Archive for the ‘"Futurism"’ Category

The Recession Needs Balls

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

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I’ve been hearing a lot of people tell me they won’t do anything gutsy: Friends advising me against certain actions cause someone might react poorly (as if anyone’s paying attention); colleagues warning they think everything should be on pause while the economy recapitulates; partners saying no to events because they think it could hurt their “personal brand” (whatever that latest cliché means); and clients who feel their dulled-out partners might “get mad” over an overly-aggressive PR campaign (their partners couldn’t get press on their own though). Then I’ve overheard many suffering financially tell me they are waiting out this period to see what happens in a kind of take it day by day attitude that emits this kind of what will be will be or it is what it is or what can I do but wait and see. What I call “blah blah blah.”

Guess what? The chips have now fallen once again. Recession is here to stay, and regardless of what Government officials say, this is not a double dip. This is the third one… So get off the floor.

Laziness equals self-importance during a crap economy. If you think somehow things will magically change overnight–look Ma, Dow moved a notch–then you live in a fantasy land and the faster you wake up and stop paying attention to the creeps on TLC and E! Entertainment and DO SOMETHING the better it is for and your bank statement.

Having balls are at issue. The only way to get anything done worth doing is to take risks. No chance taken is wasting precious energy since same old same old sucks; you aren’t doing much to upgrade your position in life. Dare I say: it will help your personal brand?

There is no better time to stand up and say, “Let’s try that ridiculous idea in the office” (and in your personal life too, just imagine) than this goddamn second. It is that simple. If you look at our nation’s checkered history, all the fine successes that came up during down-down periods were when companies, the government or individuals said screw it let’s do it and went head-first to partake of the nuttiest, “over-the-toppest,” and most outrageous thing they could think of in their wildest, and least expensive, dreams.

Why? First, no one is paying attention to you anyway. Everyone is so darn turned inward right now that to get any attention you have to be shouting from a multitude of rooftops (see The Rules below).

Your clients/friends/lovers/associates/bosses/enemies could care less if you’re loud or noisy do because they’re ultimately worried about their own skin. They’ll appreciate you had the chutzpah to make a thing happen when they cannot. (Well, they won’t admit that to you but you’ll sense it.)

As for trouble gathering, it’s like the old saying that I will now make NEW: If it makes you feel good…do it!

There is a big group of workers doing a great noiseless job covering their asses–they worry about keeping their jobs more than doing their jobs. You know the ones: they act like wallpaper and hope to G-d no one notices they’re still there because they just do what they are told. Never make waves, always seem to be on the side of zero activity. Those people are useless. Yeah I know you aren’t one.

Alas, making money in this gargantuan recession is tough; there is not a ton of money for companies to spend. Ah but…when the dust settles ones who excelled with their heart will be remembered; the CYAers whose heads were down will be despised. With that, I offer some assistance.

The 5 Rules For Ballsiness In These Bad Times

1. Be consistent, be yourself
You know, I never thought I’d say this, but you got to hand it to Ex-VP Cheney. He never veers from who he is–even when it’s dastardly! The other day he was asked about the torturing he oversaw and said he wouldn’t take back the decision even if rendered unlawful. That’s an attitude many of us can learn from: not the position he’s taken, but the feeling that what he believes in is not swayable and you can’t make him take it back. In these times that kind of resoluteness is respected.

2. Rule the roost somehow
Find something that you can do at work that no one else can do and MAKE SURE it’s obvious that you are doing it–and well, and a lot of it, and with glee. Oh, and it helps if this is not part of your job! This is not kissing butt; it’s just finding a new way to be useful above and over the norm. Then, when you want to do something outrageous like I’m about to describe, more people will think “Yeah him.”

3. Find the loudest perch–and be a contrarian from atop the thing
Come up with a statement that is contrary to the popular view (like “I hate candy!”) and then get known for it. I’m serious.

4. Think up something fantastic
When you’re falling asleep at night and something weird but doable occurs to you, jump up and type it out on your PDA. Once you determine what you were trying to say, it will be a better idea in the morning. Then that germ of an idea has to be something you talk about with lots of folks. Shift your energy–daydreams and small talk - and get collaborative in a real sense. Don’t be competitive; be outright damning to anyone who thinks it is a bad idea. Remember that if everyone likes it there’s something wrong with the idea–someone has to hate it (it’s the law). And don’t let it get murdered by Committee Think, Inc.

5. Be Known as a Bitta Trouble Maker (Key Word “Bitta”)
Darn! Show off a little. They’re going to talk about you anyway. So in order to wreak havoc, make waves. It’s good to be remembered, particularly since the layoffs are not over, no matter what the economists (wrong) say. Trouble is healthy and yet more common in headier times. These days with so many scaredy cats working at their desks, someone with some verve/gusto will stand out as someone to KNOW. Everyone may be mad at K West, but his tour went on sale Friday and it’s nearly sold out. Trouble? T for paycheck.

And don’t forget: this thinking can help in pursuit of late night activities too.

Bottom line is there is no bottom line. There is no energy or gumption or newness in almost every industry. But you - you! - have one superb idea that is rambunctious and in line with how people are feeling–you can feel its ingeniousnes. I bet you could get others to participate in it, since, uh, they don’t have much going on besides award shows, tweeting, and fantasy football!

You got to be the guy who stands up in middle of a dull meeting and says what are we doing here? As good ole Sally Hogshead, author of “Fascinate”, says: “Never allow the size of your mortgage to exceed the quality of your work!”

Remember you have to secure buy in from everyone you work with. Way to get something going is to sell it, baby. Believe in the idea to such a degree that those whose normal M.O. is to naysay lunch orders might even go “You know! That dude knows what he is talking about.”

Be passionate, have your talking points at the ready, and explain what the agreeable colleague will get for going along. Show them what positivity/money/affirmation will occur should the idea become reality. Make it seem like they co-crafted it by writing down input. Like a Broadway producer once told me: “Never tell prospective investors the production is finished.”

If the ones who pay you paltry cash tell you “no you didn’t” cause you a) took a stand; b) went a little overboard with messaging or c) began to tell it like it is (”Our industry is so slow it’s killing us; it’s time to rush things,”) then you got to find better payers. Maybe you should simply say what I do when someone says to me, Well yes Richard but we should discuss this internally before it goes further….

“Okay I get it. It’s all good. Would you have the person that replaces you call me?”

Tweet @laermer

The Last Decade & Mediocrity……A Look Ahead

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

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There’s a Kurt Vonnegut short (very short) story called Harrison Bergeron. In it the United States Handicapper General, under the auspices of the 211th, 212th, and 213th Constitutional Amendments, has stamped out individual talents and characteristics for the sake of total unimpeded equality. The population is fed mindless entertainment, all their memories periodically wiped clean. It isn’t torture, not exactly, nor is it intolerable. It’s just mediocre. Imposed, entrenched mediocrity.

And it is terrifying.

Now I don’t mean to suggest that our current moment is anything like this Vonnegutian nightmare. But it was close to this for the last decade. We weren’t physically burdened by actual weights meant to “level the field”, nor did buzzing alarms trigger mass distraction and short-term amnesia. Intelligence and beauty are not outlawed. We still had our wits and our various beacons — in politics, culture, athletics, the arts, and so forth. And yes (or no), we were not suffocated by comprehensive, dystopian egalitarianism.

Things did seem during the unfriendly 2000s to be damn mediocre! We seemed to be waiting, on pause, not necessarily with bated breath so much as with Lunesta and an Us Weekly. It was as though we’d been treading water beneath mostly gray skies for a seriously long time, without a “Look, land in sight!” We were weary, we’re wary, and rather than swim for shore we floated straight-laced and glazed. Our so-called entertainment stood in for our current events (quotes left out for obviousness). Our political anger was sooner directed toward straw men than funneled into substantive policy debate and prescription. And while we don’t loll about hamstrung by the Handicapper, world citizens did tend to diminish or ignore our most natural advantages. Our enormous opportunities — many of them unique to America — for renewable alternative energy. Our once-prodigious diplomatic capital. Our heavy industry. Our edge in scientific and technological innovation.

So ready for good news: We did not die out nor did it turn out we were living a post-American life. And Newsweek was sold for a dollar to an old geezer destined to destroy its whiny words of nothingness and bold headlines that made us feel worse. Now we are starting to scrape the sky. We’ve since become — not in every way, but in a lot of ways — just a wee bit more than average. In our actions and in our expectations, we stop this toeing of that safe, paunchy middle.

Look back. Kennedy promised the moon by a decade’s end — it happened. WW II’s Greatest Generation was asked to tighten belts and roll up their sleeves — they did. And while these admittedly cherry-picked examples might have been nothing more than a function of their unique times, is it easy to imagine us reflexively rising to the moment in ours? Look where we stood for nine-and-two-thirds endless years: on a precipice, always told of danger and devastation. But even with terrorism, climate change, one or two constantly-simmering wars, genocide abroad, a credit crunch affecting us till we cried “Uncle”, and countless other messes the newest century has brought..what precisely defines US (not Us)? Had we struck out with renewed vigor? Had we succumbed to fear? Neither. We are slowly becoming less mediocre. We’re embracing a new term.

Like our heroes, a lobotomized couple who are at the center of Harrison Bergeron, we sensed something wasn’t right from 2001-2010. We knew we ought to be breaking inertia. And this unease wasn’t just a tickle in the recesses of our minds because, behold, it has pushed itself front and center. But what will do the trick and wake us all from the stupor (stop checking your email while reading this)? Could it be another catastrophe? Web 7.0? One of those Tea candidates that actually won? Or will it not be so dramatic, this eventual extrication from the muck of mucks? Might it be more like the car you rock back and forth until what had been an inconspicuous gathering of momentum launches it back onto the road with a heart-starting roar?

Let’s forget the 2000s. Things today aren’t so terrible; they are (to use a teen word) ‘meh’. I know that most of us feel that: plateau coasting is better than a downward spiral. But the Internet-savvy 1990s were notable ONLY for jejune prosperity. Those unnamed 2000s are remembered for the steady unease we could never shake.

I proclaim a promising decade starts in 2011. It will be nothing like its immediate predecessor–because that would be the saddest sign ever. Means we’d be living inside a pattern of room temperature mediocrity that hasn’t soured us but kept us looking down, at our laps gazing at the latest text or news. (Taylor Swift has a new CD out; it’s everywhere.)

Look forward. . . only forward.

Like-minded ideas are found in the book 2011: Trendspotting for the Next Decade, now out in whatever you want it to be.

[On twitter via @laermer for laughs and reportage.]
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My List (Is a Very Very Very Fine List)

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

optimism.jpgIs this the worst economic hardship we’ve suffered through? It’s bad, that’s for sure. And yet… Let’s Imagine a Worse Year! Sorry 2009 was ugly but it could get yuckier if we’re not careful. I’ve hereby devised scenarios to make this bright Christmas seem like the best yet! See,in the next 12 months who knows: you could find everything you ever believed in suckered-punched sideways.

Everything has truly hit rock bottom if:

…The World Famous Magnolia Bakery converts to The New York Breadline.

…Black Friday is a holiday when no one buys anything.

…Tiger Woods opens a self-defense school

…You’re forced to get that new Shareable PDA, smarmily branded as 2010’s PartyPhone!

…Stouffers sells frozen dinner called LeftOvers.

…Jeff Zucker transfers to Golden Light Bulbs at GE.

…An internship replaces a regular job…..for CEOs.

…An email comes offering “Provides New Stamina,” and it refers to your mind.

…Airplane seats are auctioned off at SalvationArmy.com. I mean the chairs–not chances to fly.

…Someone famous dies and instead of going “Wow I can’t believe this,” and spending time emailing/statusing our friends, we just go on with the day.

…The only no-reunion-ever band Talking Heads reforms with David Byrne for a cover album of Sinatra cover ballads; guest hosts Regis, then does a daily drive-time show on talk radio. Finally, Byrne embarks on the Whenever-I-Call-You-Friend tour with Stevie Nicks.

…A town known as Off The Grid pops up; it’s geographical equivalent of the train’s Quiet Car. That is: nothing can be done between people but talking–and sex.

…Jake and Reese officially split up — and admit that the whole thing was a sham and that Taylor and Taylor are following in their footsteps LA publicists commence hunger strikes!

… The NY Post and NY Daily News merge–and reemerge as Entertainment Weekly. Ultimate mashup!

…NBC dumps the whole of prime time for That Leno Show (third hour hosted by Kathie Lee)

…But no one notices.

…SiriusXM Satellite Radio changes into White Noise Inc.

…A much loved, decades-old magazine ceases publication –and no one tweets about it.

…Google can’t close a deal! Google files for, well, no one knows.

…Taxes are lowered across the board. Schools are shut, parks close down, highway medians remain half-built. Oh, yeah right, that’s California now.

…Without a new gimmick on deck, Glenn Beck and Beck duet on a CD. (And, in times of direst straits, Martha Stewart and Jon Stewart are combined for a gig on LifeSucks channel.)

…Having a meal at your parents’ is not obligatory any longer since you need the sustenance.

…We rent our homes by the hour to couples. Thousands of highway motels go under.

…Sappy Web videos do not cheer you up (sorry, ukulele-playing kitten!).

…It is unlawful to dub yourself “talent” or “talented” unless it’s true.

…Trump & O’Donnell are the new Sonny & Cher. (Cher sues. Cher pouts. Cher marries Donald, Jr.)

…Popular Wine Clubs replaced by even more populated Whiners Anonymous.

…Legal betting on which celebrity will be forced into exile is the newest national pastime. Results from this are mandatory. No ifs or buts.

…Wal-Mart has a hissy-fit when a chain called Smears opens. [You know, the new Sears and Macy’s combo.]

…IHOP runs out of batter! Japanese restaurants run low on rice! Hooters runs out of… you know!

… Newly-freed Katie Holmes is slated to star in Mission: Impossible 4 - A Woman Scorned!

… Janet Jackson starts seeing Bubbles on the down low..

… Palin joins Real Housewives. Does anyone notice?

…NotAGuru.com becomes a hot 12-Step Program.

…Microsoft and Apple join hands: iPod and Zune become IZod, a strangely compelling the line of musical clothing.

…High school and college reunions are the only networking events left.

…The words “on sale” are automatically cut-and-pasted by “please buy this.”

…Kirstie Alley loses a whole bunch of weight through hunger. Food markets in Beverly Hills close.

… Government certifies the donut crumb as a vegetable for schoolkids.

…Congress passes The 2010 Say Something Act, whereby useless phrases are taken to the woodshed: “Sounds Good,” “Booyah!” and “No Problem” are first. And “Game Changer” added at last minute.

…At the same time, lawmakers tell drugstores to sell, you guessed right, pharmaceuticals and that’s it.

…Home-free families create habitats in zoos.

…Ryan Seacrest, sensing attention-to-him deficit just as E! folds and American Idol finds a knowledgeable music biz host, finally admits he’s–happy.

… Nigerian scammers pay us.

…Some idiot who writes lists as blog posts is roundly ignored.

…Paul Simon calls Garfunkel to see how he’s doing.

NY Times promises it will never ever publish another of those 2000 stories on how social media is the saving grace for brands. No one….yep.

…Joe Biden makes some sense.

…All remaining newspapers -4!–are purchased by fifth graders. They recognize their reading level.

….Kissing is named new Olympic sport. (Say it together now-: Awww.)

…Aability to marry yourself passes in 47 states and Guam to portray the true meaning of equality.

…Zac Efron, lost without screaming teens to support his entourage, is forced to make High School Dropout

…You read this long, unadulterated list and go “Wait. Shit - really. That could happen.”

——–Twitter @laermer and @howtofame

Buy the Book - 2011

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