Tag Archives: CNN

The Shallowest Nation

I apologize now. I generally avoid politics. So I hope you will forgive this non-partisan diatribe about the media dumbing us down.

On Monday CNN televised the Republican Presidential Debate from New Hampshire, and during their telecast introduced us to a new debate format that can only indicate that CNN must think we are the shallowest (and maybe dumbest) people on the planet. Someone correct me if I am wrong. Presidential debates are supposed to help us determine whom we want to serve as President. No?

The job of President includes forming foreign policy and negotiating with world leaders, directing our domestic agenda including health care, the economy, taxes, social security, energy, and jobs, and protecting our resources and environment.

We face big challenges, arguably some of the greatest any generation has ever faced. If ever there was a time for us to take our political process seriously, now is it. No?

Enter the New Hampshire debate and CNN introducing the “This or That” segment. If you missed it, “This or That” asks the candidates to express a preference between two items unrelated to politics.

“Governor, do you prefer Coke or Pepsi?”

“Congressman, iPhone or Blackberry?”

How is it possible that these are the questions we are asking?!? Does this reflect the magnitude of our problems? Is this where we should be spending our time? And is this really what we want to hear?

This degrades us on so many levels. First, it is sad but true that human decision-making is horribly flawed. I’m a Coke guy. The Governor likes Coke. Whether I realize it or not, I’m going to like him more as a result, because humans tend to like people who share their tastes. How much I like him will influence how forgiving I am of his flaws and how eagerly I support his strengths.

Will this make a huge difference in the elections? Maybe not. But it might make some difference. We live in an age where a couple of hundred votes in a single county swayed the 2000 Presidential election. A narrow win in an early primary can swing the entire rest of a campaign for better or worse. To influence results based on a soda preference is unconscionable.

Second, this degrades the candidates who now have to spend time, maybe not much, but some time preparing to look good while answering inane questions like this. They have better things to do. Don’t they? How can we ask them to spend their time considering these questions? Wouldn’t we rather they prepare to discuss policy?

Third, and this might be the greatest tragedy of all, we are taking up air space, during the debate, on this op-ed, and elsewhere, talking about irrelevancies when we could use that time to answer the big questions we face. We could use that time to challenge the candidates to really answer the questions they are asked instead of dancing around them to no one’s satisfaction. We could use that time to get one more issue covered, to give a little more time to a minor candidate with unconventional views or a centrist who hopes to bring us back from excessive partisanship.

We could use that time to become well informed, to think deeply, to show we are a country to be admired, to build our pride.

Instead, we have been thrown to a new low, to a shallowness never before seen. Please CNN. Challenge us to be smarter, to try harder, to be better versions of ourselves. We can do it. We can rise to that challenge. That’s what we do. We are Americans.


Flight Attendants – Respect Yourselves

There is no job that is beneath self-respect. Some jobs may take abuse. That doesn’t mean the people in those roles can’t hold themselves above.

Following all of the news last week of flight attendant Steven Slater going ballistic on an unruly passenger, Robert Reid of CNN offered ground rules for interaction with flight attendants.

But amidst all the praise for Slater for telling off the passenger (who certainly sounds as though he deserved to be told off) we are missing and degrading the integrity of this important position and the opportunity we all have to rise above.

Flight attendants serve you drinks. They also calm you down when turbulence puts the fear of death into you. Beyond that, last week I met a passenger from the Miracle on the Hudson. He made clear to me something he knows from first hand experience, that one other thing flight attendants do is save lives.

A passenger who abuses or disobeys a flight attendant deserves to be thrown off the plane, detained by airport security, charged fines, you name it. I’m all for throwing the book at these individuals. I’m also all for anyone who shows they can rise above the horrible behavior of their customers.

None better than this example of heroism in the face of horrible customer behavior. The truly heroic behavior hits at the 0:40 mark of the video.

Physical Extremes

The physical extreme most of us experience is an almost complete lack of physical activity. Most of us probably know by now about most of the things we miss out on by not exercising.

  • Improved health
  • Better mood
  • Reduced aging effects

Here’s one more thing to add to the list.

As part of a documentary CNN correspondent Robyn Curnow followed South African artist William Kentridge who considers physical activity key to stimulating his creativity.

So get up before you take on your next big mental task. Walk around. Or get one of these, and open the door to greater health and creativity.

Build it Better

There’s a common question among corporate executives about whether leaders are born or made.

This question is simplistic and problematic. It allows people who don’t know how or don’t want to spend the time or money to neglect developing leadership in those around them.

This question also promotes ego trips by some who view themselves as leaders who were bestowed with their special capabilities while others were not.

These problems stem from the too prevalent porn definition of leader – I know it when I see it. That definition isn’t good enough. Because if we can define leadership, we can develop it.

My own definition is simple. Leadership is bringing out your and others’ best performance.

I’ve seen a couple of great examples this week that we can all learn from.

The first is from Doug Lemov, whose book, Teach Like a Champion, is a guide book for making a great teacher. CNN did a nice piece on his work. One of the keys I saw in the video was total engagement. A great teacher doesn’t engage one child at a time leaving the others to boredom. A great teacher engages everyone in the room.

That can be taught. Hats off to Doug Lemov for his work.

Anytime you can define a skill of a leader (great teachers being one very important type of leader), you can build that skill. So, yes, leaders can be made. You just have to identify the skills.

Tomorrow I’ll share another skill along with a shining example of that skill.

Blind Taste Test

CNN puts New Coke #2 on it’s Top 50 Worst Inventions list. I agree. Horrible idea. What I didn’t know before seeing the list was that New Coke actually outperformed the original Coke in taste tests.

Hmm. Heading into a long weekend that gave me an idea.

The idea – A Blind Taste Test.

Whether you are a wine or beer or gin person or whatever drink floats your boat, set up a taste test. Put the bottles in bags and number them. Then give out tastes, also numbered. See who likes what.

Is your uncle really the wine expert he says he is?

Does your quirky friend who insists on Heineken really prefer the taste of Michelob?

Can the owner of your local wine shop help you pick out a $20 bottle of wine that people will unknowingly choose over the $30 and $40 bottles?

Offer a prize bottle for anyone who can name the bottles before the reveal.

Have score cards and elimination rounds.

Pit the men vs. the women.

However you do it, have fun. Of course, be responsible. Have a wonderful long weekend.