or retrieving a pirated version of the latest Harry Potter book for Streep, Hathaway takes a licking and keeps on ticking as many of us wished we could until it’s time to leave for a better professional world.

But does that world exist? Some say you have to make a deal with the real Devil for this…

Notable quote: You sold your soul to the devil when you put on your first pair of Jimmy Choo’s, I saw it.

 

High Fidelity (2000)

 

 

 high fidelity

 

 

 

 

Of course, owning your business is viewed as the solution to not having a boss. However, running your company is not like Humphrey Boggart in Casablanca—wearing a nice tux and waltzing around with the clientele. It’s more like High Fidelity, based on the Nick Hornby book of the same name. John Cusack plays the protagonist who owns a struggling vinyl record shop, with all the nonromantic pains of a staff and bills. Worse, he’s stuck in a post-grunge world where being the boss is as much of an existentialist quandary as being an employee.

As a companion, certainly watch Clerks (1994).

Notable quote: My friend here’s trying to convince me that any independent contractors who were working on the uncompleted Death Star were innocent victims when it was destroyed by the Rebels.

 

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

 

 

 glengarry glen ross

 

 

 

 

Based on David Mamet play, the story accurately captures the intensity and often nihilism of the sales aspect of business. Death of a salesman is easy if you just place him in a system that only rewards the top one percent (sound familiar in overall society?). On one spectrum, Jack Lemmon’s character is so simultaneously pathetic, poignant and passive we wonder how anyone could embrace the sales life. On the other spectrum, Al Pacino’s character is so transcendental and elegantly predatory, it’s apparent there is a metaphysical component to a good salesperson that can never be trained in business. In between, welcome to the passion narrative of the average sales team.

Notable quote:  We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.

 

Gung Ho (1986)

 

 

 gung ho

 

 

 

 

Before Batman, Michael Keaton was a brilliant comedic actor. Here he plays an out-of-work foreman who convinces a Japanese company to take over his town’s shuttered plant. As a warning, this Ron Howard vehicle is rather politically incorrect for these days with its views of Asians. Nonetheless, the movie is timeless in its showcasing the struggles of the American factory against cheaper labor and rising foreign interests. It is nice, though, to see working class individuals on both sides of the ocean rise to heroism.

Notable quote: I do not understand American workers. They come five minutes late, leave two minutes early. They stay home when they are sick. They put themselves above company. You seem to feel the same way as they do.

 

Monsters, Inc. (2001)

 

 

 monsters inc

 

 

 

 

This mention might seem odd, considering the narrative revolves around warring department beasts in tech business during an incoming recession. Wait, it’s perfect for our times! From the worker eccentricities to the boardroom savagery for the bottom line, this Pixar hit holds life wisdom for adults as much as children. In the end, the real monsters aren’t the anxious managers or insecure employees, but any individual who attempts to screw over customers, clients or the overall brand vision for a little extra profit.

Notable quote:  I’ll kidnap a thousand children before I let this company die, and I’ll silence anyone who gets in my way!

Honorable mentions: Boiler Room, The Leggo Movie, Empire Records, Social Network, You’ve Got Mail, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Baby Boom. I’m sure you might have others, and please let us know through Twitter (@qSample).

Now back to your YouTube video or listening to your boss drone on about a mission statement. See you at the Oscars!

Paul DePodesta And The Power Of Analytics

 

Statistics are much more than numbers. They drive major business decisions, engineering, and everyday life. They fuel testing of new medicine, protect our borders, push the Warriors to the NBA title, and even guide personal decisions, whether used consciously or not.

Over millennia, military leaders employed data and analysis to defeat enemies. Today, major business leaders all over the world employ the same methodology in delivering cherished goods and services. Even the world of sports and entertainment understands this aspect of modern business. For example, The Cleveland Browns recently made headlines by hiring Paul DePodesta, a former collegiate wide receiver, rose to fame through a dramatization of Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball,” which chronicled his ability to use baseball statistics to aid the Oakland A’s in competing against better financed teams.

After moving to the NFL, the Cleveland Browns collected three championship trophies in their first 5 years in the league. Unfortunately, their performance slipped into mediocrity by the 70’s, and in subsequent eras, their lackluster performance continued. While the Browns have a history of making bad personnel decisions, the Browns tapped DePodesta not due to their situation, but rather out of the need for a guide in transforming their organization, and remaining competitive.

This article explores analytics, big data, and their impact in and outside of sports; and why the Browns joined countless organizations in exploiting the power of data.

 

The Analytics Machine Driving Modern Business

 

 

Analytics or business intelligence (BI) owes its substance to military intelligence and serves the same essential purpose. At every stage of a campaign, intelligence gives commanders a clear picture of battle with pros and cons of options. In business, leaders maintain a picture of operations and status, and the factors affecting outcome.

Before computer use in business, business intelligence primarily involved legal spying (like military spies). It began to mature by the 1800s when Richard Miller Devens wrote about a banker exploiting data to outperform competitors. In the 1950s, commercial computers hit markets, and modern business intelligence officially began. Hans Peter Luhn, an IBM researcher and leading computer scientist, created foundational business analytics systems, and laid the groundwork for analyzing and distributing documents. Some consider him the father of BI.

Business intelligence advancement developed parallel to computer technology development, exploiting every viable tool available to private organizations and individuals. Through various innovations, its main resources actually remained the same: big data, analysis applications, and statistical theory. Cultural shifts within business led to more and deeper business intelligence use. Business, like sports, possesses a macho culture with great minds exploiting their instincts and natural talent. This environment wrestled with accepting analysis, however, the cold, hard facts won them over, cementing and advancing its role.

Analytics In Action:

 

 

Virtually every industry employs analytics including, but not limited to the following examples.

–  As it relates to marketing and advertising, analytics determine the effect of campaigns and channels including their ROI.
–  Analytics is widely used in politics to determine the best way to access, motivate and interact with political supporters.
–  Analytics is widely used in the military to understand the enemy or to go as far as anticipating or counter attacks. Some military applications even analyze an enemy’s facial expressions.
–  In medicine, along with improving profits and reducing waste, data predicts epidemics, aids in curing disease, and aids in avoiding preventable deaths.

IBM surveyed over 1,000 international executives from 67 countries. The survey reveals 63% of organizations achieve a positive return on analytics investment within one year, and 26% realize it in as little as 6 months. Businesses across sectors clearly recognize the transformative effect of analytics with customer service, operations efficiency, and financial or risk management as the main areas of application. Out of those surveyed, 49% of organizations report employing big data exceeded their expectations for returns, and 40% of organizations (up from 25% in 2013) focus analytics on operations.

CIO magazine surveyed over 300 professionals, and 65% credited analytics with driving business process change. These professionals represent manufacturing, financial services, telecoms, government, nonprofits, and healthcare. 100% of respondents stated their organization used analytics; furthermore, 57% claimed their organization would increase analytics spending.

Research has shown that more than 80% of the world’s major business leaders pursue big data projects to remain competitive.

Case Study: Nate Silver

Nate Silver, a statistician, skyrocketed to fame on the back of his baseball and election analysis. He initially became known for his PECOTA system, a statistical forecasting system for major league baseball player performance. His system grabbed the attention of major sports media entities and publications such as ESPN, the New York Times, and Sports Illustrated. Others recognized Silver’s talent after he correctly predicted 49 out of 50 states in the 2008 US presidential election. This earned him a spot on Time’s “100 Most Influential People” list. Four years later, he correctly predicted all 50 states in the 2012 election.

Quality data and analysis form the foundation of powerful analytics. The data must tell a story, and provide all the information needed to spot trends or support critical decisions. Any other data offers no insight. The size of big data proves its weakness and strength. Analysts unfortunately spend more time aggregating a sea of data than analyzing it. Many organizations also realize, like sports organizations, data analysts must partner with experts in the field to achieve quality analysis.

 

Rebuilding Cleveland’s Machine

 

 

Analytics might not get the Browns to the superbowl anytime soon, however, the organization has a different goal. They simply want to leverage an excellent resource in tuning operations, a move the NBA, MLB, and many other major leagues agree works. Many know about the general results of these efforts, but much of it remains hidden like the trade secrets of successful businesses.

Analytics on the Field

The Red Sox exploited analytics and emphasized on-base percentage, something which proved critical to developing a championship contender, and which currently fuels huge salaries. Nor (number of walks) caused baseball to reevaluate hitters and pitchers, and control the metric given its value both in prevention and draw. Analytics also caused a drop in base stealing attempts, which fell by 30% between 1993 and 2013. The NBA flocked to the 3-point corner shot on the strength of its performance in analysis, increasing the attempts by over 100 percent. Analysis also revealed optimal lineups and tactics.

Analytics offers more than game actions, and extends to player health. Many organizations use data to monitor, prevent, and manage injuries.

The Team

Data influences picks and coach selection, and goes even deeper. In football, a single statistic can be created to encapsulate the performance of a player, merging quantitative and qualitative characteristics. This aids in building a well-designed, devastating team instead of assembling a pack of men or women who display a bit of talent.

Analytics also goes further than the field and into more practical aspects of an organization’s business performance including areas like ticket sales and fan engagement. Data aids in reaching fans, supporters, and investors.

 

Cleveland’s Future

 

 

Ultimately, analytics make the Browns a stronger organization with better performance, a firmer foundation, and enhanced longevity in a competitive space. Despite this reality, a certain amount of reluctance exists in the NFL due to the very nature of the game. Many consider football too complex for analysis. Box score statistics accurately describe 90% of a baseball game compared with 40% of a football game, however, simple adjustments overcome this such as placing chips and sensors in football pads to gather data, or placing analysis equipment on the field (as in basketball and baseball).

The financial and cultural dynamic in the NFL also affects attitudes. The longtime owners of the NFL are extremely risk-averse, and along with owners who fear change, many coaches and managers also feel threatened. They fail to understand analytics as support for their decisions rather than a replacement for them.

 

The Train Wreck Reason Trump And Sanders Are So Insanely Popular

Smoky train crash with Sanders and Trump floating in smoke

 

As the political primaries heat up, little doubt exists on the public’s captivation with presidential candidates Donald Trump (Republican) and Bernie Sanders (Democrat). Trump has kindled a feverish right-wing populism never seen before in this nation, while Sanders “berns” the passion of millennials and staunch progressives. Although both individuals are galaxies apart in their ideology, a major reason for their attention is shared in a quality as American as apple pie:

The love for the outlaw and antihero.

How could this be? After all, the two candidates are as establishment as one can get. Trump is a seasoned businessperson entrenched in extroverted capitalism; Sanders is a senator with decades of political experience in Washington DC. Perception is reality, though, and the reality is that the two men have carefully marketed themselves as unadulterated outsiders. It makes sense. According to Gallup, 65% of Americans are dissatisfied with the government—the highest rate ever polled.

However, simply branding oneself as antiestablishment would make a Tea Party darling like Ted Cruz a shoe in for the Republican candidacy. The same could be said for any Libertarian/Green candidate out there. That hasn’t happened.

It has to be more than the current bad political mood of voters, then. Trump and Sanders aren’t just perceived as foreigners to politics as usual, but outlaws and antiheroes in all their romance, as will be demonstrated.

 

What do you mean by outlaws and antiheroes?

 

 

By outlaw, I don’t mean a criminal—but certainly an individual that stands on the fringes of societal norms, near the borders of amoral deserts. America was founded on gritty pioneers and explorers, wily figures that forged their way to new frontiers at any cost, legal or illegal. In the bestselling book, Everyone Loves a Train Wreck, Eric Wilson describes our infatuation for the outlaw:

Think of our vexed cultural relationship to the cowboy. We might disapprove of his lawless gun slinging and Indian killing, but we laud his indifference to the East Coast status quo and his fearless trekking into the Western wilds.

The outlaw, in all of his or her dangerous curiosity and individualism, is just an archetype that Americans relate to, even if they don’t consciously embrace. Furthermore, knowing that the outlaw’s ending will likely be memorable (but perhaps not positive) arrests our attention…like stopping to see a train wreck. Edward Snowden or your classic country music protagonist are two obvious American examples. This reminds me of a quote by Tom Robbins, “Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules.”

Then there is the antihero. Medical Daily defines the antihero as “Someone who straddles the line between deviant morality and a justified cause, reminding us of the flaws inherent in our own behavior.”

The attraction is easy to see: We simultaneously escape and test our moral principles through the narrative of the antihero. It’s cathartic and educational at the same time. We project our darkest desires onto the antihero in order to reflect upon them. We love their shooting from the hip, their bravado, and their continual emigration from constricting community constructs. As illustrations, one just has to think of Walter White in Breaking Bad or Don Draper in Mad Men.

 

But does all of this apply to Trump and Sanders?

 

 

With Trump, it seems obvious. His career has been one of taming cattle in the Wild West that is the real estate world and verbal gun fighting in corporate boardrooms. His policies tap into the dark corners of many voters’ psyches: the concern with immigration, the fear of terrorism, the seemingly dusk of an empire. Thus, in a deeply symbolical way, Trump is both an outlaw and antihero. His political incorrectness is liberating for many in a social media inquisition climate, while his policies are purgative to others.

What about Sanders? How can an affable, patriotic and polite senior citizen fall outside the rubric of the mainstream? Ironically, an anti-American quality makes him so American in his outlaw and antihero characteristics: socialism. Sanders heavily leans towards socialistic policies; and according to a Gallup poll socialism is the least popular quality of any political candidate (50% of voters say they would not vote for a socialist). That makes him an outlaw of sorts, an antihero to the American consciousness—and of course attractive to younger, more rebellious demographics.

Also, Sanders’ message and persona harken to some of the classic fringe elements of recent American history: the hippie, the beatnik, the pacifist. He is an individual who also wants to bring more European elements to government (importing Danish economics, for example), just as the original explorers brought European elements to North America. Despite his calm reputation, Sanders, like Trump, is notorious for shouting down those who confront him publicly (even constituents). Lastly, his campaign has made a huge effort in leveraging perhaps the most lawless and perilous frontier today: the internet.

 

Conclusion

 

 

Machiavelli famously mused on whether an individual benefited more from being loved or hated. In these short-attention-span, information-overload times, I would say that fascination is the ultimate benefit. Fascination earns zealous attention without needing the soul-commitment of either love or hate. Trump and Sanders are swimming in oceans of fascination, partly because of the uniting streams of American folklore and psychology. This means that many enthusiasts assume their candidacies will end in a train wreck, with more establishment candidates taking the party nominations.

Regardless, the outlaw and antihero motifs have served Trump and Sanders well. They served past candidates such as Obama or Reagan, both who early in their candidacies branded themselves as outsiders ready to gun duel established government systems. Neither Obama nor Reagan was as radical as Trump or Sanders, mind you. Yet these are radical times when a restless electorate seeks more for a gun-slinging attitude than an apple pie mentality.

 

qSample VOTER PANEL

 

The Main And Overlooked Reason Star Wars Is So Popular

Leia and Luke kissing while Han Solo looks angry at them, from The Empire Strikes Back

 

Talking about the cultural impact of the Star Wars franchise is like talking about the effects of the sun on the planet. It’s that big and encompassing…sometimes life changing. I know the first two movies of the series affected me deeply. I remember the day I first saw Star Wars as a seven-year-old almost as clearly as 9/11 as a thirtysomething. Perhaps it’s a bit of hyperbole on my part, but I think many of you get the point.

Many pop culture auditors have explained the quantitative “how” of Star Wars success, but few in any arena have intimately dealt with the qualitative “why.” The central reason of “why,” overlooked by pretty much everyone and their droids, is actually obvious—especially when connected to the other “tropes” George Lucas utilized while captaining the first six movies of the franchise.

 

First, some of the “How”

 

The statistics on the commercial supernova that is Star Wars are nothing but eye-watering. Mentioning them is akin to shooting Moby Dick in a barrel:

At the writing of this article, the seven Star Wars movies have grossed $6,359,492,838.
More than 14 billion Star Wars toys and collectibles have been sold (with $1.5 billion in sales just in 2015).
If one includes merchandise sales, movie tickets, and other products like video games, among many other items, Star Wars nets out at $42 billion. That’s more than the combined total sales fromthe James Bond and Harry Potter franchises.

That’s popular. That’s high-school-quarterback-popular, but more…religious heights popular.

 

Attempting the “Why?”

 

Attempts have been made to understand the behemoth popularity of Star Wars. These theories include:

Star Wars taps into the Joseph Campbell “Hero with a thousand faces” formula—a dependable narrative about a young protagonist journeying to alien lands to become an adult, then returning home a champion eternal. As a timeless example, this literary blueprint worked with Odysseus, who in Greco-Roman times was part of a franchise that was the Star Wars of its epoch.
Star Wars is a stew of revered cinema genres, pumped with budget steroids. From cowboy westerns to World War II epics, from space operas like Flash Gordon to venerable Saturday matinees, Lucas didn’t miss an appropriation beat for his “original” science fiction saga.
Star Wars weaponized the passion for the summer blockbuster, already started by earlier films like Jaws and The Exorcist (before their arrival, winter was traditionally for movies and summer was for the outdoors…go figure). More than the two movies mentioned, Star Wars and its sequels commercialized films beyond the big screen.
Star Wars is the archetypal Manichaean tale of light vs darkness, set in a western culture era of duality (“You’re either with us or against us,” echoed both Anakin Skywalker and George W. Bush).

These theories have merit, certainly, especially when spliced together. However, marketers or movie studio gurus have never been able to truly replicate the success of Star Wars (and it’s doubtful the upcoming sequels for Avatar, the highest grossing film in the world, will fare better).

There has to be more, then, to the allure of Star Wars. There has to be a core element, a missing stone the movie moguls rejected.

 

The true “Why?”

 

Here it is the main reason Star Wars is so popular:

Family issues.

In that action cheesiness? Family issues? Yes.

At its soul, Star Wars is the story of a family—the trinity of Luke, Anakin and Leia Skywalker. They hold the narrative together. In the prequels, the trinity shifts to Padme Amidala, Anakin and two brotherly Jedi’s). The family unit struggling with its internal dynamics while navigating a perilous world is an eonian theme that never gets old. Why? Because everyone relates deeply and often desperately. Everyone is in a family having difficulties in a perilous world. This keynote certainly harkens to Tolstoy’s classic quote: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Even more fascinating, Lucas distilled some of the more enigmatic and gripping elements of family issues:

The Oedipus tension between parent and child (son Luke and patriarch Darth Vader, destined to ruin each other).
The ancient Egyptian/Game of Thrones tension of incestuous/forbidden fruit attraction (the siblings Luke and Leia, although as with Oedipus, their intimacy is out of ignorance).
The modern soap opera tension of dysfunctional relationships (Leia and Han Solo; or Padme’s jailbait attraction to Anakin).

How could you lose with this type of plot hot sauce?

Don’t take my word on any of this, though. Lucas himself explained the essence of Star Wars:

People don’t actually realize it’s actually a soap opera and it’s all about family problems – it’s not about spaceships.

(Bolded mine)

It’s that simple. It’s not simplistic, mind you, and that’s the mistake Hollywood continues to make: producing facile family plotlines set in complex backdrops.

Not so with Lucas in Star Wars. By blending complex and even taboo family issues with the four formulas mentioned earlier, he gave birth to a commercial and cultural juggernaut the world will feel for a long time—maybe not after the sun finally burns out, but surely until the day the last family ceases to exist.

 

Conclusion

 

I disavowed the Star Wars franchise after stomaching the three prequels. Federation ships and Jar Jar stones broke my bones. Words from bad acting before green screens broke my heart. I’ve heard that The Force Awakens is simply a PC reboot of A New Hope, and that’s fine if it wishes to remain financially supreme. Yet to become a memorable narrative, the film will have to successfully engage in those sticky and uncomfortable family affairs.

Of course, we should put things in perspective. None of the Star Wars films will ever receive a major movie talent award. Star Wars has sold a lot of tickets, but in numbers is still second to Gone With the Wind. At the end of the day, the Star Wars franchise is ultimately extroverted entertainment with inspiring but prosaic messages.

It does have one profound message, though: Family problems started a long, long time ago and will continue even in a galaxy far, far away…