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Careers of a Dubious Nature

Is a seemingly swift route to relative job security always a wise choice?

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When thinking about careers in industries that exploit the masses – such as cigarette manufacturers or purveyors of violent entertainment – are those who pursue such careers are greedy or immoral. Does the belief that these paths are the swiftest routes to relative security drive such people?

A young man or woman who arrives at work at a tobacco firm, on the first day, is probably thankful to have a job and merely seeking to earn a living. Over the years, as some of these people progress through the ranks and eventually become top officers, their indoctrination has lasted so long that seemingly there is no other choice. This is the business they know. They have been immersed in their corporate culture for years or even decades. The rationalizations for doing what they do, however heinous, have been completely ingrained within them.

Denial of Reality

In another industry – the entertainment business – producers, directors, and screen writers of violent content perhaps spent the early years of their lives in less than favorable circumstances and are now reflecting back on their own childhood fantasies and fears. Or not.

Although more than 3,000 authenticated studies, on the topic of children and violent media, show a direct correlation between watching violence and taking part in violent acts, the purveyors of violent media are in heavy denial. Like big oil company executives who stealthily hire research fellows to publish reports citing no long-term damage to the environment, media industry magnates have their own methods of both conveying misinformation and engaging in disinformation campaigns.

As Malcolm Gladwell deftly points out in his book The Tipping Point, at some juncture, a tipping point occurs. When numerous high profile individuals fall prey to lung disease, a close relative of the president is hospitalized and eventually near death as a result of cigarette smoking, or some other development of a similar nature occurs, the tipping point will be reached and the tobacco industry will be seen and publicly and lastingly castigated for what it is – a purveyor of death.

Defacto Approval

If tobacco companies and violent media producers have enjoyed increasing revenues over the last several decades (nowadays selling in foreign markets), it’s because the growth has been allowed. Yet, throughout history, one bold messenger applying pressure at the right place at the right time can make a profound difference.

Ralph Nader testified against General Motors and wrote the book Unsafe At Any Speed, which essentially halted manufacture of the Corvair. He wielded more leverage than 10,000 protesters outside GM’s gates. Generations of drivers have no awareness that higher levels of highway safety are due largely to Nader’s efforts.

Impact through Innovation

The ads sponsored years back by www.truth.org were not the first of their kind, but they served as a benchmark. In one of these ads, a bespectacled man in his late 50’s, who appeared to have the status of a corporate spokesperson, came on the air during March Madness to announce that, until it could offer customers a completely safe cigarette, the tobacco industry was making a dramatic product recall.

The ad spokesperson said that customers’ trust and health was of paramount importance. The ad closed by announcing that it was an April Fool’s joke. It wasn’t paid for by the tobacco industry; it was paid for by an organization that seeks to create the tipping point that brings the tobacco industry to a state of ruin.

Tellingly, while movie producers, induced by lucrative product placement fees, continue to write cigarette smoking into the scripts of the pictures they produce, science fiction shows a more factual reality. In any of the Star Trek movies, the old TV series, or in futuristic Sci-Fi movies, do any of the characters smoke? No. Why?

No credible science fiction writer would portray a future where people of a presumably enlightened age would knowingly choose to directly inhale carcinogens as if there were no severe repercussions.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Business

William Randolph Hearst: His Role is in American Progressivism

The origins of today’s Leftist, slanted news can be traced in part to William Randolph Hearst

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The origins of today’s Leftist, slanted news can be traced in part to William Randolph Hearst. Here are notes and excerpts from William Randolph Hearst: His Role is in American Progressivism, by Roy Everett Littlefield, published by University Press of America, in 1960.

▪ Historians and journalists alike [remember, this is only up until to 1959], have been harsh on Hearst’s sensationalism. One wrote that his papers were inferior to others because he had a disregard for the truth. The purpose of a Hearst newspaper was to “splash sensation” that would “paralyze” the public.

▪ A critic wrote, “in the strict sense, the Hearst papers aren’t newspapers at all. They were printed entertainment and excitement.”

▪ Another critic said: “because Hearst fabricated news stories, his newspapers were as sensational, flamboyant, and irresponsible as any major newspaper ever published in America.”

▪ A fourth critic charged that Hearst, because of his lack of sincerity and intellectual honesty, did more to degrade the entire American press than anyone else in history.

Yellow Journalism

Yellow journalism refers to that which is based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration.

▪ One of Hearst’s closest advisors and friends for 39 years relished the role of yellow journalist by saying, “I am the yellowist journalist in the world.” He explained how he had artists make his type the largest and blackest of all newspapers. One time he printed, “WAR, SURE”, causing news boys to put the Journal on top of the pack and all the other papers on the bottom, which became the habit of news boys.

▪ Like Joseph Pulitzer, Hearst used large headlines and numerous illustrations to reach immigrants who were barely literate.

▪ The Hearst technique, common to all his papers, centered on getting the visual attention of the public. Hearst explained that the typical reader should be able to review the headline of a newspaper and get a reasonably clear and complete idea of the news of the day. The headline also served as an advertisement of the newspaper. Hearst employed wider columns, larger print, and darker type.

Keep It Simple, Stupid

One of Hearst’s key editors told his reporters, “There is no need ever to use a word of more than three syllables in a newspaper. Remember that a newspaper is mostly read by very busy people, or by very tired people, or by very uneducated people, none of whom are going to hunt up a dictionary to find out what you mean.”

▪ Hearst appealed to the lower classes’ baser instincts, and his sensationalistic journalism had its most spectacular hour in the times that led to the Spanish American War. From the start, Hearst and Pulitzer advocated every means possible to aid the rebels in the Spanish American War. Hearst used his newspaper as a vehicle to foment public sentiment for the war, and in this respect, single-handedly played one of the biggest roles in getting America into the war.

▪ A guiding Hearst principle: “Never forget that if you don’t hit a newspaper reader between the eyes with your first sentence, there is no reason to write a second.”

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Making Smarter Decisions

How to make smarter decisions when you don’t have all the facts (which is nearly all the time)

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Annie Duke, a professional gambler, has written an intriguing book,  Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All The Facts. The text is great; I took a lot of notes and saved many excerpts:

Life choices we make are bets on a specific path, as distinct from a range of potential alternative futures. Job and relocation decisions are bets. Sales negotiations and contracts are bets. Buying a house is a bet. Ordering the chicken instead of the steak is a bet. Everything is a bet.

Ask someone, “Want to bet?” when they claim something to be true. It puts them in a different place than when they simply state what they believed to be true. Thinking in Bets can help us reshape our approach to the world, and improve all aspects of decision-making in our lives.

Overview

We humans are disastrously biased in our decision making. We fool ourselves into believing our beliefs whether they are worthy of our trust of not. Our biases systematically impede our decision-making.

Most people don’t actually think through their beliefs. They hear something from a source they hold in high esteem and then maintain that belief. Recognize when you’re in an “echo-chamber” where only viewpoints you’re currently comfortable with are expressed.

We are quick to form beliefs, tend towards absolutes (this is right, that is wrong), and indulge in “motivated reasoning,” seeking out confirmation while ignoring contradictory evidence. Believing is easy; we are wired to believe

Our beliefs impact how we view the world, then how we act, and how we plan for the future. We are loath to update our beliefs, especially when a change would be a challenge to our self-narrative. Our decision-making is only as good as the accuracy of our beliefs, which are hopelessly biased and often wrong.

Because our beliefs are based on past experiences and inputs, it is wise to be purposeful about the inputs and experiences that we have going forward as that will guide our future selves.

“Resulting”

We judge decisions based on how they turn out, known as “resulting,” in which we believe results indicate the quality of our decision: If we succeeded it was a good decision, but if we failed, it was a bad decision.

We guard our self-image via “self-serving bias,” which distorts our view of the world: We take credit for all good outcomes and blame bad luck for all bad outcomes, even when the truth is often shaded in grey.

Resulting ignores the role of luck. When a desired outcome doesn’t occur, it does not always mean it was a poor choice. It could have been bad luck. This insight moves us away from right-wrong thinking, and towards a probabilistic approach to interpreting outcomes, like betting in poker.

So, assess decisions on the basis of how they were made, not how they turned out You can win with a poor decision and lose with a good one. In the long run, it’s the decision-making process that counts.

Stop thinking in certainties and recognize probabilities, and avoid imagining situations as either-or. Most things lie along continuums.

Taking Action

Embrace uncertainty, by thinking in bets. Calibrate your confidence on a more granular level. Rather than say, “I know X with 100% certainty,” express a lesser confidence of, say, 65%. Calibrating preserves our self-narrative if we happen to be wrong, and it also makes us more credible.

Assess outcomes after the fact, through “outcome fielding.” Was an outcome driven by luck or skill, and in what combination? After winning a high profile tournament, for example, a poker player was focused not on basking in glory, but on de-constructing his play, and what he could have done better.

Practice tough love in the service of “truth-seeking.” No whining about how bad luck hurt us. No patting ourselves on the backs. Truth-seeking requires a special kind of contract with yourself.

Listen to arguments from all sides to get a clearer picture of the truth. Observe the world around you and learn from the choices that other people make by observing.

Create a group of individuals who can provide us with feedback on our weaknesses and blind spots. Focus on accuracy, accountability, and openness to diverse views. Court dissent and differing points of view, and take responsibility even when doing so is painful.

Strength in the Moment

We tend to act based on how we are affected right now, rather than how we will feel later. When we reach for that doughnut, rather than for a healthy apple, we’re doing so at the expense of our future self. Employ the 10-10-10 process: what are the consequences of each of my options in 10 minutes? 10 months? 10 years?

Finally, exercise caution after a streak of positive or negative outcomes to avoid becoming emotionally charged in a way that prevents us from thinking clearly.

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