Movie Review: The King’s Speech

I may be a bit late to the party but last weekend I (Steve) watched “The King’s Speech” for the first time. I was blown away. The acting was extraordinary, the story true but more importantly, the life lessons profound.

The story is set in England just prior to World War II. It revolves around Prince Albert who would later become King of England. Albert has a speech impediment, a severe stammer, which causes him to be withdrawn and not at all eager to perform public duties. However, since he has an older brother Edward, Duke of Windsor, Albert takes comfort in knowing he will likely never be King.

At the same time, Hitler has risen to power within Germany and its army is on the march to conquer Europe.  The stammering Prince must face the emergence of radio as a means of communication. His stammer is now for all the world to hear. Undeterred, Albert gives speeches as best he can, often so terrified he freezes up during their presentations. He has hired and fired a variety of speech coaches to help overcome the problem but to no avail. Nothing seemed to work. None-the-less his wife, Elizabeth I, remains intent on helping him and stumbles upon an Australian speech therapist who looks promising. This is where the movie begins.

Colin Firth plays Prince Albert and Geoffrey Rush the part of, Lionel, the speech therapist. Lionel is a self-possessed man who is not intimidated by the Prince. He sets the terms and conditions of therapy and demands the Prince come to his office.  He says within those walls the two would be equals. Lionel calls Albert “Bertie,” a family nickname. It infuriates Albert as do many of Lionel’s methods. Lionel acquiesces to but one of Albert’s demands: that therapy be limited to vocal exercises and breathing techniques with no delving into personal matters. This despite Lionel’s certainty that they would eventually have to get at the emotional trauma that caused the stammer to begin with, as was the case with all stammers.

Somehow, during the process of therapy, an unlikely trust and friendship develops between the two men.  Such that when their father, King George V dies and Prince Edward ascends to the throne, the unlikely becomes Albert’s greatest nightmare. His brother abdicates the throne to marry an American divorcee. Albert visits Lionel at his office and the two share a cup of tea and the soon-to-be crowned King reveals his past. A nanny who deprived him of food, inflicted physical pain and favored his brother. Further, parents so disengaged that it took them a year to notice he was emaciated. There was the origin of the stammer. Finally revealing this long buried shame, Prince Albert becomes King George VI.

There are two remarkable messages from this movie that can serve us all. Carole and I share them both here.

Steve

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins speaks at length about working on oneself. For example, he has had many clients who made fortunes only to lose them. When Robbins probed to find out why some achieved great success only to lose it, he discovered that he could teach them techniques but if the client did not make the deep and lasting changes in their thinking, success would be temporary. One example was a client would repeatedly make money only to lose it a short time later. Robbins discovered that his client had grown up very poor. Making money made him uncomfortable so he reverted to what was comfortable and what he had been, poor.

George VI knows the stakes are huge. Hitler’s Germany is on the march and many lives will be lost if the King is not able to rally his people. He must address the nation on the eve of war. Faced with the challenge of his life, George succumbs totally to the speech therapist’s direction.  He does the necessary deep work and discovers where his stammer originated. He takes to radio and inspires a rapt nation. Humility and courage. These are the tools of greatness.

Carole

Helena Bonham Carter plays Elizabeth. The supportive strength that Queen Elizabeth provides her terrified husband cannot be overestimated. While Albert, as both Prince and King, wants to throw it all away, give up or run and hide, it is his wife who shares her own fears and secrets that give her husband the will to prevail.

The most poignant scene between the two occurs the night before Albert is to appear before the counsel of Lords to assume the naming of him as King George VI. Prince Albert slumps at his desk weeping over how little he knows of kingship and its responsibilities. He says he was not “meant to be King”…his brother was. Elizabeth wraps her arms around her troubled husband and shares that she, too, never wanted a public life. She says that falling in love with him caused her to wonder if she could survive such a marriage. But she reveals that she took comfort in the fact that he had “such a lovely stammer” she would never have to worry about the likelihood.  Elizabeth was showing him that she, too, was about to face an unintended life but face it, none-the-less, with grace.  She was his rock.

Much is made of the “divine feminine” aspect of God; but, much of it misses the mark. The divine feminine is that aspect of creation that supplies nourishment in every aspect of life. It is not just about child bearing or motherhood.  Whether in the bedroom, boardroom or corridors of government, the divine feminine is the support and counterbalance to the divine masculine. It is power not force. It is compassion not pity. It is the courage to be “love in action.”

Both of us

The “King’s Speech” received 12 Oscars. It deserved them all.  Of greater and more lasting importance are the life lessons learned from from two people faced with circumstances they preferred not to encounter. Courage and humility go a long way in conquering the unanticipated and the unknown. They go even further when true power is used as it was intended: as unconditional love in action.

 

 

 

Go Away Dave Chappelle

“We want you to go away.”

davechapelle

This was  Senator Barack Obama’s response to Dave Chappelle in 2007,  when asked how he could help his campaign. How do I know this?  Chappelle told me…and about 5,000 other people at a concert series he had a few years back in Austin.

I had heard rumblings through a variety of internet sites about Dave Chapelle being banished to the wastelands by Barack Obama, but I wanted to hear it for myself.  When I did, I was blown away by what Chappelle said.

First, a bit of history. Dave Chappelle had his own cable show, The Dave Chappelle Show on Comedy Central. The show was a mixture of stand up and skits that made fun of everybody.  The humor was over the top and, unlike other comedians, no topic or person was sacred…Blacks included.  Some of his most memorable skits were on the problems within the Black community.

At his stand up show, he let the audience know that, over the years, he had gotten numerous complaints from different ethnic groups. Blacks, Asians, Whites etc…the complaints never stopped. But he didn’t care because he felt his jokes were fair. As he put it, his parents were of mixed race and he was married to an Asian so he identified with many races. This gave him more comedic freedom in poking fun at various ethnic groups. As he saw it, nobody was off limits.

I think Barack Obama saw the fearlessness of Dave Chappelle and it scared him.

Barack Obama was an astute student of Saul Alinsky, the first original community organizer. Obama knew that Alinsky believed that satire and ridicule are the organizer’s greatest weapon. There is no doubt in my mind that Senator Obama saw the devastating effect of Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin (the Republican Vice Presidential candidate) on Saturday Night Live and how quickly Palin went from media darling to punch line on the national stage. There was no way Obama could let a comedian of Dave Chappelle’s stature and scope go unchecked lest he lose the election. In fact, Dave Chappelle actually had a skit where he parodies what it would be like having a Black man as President.

Because of Obama’s phone call, Dave Chappelle walked away from a multi-million dollar contract with Comedy Central and  disappeared from the national stage.  As he put it, his appearance in Austin was only because Barack had been re-elected to his second term and he, Chappelle, was no longer a threat to the President.

Chappelle said the media had portrayed him as someone who had gone mad and could not handle the fame.  In reality, he had walked away for reasons directly related to his, and his family’s, safety.  As Chappelle said, “I might be crazy but not crazy enough to walk away from a multi-million dollar contract.”

He had been exiled.

After seeing the show and hearing what he said, I thought his performance would have been all over the news; but, there was nothing. A complete blackout. Once the comedians saw one of their own taken out, Barack Obama was never really targeted by the comedic class.

Given that George Bush was relentlessly mocked by Saturday Night Live for the prior eight years , I would have thought  Barack Obama would, at least, have been the brunt of the show’s writers; but, that was not to be. Once Dave Chappelle was forced to disappear, Saturday Night Live got the message and fell in line.

One of the the first skits Saturday Night Live ever did on Obama was… get this… a skit showing how “cool” Obama was. It was really one of the most pathetic skits, and examples of cowardice, I have ever seen. Fred Armisan, the actor who played the President,  played Obama as an iconic media figure in the image of James Dean.  This was meant to be a skit on satire and comedy. It was anything but. It was, in fact, a marketing tribute!

When Saturday Night Live started receiving  criticism for the fawning portrayal of Obama during subsequent skits, the writers responded that the hard part in mocking Barack Obama was that he had no distinguishing traits or tendencies that they felt were funny. Like the skit, he was too cool to be made fun of. Really? Barack Obama can barely speak without the use of a teleprompter and has a noticeable stutter, or brain freeze, when off prompter; yet, Saturday Night Live did not find that to be funny?

Oddly enough, the main highlight of the two hour comedy movie, Anchorman, played by ex-SNL alumnus Will Ferrel, is the downfall of Ron Burgundy’s reporting career due to his inability to ad lib any time the telepromter failed. This SNL alumnus was able to make a two hour, comedy mocking the foibles of not being able to use a teleprompter but Saturday Night Live was unable to do so for ten minutes!

Many believe Dave Chappelle wasn’t the only victim of Obama’s wrath.  Jay Leno left the Tonight Show even though he had the number one rated show at the time and was replaced by Jimmy Fallon.  Jimmy Fallon was not able to replicate Leno’s ratings. However, looking deeper into the story, I’d speculate why Leno was replaced.  Jay Leno was a constant critic of President Obama and he was replaced by the sycophant Jimmy Fallon…who does nothing but praise the President.

This is the environment we live in. Its become a nation where all the media is scrubbed and cleaned, by and for our masters, lest the truth be told.  Anything and everything, no matter how immoral or unethical, is fair game in the Alinsky-founded Progressive movement to keep the people from seeing that the emperor has no clothes.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Movie Review: The Big Short

What happens when you see a movie and it only tells you half of the story?

TheBigShort

The movie is “The Big Short.” I left the theater profoundly disturbed because as compelling as it was, the script never examines the root cause of the tragedy.

The movie is based on the book by the same name, and is about the levels of corruption and stupidity in the housing market that caused the world-crippling financial crisis of 2008. The movie is funny, fascinating, depressing and really well done.  At its core, its about greed and the lengths people will go to make money.

The story follows different fund managers who stumble upon the great cracks forming in the housing market. The managers uncover layers and layers of corruption, stupidity and outright fraud that infected the housing market from top to bottom and the financing behind it. These managers set out to profit from the fraud by making outright bets that the housing market will collapse along with the banks that funded it.

The material is admittedly complicated. It attempts to delve into many arcane parts of the financial markets by the technique of brief “out talks” by celebrities.  The script does a fantastic job of explaining what happened and making it all comprehensible to the average viewer. However after watching the movie, you leave with only a partial (small, really)  understanding of the level of fraud that actually occurred. At its core, the movie leaves out the genesis of the crisis.

I know. I was there.

The movie, the narrative and popular wisdom all have the same back story: Wall Street and its greedy bankers caused the crisis. Politicians and the government came together in a crisis and fixed the flaws in the system so that this will never happen again. But contrary to that narrative and popular belief, it was the government and its edicts that were the prime reason why we had a housing crisis in the first place.

“The Big Short” should have started with The Community Reinvestment Act, a law passed in 1977.  The law was created as a way to force banks to make more loans to the communities in which they did business. Many activists believed that banks cordoned off certain areas informally designated as “no loan zones” where they would not make loans because of the income levels and skin color of the prospective borrowers. The law was meant to these force banks to make loans in the areas in which they had a branch. So, if a bank had a branch in a poor area,the bank had to make a certain percentage of loans in that same area. Even if the bank knew there was a high probability  of default, the bank was still obligated to make the loan.

The real story, and the bigger crime, is that once activists realized they could make money off this law, they started targeting banks to force them to pay them off.  For example, an investment in Acorn or Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition could be written off by the bank as an investment in the minority community. Even Barack Obama got into the act by helping a client sue Citibank for turning her down for a loan for which she had applied.

But that wasn’t enough.

In the old days bank, banks who made the mortgages kept them on their books and recorded them as losses; but, when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac got involved, at the urging of Congress, the housing market began to sky rocket. Once the banks realized that they could resell these problematic mortgages to government sponsored entities, they did so with vigor.  Once the banks knew they were not on the hook for the bad mortgages, and could actually make money reselling them, they did the most logical thing: they made a lot more bad loans. Between 1998 and 2003, Fannie Mae’s loan book in subprime mortgages went from $1.2 billion to $81 billion.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were, and are, Government Sponsored Entities (G.S.E). As such, they carry an implicit guarantee by the U.S. government. Thus they enjoy the same credit rating of the U.S government. Because of this fact, these two G.S.E.’s were able to package these loans and sell them to unsuspecting investors all over the world who wanted the safety and yields that their bonds offered. These investors had no idea that the loan pools they were investing in were loaded with toxic debt.

Without passage of The Community Reinvestment Act or the participation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the housing crisis would never have happened. Investors all over the world only flocked to these G.S.E  bonds because they they were allegedly vetted and guaranteed by the U.S government.

The heart of the housing crisis is really the story of how radical activists and liberal politicians hijacked the U.S financial system to advance and promote their socialist agenda. While the the activists may have hoped to to do good by giving certain people a leg up and thereby enabling them to own a house these programs actually bankrupted the poorest members of society. The ones with so little to lose lost the most.

These “do-gooders” are not done.

The Student Loan Bubble (college degrees for all!) and the Green Technology movement can trace their roots to the same housing activists. They continue to believe that government action combined with capital can create the utopia to which they so desperately aspire. The activists were not content that some students did, in fact, have access to college degrees. They set their goal to be federalizing the student loan market. The result? 1) Recent graduates are burdened with debt they can likely never repay and, 2) they are over qualified for jobs that do not exist. In the green technology movement, federal tax laws and environmental activists are working together to browbeat energy companies and the automotive industry using the power of the state to compel carbon trading platforms along with the forced development of green technologies that at this point… are not profitable .

“The Big Short” is no longer in theaters. But don’t worry… you will soon be able to see the sequels: “The Student Loan Catastrophe” and “The Green Technology Implosion.”

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

 

In Defense of Glenn Beck

Assuming Glenn Beck needs to be defended he doesn’t need me to do it. He seems quite capable of doing it himself, and has on more than one occasion when he has felt wronged, misquoted or misinterpreted. He has also apologized on more than one occasion when he has actually been wrong. So why would I bother with defense of a media personality that so many seem to think is either a fraud, religious zealot, or both?

Lady J ustice

I have listened to and watched Beck’s radio and internet programs for several years. The radio show’s intro defines the show as “the fusion of entertainment and enlightenment” while the live streaming internet program is more educational than entertaining or enlightening. Over the years that I have been a listener, Beck has definitely evolved. While in the early years the radio show was more entertainment and politics than enlightenment, with a fair amount of hangover (no pun intended) from his shock-jock days, it slowly began to morph into something more than that, as did Beck.

I could say I saw the handwriting on the wall. Over five years ago I contacted Beck’s CEO. Having done radio myself, I sent a demo tape of my on-air abilities and a video introduction of myself as a “video letter” to Beck himself. In it I told him that I saw where he was trying to go but was unlikely to get there using the path he was on at the time. I said he had to move beyond politics and organized religion as there were millions of people who were outside of either political party and who were more spiritual than religious and those people could not be reached through the Republican Party (Beck was a proponent at the time) or exclusively the Christian religion. I subsequently had the opportunity to meet Beck in person and, after a few moments exchange of conversation, he told me to give my contact information to his assistant which I did. The connection went nowhere. However, I have felt that either Beck or his staff has followed my posts on more than one occasion and used my material without credit which is something he has been accused of by both the late Andrew Breitbart and Michael Savage. I also think he did change course, as I had advised, and doing so expanded his media empire and his footprint.

I share the above in order to make the point that I could have my own gripe with Beck. I could be bitter, resentful and feel glee at the many slings and arrows that are directed at him by the likes of breitbart.com, Alex Jones, and Jon Stewart just to name a few. I could, but I don’t. Why? Because with all his human failings, Beck has been right much more than he has been wrong in sensing the trajectory of the nation and making serious efforts to inform, enlighten and caution as many people as possible as to where we are headed. Perhaps the three that most readily come to my mind are his early warnings about the Caliphate, the demise of the Republican Party, and the infiltration at every level of civil society and both political parties by Progressivism and its debilitating effects upon our way of life. On all three he was relentless. That relentlessness caused him to be the object of endless mockery and derision. But here’s the thing.

He was right.

I get that Beck is an entertainer. He can be wickedly funny or deliver a deeply compelling story while acting out a myriad of characters and personalities along the way.  He can also offend my sensibilities at times when he, his co-host and producer go over the edge with humor based upon bodily functions. But he is also a relentless seeker of truth and a self-educated man whose efforts at both are commendable and too rare. I get that as an alcoholic turned religious Mormon one could argue that he has traded one addiction for another. However, we are all enslaved to something. For most it’s money, success, fame, sex, chocolate, heroin or technology. The list goes on and on. It’s the nature of this reality we call life. So as I see it, Beck could be addicted and enslaved to something much worse than a loving, all-forgiving, grace granting God who is the seemingly most important source of guidance in his life…that and the wife he loves and for whom he credits turning his life around.

So, I prefer to put aside the cheap shots, motivated oftentimes by envy, and instead focus on the good Beck has done and is doing.

His charitable organization, Mercury One, has not only been the first on the scene of domestic disasters but also the most forthcoming and action oriented in its efforts to rescue Christians from genocide in the Middle East. He went to the border to take toys and express love for the children trapped in immigration holding facilities through decisions made by their parents and no fault of their own. He held inspiring and peaceful rallies dedicated to honor, courage and love that drew hundreds of thousands of people both in the U.S. and Israel. He marched for racial unity after Ferguson and Baltimore. He continues to warn the nation of the suicidal consequences of failing to stand with the Constitution.

Currently, he has prayed and concluded that Ted Cruz is the best candidate in support of that stand. In standing for his belief, he has literally gone on the road campaigning for Cruz and for the first time in his public career, endorsed a Presidential candidate. He believes Cruz is a man of destiny. Beck may be right on Cruz or not. But as Shakespeare said in Henry IV, and if I may paraphrase, let’s not shoot the messenger because we don’t like the message.

These area troubling times. We are in need of asking serious questions and finding meaningful answers. Whether you agree with his delivery, his politics or his God, Beck continues to shine a bright light before a nation wandering in the dark in search of its own identity. Shame on those who, for personal or political reasons, are trying to diminish or extinguish that light.

We could do worse than pay attention to someone who has been right more often than he has been wrong. How many of his critics, or us, have that track record?

Carole

comtact@carolegold.com

The Disney Lie: An American Tale

Perhaps the reality of the Disney Corporation, as opposed to the fantasies it creates, is an apt metaphor for what has become of our culture.

Disney

Like all good parents with the financial means, my ex-husband and I took our daughter to Disney World at age 14. They had a great time, while I couldn’t have been more eager to get out. Call me crazy, but my idea of fun isn’t being strapped into a stationary “chair” while a simulator hurtles me out into the Universe at warp speed.

My limited preferences aside, for most Americans all things Disney are national icons. So it’s particularly troubling when an icon turns out to be anything but admirable.

In 2000, Prentice Hall published Peter and Rochelle Schweizer’s “Disney: The Mouse Betrayed: Greed, Corruption and Children at Risk.” The book detailed how Walt Disney put safety first. Not so with the current company operating in his name. The Schweitzer’s investigated how current management allows Disney World to have an injury rate twice the industry average; how it became a partner in the nation’s largest pay-per-view pornography distributor; revealed its rampant pedophile and sexual abuse problem; highlighted its preference for cover-ups and inexpensive solutions; exposed the weird message Disney sends when employees are caught peeping on – even filming – coworkers and guests in their dressing room; spotlighted how it thwarts efforts of local law enforcement at its theme parks and, last but not least, how Disney licensees have been repeatedly charged with violating federal child labor laws.

As if its apparent disregard for decency in its lust for money and profit weren’t enough, now comes a shameful story of its blatant disregard for corporate integrity, employee excellence and loyalty all in the name of…wait for it…profits.

A former Cast Member (the in-house term for Disney employees), with 10 years in Disney’s IT Department, has penned a damning expose of how Disney jettisoned hundreds of its top performing, long-term employees with virtually no notice in order to bring in foreign workers under the H1-B guest workers program.

Writing of his experience, the Cast Member explains: “After having worked grueling on call shifts, hundreds of middle of the night and weekends work sessions in addition to a barrage of problem phone calls around the clock for many years, they were going to simply throw us out for their financial benefit.”

Not only were the dedicated and highest performance-rated Cast Members summarily terminated, they were forced to stay on for 90 days and train their foreign replacements or forfeit a severance package!

This past January, a bill in introduced by Presidential hopeful Senator Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) along with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) would triple the number of foreign H1-B guest workers increasing the problem threefold.

So, this is how it works now in America.

Disney, the private or public sectors screw American workers, and safety at home, for the benefit of foreign workers be they legal or illegal. Keep seeking financial gain with no regard for whether or not your organization has lost its moral compass. Count on politicians to exacerbate the problem because they are in on the take too and their first priority is personal gain at the expense of their constituents. That would be us.

It turns out there’s a metaphor within a metaphor to be had here.

Yes, the Disney Corporation is a metaphor for our national soul. But so is that moon ride I was strapped into, hurtling me out into the Universe at warp speed with no way to defend or protect myself from all that was rushing towards me. Welcome to the United States of America 2015.

Disney lost its way. We have too. The protections we had in place to defend ourselves have been overridden by Executive Order, pushed aside in favor of retaining political power and buried in the hubris of the Supreme Court.

My only suggestion is that you do what I did that day on the moon ride at Disney World. Scream at the top of your lungs that you want out, get off the damn ride as soon as possible and hightail it out of Fantasy Land as fast as your feet will carry you.

Carole

One Song

In the great movie Walk the Line that details the life of Johnny Cash, Cash struggles for years writing music before he gets his break. However, prior to launching his music career he sustained himself as a traveling salesman, only able to practice nights and weekends.

One day, he stumbled into a record studio and pleaded with the executive for an audition and was granted one. As the movie depicts, the audition did not go well. The studio executive could tell that Cash’s music was just a rehash of everything he was hearing on the radio and knew that sound wouldn’t sell. What the executive was looking for was a new voice and a new sound. Cash felt insulted. Perplexed by Cash’s response, the studio executive was flabbergasted and admonished him. “You mean to tell me, if you were laying on the road about to die and had to sing one song, that’s the song that you would sing? Or would you see something else?

In his heart he knew the executive was right. Cash had been writing songs for years but he had not showed his best to the world because he thought his songs were not good or authentic enough. This scene from the movie is one of my favorites of all time because that question is one we all need to answer: Do we sing what everybody else is singing or do we sing something else?

Johnny Cash then broke out in in his famous song “Folsom Prison Blues” and, as the saying goes, the rest is history

The reason I love this scene is because it touches upon the issue of greatness.  As youngsters, we go to school and are all measured against one another. The person who is an A student is obviously better than a B student and we begin to measure ourselves against this standard.  For the rest of us, who are not A students, the feeling of inadequacy lingers.

A few years ago, I was working on a road paving contract and had to learn the science behind the compounds that made the product we were selling unique. One of my business associates, Larry, was a graduate from Harvard and had an MBA from Harvard as well. He was a smart cookie. When the presenter finished and asked for a recap of the presentation, Larry literally was able to parrot back all the information completely. I was blown away! It seemed he had completely understood the science behind the materials while I was still struggling with the basic concepts.

Upon reflection, I could see why Larry had done so well academically. He could literally repeat back anything that was said to him. But upon reflection I realized he had no greater depth of understanding of what had been presented than I did. What Larry did have was the ability to synthesize information quickly and regurgitate it back. Larry was and is a smart guy… but in that moment I was comparing myself to somebody who had a different skill set that I did.

I worked on Wall Street for many years and worked with many guys like Larry. If I had compared myself to their skill set, I would have failed miserably. Instead, I just focused on the skills I possessed and brought them to my job. I had been in the Marines and spent a considerable amount of time in the Middle East. I had lived in South America.  I spoke Spanish. I had read hundreds of books on finance and was a Libertarian so I had a world view different than my colleagues. It was the intersection of my skills, studies, and language abilities that gave me a skill set my colleagues could never have. In the end, I developed a client base that valued my insights because it was a voice within the markets they could not get elsewhere.

I think my mistake early in my career was trying to be something I was not and failed miserably. But it is a mistake we all make because we  compare ourselves to someone else. When I didn’t use my voice and opined on the markets, my opinions were hollow as they were just rehashed and recycled ideas of someone else. My accounts could have easily found these opinions anywhere. There was no risk in what I was saying and it was reflected in my numbers.

By giving the same thought and opinions on the market,  I was competing against the hundreds of voices already in that space. That space was filled and, therefore, my service was useless. When I truly connected and made money for my accounts it was when I shared and expressed only the unfiltered thoughts that I offered. Some clients hated my ideas while others loved them. But, both groups came back for more because my voice was unique.

As Seth Godin so eloquently said: “Without a doubt, there’s someone taller than you, faster than you, cuter than you. We don’t have to look very far to find someone who is better paid, more respected and getting more than his fair share of credit. And social media: Of course there are people with more followers, more likes and more of just about anything you’d like to measure. So what? What is the comparison for? Is your job to be the most at a thing? Just because a thing can be noticed, or compared, or fretted over doesn’t mean it’s important, or even relevant. Better, I think, to decide what’s important, what needs to change, what’s worth accomplishing. And then ignore all comparisons that don’t relate. The most important comparison, in fact, is comparing your work to what you’re capable of. Sure, compare. But compare the things that matter to the journey you’re on. The rest is noise.”

Rise above and go beyond the noise. That’s why you were created.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

Land of The Free

Are we really the land of the free?

Land of the FreeI love it when political commentators lecture us about the many freedoms we enjoy in our country as compared to other nations. Having lived and traveled abroad, I can tell you with 100% certainty that this once free country exists no more.

Here is my small list of how we have become less free –if you want me to add more to this post please email me at sleeclark@gmail.com

  • Seat Belt Law- Prior to 1980 seat belts were not required to drive. In addition, prior to the law’s enactment seat belts in cars were the same as the ones in planes; they buckled over your lap. Once the law was passed the cars were modified so that the seat belt crossed over your shoulder. Was this done to protect us or to give the cops better viewing to enforce the laws and collect their fees?
  • Lemonade Stands– A right of passage for many kids as they learned their first business lessons. Today the police now close lemonade stands because they don’t have a permit. (Think about this: We actually think it is OK for the police to protect us from children selling lemon juice?)
  • Cigarette Laws– For years tobacco companies posted massive warning labels on their packages and told their users how dangerous the content was. This did not stop the government from shaking down an entire industry for billions of dollars and then massively taxing them to death. If you think this is a good thing, don’t complain when the government lands on your door step one day to shake you down for all of your money.
  • Lawn Care– In the Northeast, it was common for homeowners to burn their leaves in the Fall. Then the government required a permit and today, in most places, it is completely banned.
  • NYC Condo Laws– I lived in a condo for years with no rugs on my floors. Then the condo unit required homeowners to have rugs covering the majority of their living space. I received a complaint one day because my walking was too loud. The “condo police” actually sent someone to measure my carpets and my floor space to make sure I was in compliance.(Does this sound like freedom?)
  • Bike Laws – I grew up riding a bike without a helmet; today that will get me a ticket. In addition, in NYC, if you don’t stay in the designated bike lane that too will get you a ticket. (check this hysterical video that illustrates the  absurdity of this law.)
  • Disciplining your child– Most of my peers were raised with a heavy hand. If you do that today, child services will show up at your door and you will lose your kids. However, if your part of the government gestapo and do that to a child there are no consequences. Don’t believe me? Look at this video where a cop tasers a child on concrete, leaves her brain dead and  still has his job. If a citizen did this, they would be in jail.
  • Permits and more Permits- Want to build a house? Enlarge your house? Alter your apartment? Expand your business? Build a swimming pool? We now need the approval of our local government employee to grant us this privilege. Need more proof? Many parts of the New Jersey shore still have not been rebuilt from Hurricanes Sandy in 2012, because they are waiting on permits and government approval! Try being homeless for 3 years.
  • Bird Feeder– In Erie County, NY a couple was fined for having an illegal bird feeder. When did bird feeders become illegal? In Mississippi they have the same law.
  • Dog Registration– In NYC, it is common practice that you are required to register your dog, so the Board can know who the pet owners are. In one building they now limit the type of dog you can own.
  • Flower Laws– Certain gardens, parks and building complexes have laws against picking flowers and I get it. But human nature being what is, there are always going to be people who will pick a flower. So should we criminalize such activity?  I once went to visit my mother in a building complex and my 4-year-old daughter picked a flower from one of the gardens. An enormous  elderly man chased my daughter down and began to yell at her for her “crime.” Really? We now live in a society where this type of behavior passes off as normal. There is something about human nature that compels certain people to force everybody to comply that drives me totally crazy! I have such anger and contempt for this behavior because this is what causes an otherwise normal, human being to yell at a 4-year-old child. Clearly my daughter was wrong to pick a flower from a garden, but sadly his overreaction is typical of many citizens today.

I can go on and on. But the fact is that everywhere you turn we have an ever-encroaching State that tells us what we can and cannot do. This constant policing by bureaucrats, municipal workers, policeman and  busybodies, I believe, can drive someone off the deep end.

Man yearns and desires to be free, and I believe the increase in drug use is attributable to this constant barrage to conform and comply with all of these nonsensical laws. The problem is that the government has become SO BIG imposing so many restrictive rules, regulations and laws, I would wager it’s almost impossible for anyone to go through a day without breaking one or more on a daily basis and, thereby, becoming a criminal.

Steve

P.S. Since I also write to this site I don’t have to email Steve. My parents lived in a Homeowner’s Association complex in Florida. When a hurricane damaged the flowers that adorned their walkway, my father spared no personal expense in having a professional landscaper replace it all. Shortly thereafter, my parents were forced to not only tear out all the new landscaping but also pay a fine. It seemed the new flowers were the wrong color and did not match the other foliage on either said of their home. Yes, Steve…it can drive a person over the edge.

 

Mike, Sully and Pressing On

I just finished watching Pixar’s Monsters University, the delightful sequel to Monsters Inc.  I have to admit I was really unprepared for the  beautiful and insightful messages this movie has to offer.

monsters university The premise of the movie is that energy in the Universe is supplied through fear experienced by young children. The two main characters, Mike and Sully, go off to college in order to become “Scarers”…making them fit  for one of the most prestigious jobs in the Universe. There is much competition for these jobs as all of the energy in the Universe is supplied this way and the scare companies only hire the scariest and most ferocious of monsters.

The protagonist of the story is Mike. He’s a lovable, one-eyed, short, green round monster. He knows everything about being a good scarer from history to tactics and strategies. In fact, nobody knows more about scaring than Mike. The problem is that Mike’s not scary at all. He’s cute! His cohort in crime, Sully, is a huge blue monster with massive hands and fangs. He can scare anything and anybody half to death!  Sully’s so scary and good at what he does that he puts in no time studying his craft. And so, because of Mike’s inability to scare anything and Sully’s lack of both effort and knowledge they are both kicked out of the program.

None-the-less, they commit to working with each other. They craft a plan to get back into the program through a scare contest.  By way of  their efforts and guile (Sully crossed the line in helping Mike during the contest) they are able to win the contest and once again find themselves back in the elite program only to be thrown out yet again.  And yet they remain undeterred.

They get hired by a scare company to work in the mail-room. From there they work their way up to janitorial services, cafeteria workers, the canning room and, finally, the “scare floor.”

So with no formal education, they manage to reach the pinnacle of their profession.  Their combined energies eventually gets them to the best “scaring combination” of all time. Despite this achievement, Mike finally realizes he does not have what it takes to work as a scarer; but what he does have is knowledge of the business. He uses his loving nature and knowledge to coach and propel Sully to the highest level of his career.

How many of us in life have dreams dashed by not having the requisite skills? A perfect example is the story of Idan Ravin, one of the most famous basketball trainers in the world. Idan Ravin was an attorney who never played basketball beyond high school. He had a love for the game but not the skill set to play, so he coached in youth leagues and developed innovative ways to train basketball players. One day he caught the attention of Steve Francis, an NBA player, who hired him to work with him on his game. Steve was so impressed with what he learned that he recommended Idan to other players.  From there, Ravin went on to train some of the best players in the world…players such as Kobe Bryant and Lebron James.

Both Monsters University and the real life saga of Idan Ravin teach us an important lesson. One that is needed now more than ever as we go through such an accelerated and transitional period of economic change. We all have the right and perhaps even the ability to participate in the trade or profession of our choosing… but we have to be willing to accept that the end result might be different than what we intended.  That doesn’t mean we failed.

It just means we were needed elsewhere.