Ed note: I wrote this post the day David Carr’s analysis of Brian Williams and Jon Stewart’s contrasting approaches and situations (referenced in the post) came out. Shockingly, David Carr collapsed that night in the New York Times newsroom and died. The piece he wrote, and I referenced here, was his very last. I’m posting this piece as I wrote it, but I will follow up with more, not just on the reminder Carr’s untimely death offers about the importance of grabbing hold of life with gusto, but of Carr’s philosophy that evidently lay behind pieces like the one I found worth discussing here.

One of the central themes you will hear explored and repeated on this site is the importance and power of finding your own unique, authentic voice and then bringing that voice into the world. Of being your authentic self, instead of what you think the world will find appealing. There is a divine satisfaction that comes from being an integrated, authentic person. But there is also a power that comes with that; a power that is unshakable and persuasive because it is rooted in the very core of who you are. You can be knocked off of any pedestal the external world puts you on. But you can’t be knocked off of your own foundation. And that strength comes through, even if others can’t quite put their finger on why they find you so persuasive, trustworthy, or solid.

Living from the “inside out,” as I sometimes put it, is vastly different than a defensive, insecure, or closed-minded person sticking stubbornly to their view of the world. It requires being at peace with who you are, instead of constantly working to protect an image, or angrily defending against perceived slights or criticisms from others. And it requires distancing yourself, at least on some basic level, from caring too much about the external rewards of money, acceptance, power, or status that others have the power to confer. So many people have trouble achieving it.

But as if to illustrate this point, television watchers (and computer streamers) found themselves with an almost-too-perfect-to-make-up example (and cautionary tale) of the consequences of these “inside out” and “outside in” approaches last week, juxtaposed in an uncanny coincidence of timing.

Brian Williams, the NBC anchor and king of the network evening news, was suspended for six months without pay, and may even find his career permanently damaged or truncated, because of the discovery that he made up–and publicly disseminated–a story about being in a helicopter shot down in Iraq. The truth was, he was in a different helicopter and arrived on the scene later. Once that came out, network executives also began to question how he’d characterized his reporting of other events, including Hurricane Katrina, in appearances he’d made outside his newscasts.

On the same day as Williams’ suspension was made public, Jon Stewart, the host of the comedy news program The Daily Show, announced that he was leaving the show after 17 years, of his own accord, because it was time to move on and do something different. That, and because he thought it might be nice to spend some more time with his family. Ironically, despite the show’s foundations in comedy, Jon Stewart and The Daily Show had become one of the most trusted sources for news, especially among young adults.

Other media outlets and writers have already written and produced side-by-side comparisons of the two “kings” and the stark difference in their departures and fortunes. But the relevance of their stories here is not the stark contrast in their fortunes, but in their contrasting motivations, and the consequences those differences led to. David Carr, a columnist at The New York Times, wrote an interesting comparison of both Williams and Stewart that touched on this point. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

In the wake of last week’s jaw-dropping Super Bowl finish, for which Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is still being criticized for a critical play call that cost Seattle a probable victory, a few thoughts on decision-making under pressure–relevant to any adventurer, entrepreneur or, yes, even business leader.

For anyone who didn’t watch the Super Bowl (really, Super Bowl Sunday is a great time to do just about anything else, including going to Disneyland, skiing, or even shopping at Home Depot, because the crowds are all off watching the game) … a quick summary:

The Seattle Seahawks were down by four points with 26 seconds to go in the game, with only one time out left. But they’d pushed their way (by luck as much by brawn) to the New England Patriots’ one-yard line. It was second down, and they needed a touchdown to win. Now, one of Seattle’s star players is a guy named Marshawn Lynch, so famous for his ability to push forward through defensive lines that he has the nickname “Beast Mode.” So most of those watching expected Seattle to give the ball to Lynch and have him try to beast his way into the end zone.

But an important side note for anyone reading this who doesn’t follow football at all: in a running play, the game clock does not stop, even after the play is whistled dead. In a pass play, if the pass is incomplete, the clock stops, and only starts again on the next snap of the ball. So if Lynch had run the ball and NOT gotten into the end zone, 8-10 seconds could have elapsed just in the play itself, let alone setting up for the next play. So to stop the clock and keep from running out of time, Seattle would have had to use its last time out. With only 15 seconds and no time outs left, Seattle might have had only one more chance to score.

If, however, Seattle chose to throw a pass on that second down, and the pass was incomplete, the clock would stop. They’d then have two more downs to use, (with a time out left to stop the clock between them), so they’d get three chances at the end zone, instead of possibly only two. Also playing into that equation is the fact that if you do exactly what an opponent expects you to do, your chances of succeeding at that plan, even with a beast in your line-up, go down. All of that was going undoubtedly going through the minds of Pete Carroll and his offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, in those final seconds. They wanted to use all the time and plays available to them. They wanted New England to have no time left on the clock to come back with. And they wanted to score.

Seattle’s fateful decision was to go with a pass on second down, and have Lynch run it on third or fourth down, if necessary. Unfortunately, the pass was intercepted at the goal line by New England cornerback Malcolm Butler, giving the Patriots the victory and setting up Carroll, Bevell, and quarterback Russell Wilson for a torrent of hindsight criticism.

Hindsight is always 20-20, of course. Listening to the NFL real-time audio recording of those final moments, you hear Carroll calling out, “They’re going goal line! They’re going goal line!” as he recognizes the Patriots’ run-stop defensive formation. On the other side of the field, you hear the Patriots’ defensive coaches scrambling to adjust to Carroll, screaming to the players, “3 corners! 3 corners!” “Malcolm, GO!” as they send in Butler (their third cornerback) as a last-minute substitution. And even watching the replays of that fateful interception, it’s far from a given that Butler is going to end up with the ball. He actually appears to arrive at the reception point a nanosecond behind the Seattle receiver, but manages to hit the receiver hard enough to get in front of him and wrestle the ball away.

Football coaches can (and no doubt will) ruminate for years to come on the lessons of that last play call in terms of football. But what about the rest of us? One of the challenges of charting your own course, whether it’s in a physical exploit or in an entrepreneurial, leadership, or personal adventure, is figuring out how to make good decisions, since there isn’t a nice, neat policy or procedure to follow. So it’s instructive to pay attention to how other leaders and adventurers solve their decision-making equations. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

The Power of Powering Down

by Lane Wallace

I had planned to write this post next anyway, even before the events of the past week, which gave me new evidence of its truth. After all, I’d had a clipping (yes, I still get print newspapers, and I still “clip” articles that spark ideas for discussion topics in my mind) about the importance of [...]

Read the full article →

New Year’s Resolutions: Seeking what leads to happiness

by Lane Wallace

The dawning of a new year! Aside from a good opportunity to throw a great party, it’s a good opportunity to press the “restart” button (more on this in my next post), and at least make an attempt to do some things better, or differently, in the future, than we did in the past.
Resolutions are [...]

Read the full article →

More on the Importance of a Meaningful Job and Path

by Lane Wallace

On the heels of my last post about the importance of believing that your job matters, both in terms of mental fatigue and creativity, here comes a study from the University College of London (UCL) with yet another reason to look for work that you find meaningful:
Researchers from UCL, Princeton University and Stony Brook University [...]

Read the full article →

More Evidence on the Power of Purpose and Community

by Lane Wallace

The motivating power of feeling as if what you do matters, and the collective power of working as part of a group, team, or community, are not new ideas. For years, I’ve had a little purple postcard posted to a bulletin board in my office with a quote by the anthropologist Margaret Mead that says, [...]

Read the full article →

The Courage to Leap: Two Recent Stories

by Lane Wallace

A friend of mine–an entrepreneur who pitched aeronautical engineering to become a philosophy grad student, pitched philosophy for medicine, and finally pitched medicine to make wine–says that when his kinds are worried about risking some new adventure or endeavor, he tells them, “Leap, and the net will appear.”
He’s certainly a poster child for the success [...]

Read the full article →

The Appeal of Physical Adventure

by Lane Wallace

I was interviewing an air show pilot this past summer–one of the better known ones, who’s been around in the business for a long time. That’s impressive, because the fatality rate in that line of work is a lot higher than average. So surviving to fly another day is a significant part of the challenge.
This [...]

Read the full article →

Of Passion and Education

by Lane Wallace

There has been a lot of press, recently, arguing what the point of a college education is supposed to be. The debate seems to have been sparked by the publication of a book titled Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, by a former English professor named [...]

Read the full article →

More on the Power of Being Yourself

by Lane Wallace

In my last post, about the lessons and accomplishments of Maya Angelou’s life, I said she was “a reminder of the power of simply being yourself.”  And while flipping through some back issues of the New York Times this past weekend (part of why I still get a print paper– it’s easier to browse issues [...]

Read the full article →