Be mindful of what you say

We should be mindful of what we say as what sounds good may not be all that good or not possible. On occasion, I may question someone as to “do you really believe that or you just saying that for affect?”

A key news item of yesterday is a famous shock jock has lost a second court case for denigrating the bereaved loved ones of the Sandy Hook school shooting victims consistently referring to the shooting as a hoax. He wanted to sound cool to his conspiracy thirsty followers, but paying out multiple hundreds of millions for saying inane and hurtful things is not a recipe for success.

I have seen on more than one occasion a follower of a well-known individual say a variation of “I like him because he speaks his mind.” The problem with this individual is he really is not conversant on many issues, so speaking his mind is not necessarily a good thing. In fact, he looks smarter the less he talks.

This same person while president took credit for creating a great economy from day one, when he actually inherited a, you guessed it, great economy in the third longest economic growth period ever in US history. His followers had believed his campaign BS that the economy was terrible, when it was not, so he convinced these same naive folks that “he alone” saved the economy.

Another president was once criticized by the same people for being Muslim and also attending a Christian church whose minister is a tad rebellious. OK, which is it – Muslim or Christian? He cannot be both for different arguments. As funny as this sounds, this contradiction continued all the way to the election.

The same president was also criticized by some for starting the housing recession. What needs an answer is how is that possible when the housing recession was underway when he took office. In fact, Senator John McCain, his opponent, wanted to postpone a presidential debate to go back to DC and discuss, you guessed it, the housing recession. Just for those who don’t want to realize this point, debates occur before the election.

While more jobs were created under a president from the 1990s than under any other president, including FDR who was president for three terms and a couple of months, he had a major problem of being a philanderer. What still amazes me is his wife stood by him, but took crap for so doing. This came from the same crowd whose religions frowned on divorce. She is not perfect, but at least people should be singing from the same hymnal to criticize her. What did Tammy Wynette sing, something about “Stand by your man?”

Finally, the Muslim or Christian president noted above, got into trouble with a line to sell his new Affordable Care Act noting, “If you like your doctor, you can keep you doctor.” His advisors should have told him that was a promise that could not be kept, as any network will leave off doctors you want, which is why you check it out first. It sounded good, but was not true.

So much of what comes out of the mouths (or fingers) of politicians, opinion entertainment hosts, shock jocks, and social media are based on words that sound good, but may not be true. Some politicians and others have earned the right to not be believed at all, which is a pretty scathing indictment. The last former president fits into this category, as he rivals the shock jocks in lack of veracity.

What should you do about it? Find good sources of information. Read, listen and/or watch several of them. Do not take what an opinion host says as the truth, as it is at best embellished. Stop reading, listening and watching conspiracy sources. Conspiracy stories are made up to distract you. And, for the most part, take what a politician says with a grain of salt. Some politicians are much worse than others, but just check the facts to be sure.

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We need you to be better than you are being

I keep thinking of a message that needs to be universally communicated to all elected and appointed officials serving our needs and what I keep coming back to is the simple statement – we need you to be better than you are being. I recognize this blanket statement applies more readily to large handfuls of elected officials and it varies in degrees of needed improvement, but it could be said to each one.

The corollary to this statement is we need you to stop the tribal BS. The last time I checked, the oath that these officials pledged was to the constitution of the United States of America. Not Russia. Not a political party. Not a populist who couldn’t spell truth, even though the first three letters begin his last name.

Before the segmented marketing and pseudo-news shows began in earnest back in the 1990s, elected officials used to campaign off rhetoric and govern off facts. Now, with this segmentation, 24×7 news cycle and opinion guard dogs, the officials are governing off rhetoric. And, rhetoric is a nice name for sales schtick. In essence, use or create a reason to sell a product or story and hammer the message home. Fear sells. Always has. We are told to fear the other. It is not your fault.

What continually frustrates me is many of these folks know they are being untruthful. Some know they are blatantly being untruthful. And, sometimes the lies are overt. Yet, they do so anyway. To me, that is Machiavellian. It is also a breach of trust. They listen too much to spin doctors and their sycophants who tell them how to pivot away from negative news.

We must let them know we are frustrated by their lying and embellishing. We must let them know we need them to honor the position they hold and do their best to serve us, even on tough issues, where the message is harder to swallow. We need them to be closer to among our better angels, not our worst demons. At the very least, we need them to be better than they are being.

I have actually communicated this message to several elected officials, some I can vote for or against and many I cannot. It is heartfelt and pleading at the same time. It very likely does not do any good and I am sure my name is on a list as a squeaky wheel. I ask that you email, write or call your elected officials and beseech them with this or a variation of this plea. I also encourage you to write to various news sources and share your concerns.

Maybe, if more than a few of us do this, it might sink in more. I would start with those you feel are more reasonable than some of the more strident folks in office. They may at least understand your plea.

Just a few truisms

Since elected officials are now too busy running for office to actually participate in the duties of said office and with a certain pseudo-elected autocrat invading another country because he wants to reconstitute the USSR, we should focus on a few truisms. This is especially important given we have so many sources of information that is not news, but disinformation, the USSR wannabe guy’s modus operandi.

Now, I understand, a well-documented untruthful person has his own social media site. Rather than do a fact check on it, they should save time and just report when they slip up and tell the truth, which would be newsworthy. “Donald Trump told the truth today. Now other headlines.”

Here are a few truisms we should keep in mind as we read and watch statements alleged to be news.

-do not believe anything the former president of the US says. Full stop. The odds are well in your favor of being accurate if you follow this simple rule. A key thing to remember – it is always about The Donald. Yesterday we learned from The Donald that the reason Putin invaded Ukraine is because the election was stolen from Trump. Really?

-do not believe anything Putin says. Full stop. Again, the odds are in your favor. Anyone who knows history knew Putin would invade Ukraine months ago. His saying he would not is just his normal schtick. A former Russian TV producer said Putin has a heavy hand in not just news presented on Russian TV, but also sit-coms and dramas on the network. He will let them poke fun at simple governmental problems, but he will make sure they sing praises to Putin as well.

-as scary as Putin is, the person you need to be leery of is Xi Jinping. China’s ability to affect commerce, resources, investments, etc. have long made it destined to be the number one economic power in the world. The fact his subordinates can easily squelch any dissent makes his statements of greater concern. So, I would not believe much of what China’s leadership says either given their ability to craft the message. We should not forget “June 4” cannot be searched on Chinese websites as they do not want anyone knowing of the Tiananmen Square uprising on that date.

-while scary with his nuclear weapons, Kim Jong Un is not very believable either. HIs comic book list of successes in his bio are quite funny to read. No one knew he had superpowers. He is noted to be one of the greatest at almost any task, at least per his bio.

We need to focus on facts in a world where facts are the enemy to some. I know the above folks should not be trusted to tell us the truth, but what frustrates me most is when sycophants cover for their lies or rationalize them. This is especially true when they know they are so doing. They do it because they know they can get away with it.

So, another step to take is take everything any politician says with a grain of salt – they earned that right. Some are more truthful than others, but the words out of many of their mouths is politically calculated. And, that is not good for the truth.

Always tell the truth – you don’t have to remember as much

An old friend named Mark used to have a daily updated greeting on his business phone, where he would include a quote with a life lesson. My personal favorite of his is the title of this post. “Always tell the truth – you don’t have to remember as much.”

As the truth is coming out about the horrible January 6 insurrection on the US capitol, there are a lot of uneasy folks who are having to explain things. These inconvenient truths are making people from legislators to opinion hosts to a former chief of staff to a former president squirm. Watching these folks do the backstroke is comically sad and not unexpected.

The truth matters. Or, at least it should. And, as Mark noted so clearly, when you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember as much. You don’t have to remember when and what you lied about. You don’t have to be hypocritical when your pattern of lying is discovered.

Whether it is politicians, churches, businesses, universities, sports organizations, etc., the failure to fess up and come clean from the outset is by far the worst way to handle things. When you know of something, tell people what happened and what you plan to do about it.

Richard Nixon got into most of his trouble covering up for the Watergate break-in. The Catholic church hid its pedophile priest problem for many decades and maybe longer. The University of Michigan has joined other major universities such as Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State for covering up sexual misconduct by a doctor or coach.

The sad lesson is by waiting to be discovered is not only the wrong thing to do, it is the most expensive thing to do. More people get hurt. And, it costs money via settlements, lost revenue and devalued brand identity. Plus, people who care about the truth will leave. Just this week, Chris Wallace, the most respected journalist at a certain network joined three others who left or had to leave the organization as they care about the truth.

The truth matters. The truthtellers matter. When the truthtellers leave or are vilified that is a bad sign for the entity. Your name is the most important asset you have.

The honest disciple

The following Jewish folktale can be found in “The Children’s Book of Virtues,” which we used to read from to our kids. It was edited by William J. Bennett, the former Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan.

“Once a rabbi decided to test the honesty of his disciples, so he called them together and posed a question.
‘What would you do if you were walking along and found a purse full of money lying in the road?’ he asked.
‘I’d return it to its owner,’ said one disciple.
‘His answer comes to quickly, I must wonder if he really means it,’ the rabbi thought.
‘I’d keep the money if nobody saw me find it,’ said another.
‘He has a frank tongue, but a wicked heart,’ the rabbi told himself.
‘Well Rabbi,’ said a third disciple, ‘to be honest, I believe I’d be tempted to keep it. So I would pray to God that He give me the strength to resist such a temptation and do the right thing.’
‘Aha!’ thought the rabbi. ‘Here is a man I would trust.'”

I came across the book in our attic and remembered reading it to our three children. There is a companion book called “The Children’s Book of Heroes,” which is somewhere in the attic, unless we gave it to a niece with children.

The stories range from brief vignettes to four to five page stories. I have always liked the honesty of this piece. It seems to resonate more today, when people in leadership positions forget the need to be honest with us.

Be alive, but be truthful, calm, humble and thoughtful

In spite of everything, we need to remember to be alive. If we do not, then we may spiral down a rabbit hole of despair and uncertainty. Here, it is a good day to be outside. While I have yard work in my plans, it will be nice to exercise and breathe fresh air. I have a few random smidgens of musings to ponder around a common theme as we head out.

Since I have been writing of the need to listen to the truthtellers, I was reminded of a quirky colleague who was a joy to be around. He would leave vignettes on his voicemail greeting, changing them every few days. One of my favorites is “Always tell the truth. You don’t have to remember as much.”

An old leadership axiom is watch what managers do in times of crisis. The ones who can calm others in the face of adversity are the ones to follow. People take on the personality of their leader. If he or she berates people in times of stress, then others will follow suit. But, if he or she is calm….

The famous Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz was applauded for how cool he was in the playoffs and World Series which contributed to great success. He said the key is to stay calm and achieve the same level of performance as you do when not as stressed. It is not that he elevated his performance, others got nervous and lowered theirs.

Like many, my grandfather was not a talkative man. He was a hard worker who loved to fish in his spare time. His best friend, my great uncle, was the same way. Between the two of them, the fish would never be scared away by sound. But, when he talked, you listened. We all know and need people like this in our lives.

One of the greatest college running backs and a very good pro football player was named Herschel Walker. When Walker scored a touchdown, he would not celebrate like players do today and many did when he played. He preferred to act like he had been in the end zone before. And, he was there a lot.

Finishing up with Walker, I have written before of the true story after he retired. He was out jogging and came upon a car that had crashed and the people could not get out of the car. Walker ripped the door off the car and pulled them to safety. After making sure they were alright and waiting until the police and EMTs arrived, he ran off with no fan fare. It was not until later that a reporter confirmed that Walker had saved the couple from the car.

The themes of truthfulness, calmness, humility and thoughtfulness are worthy attributes to deploy. Beware of those in leadership who do not exhibit such.