Thursday, February 13, 2014

Nice Guys Don't Always Finish Last

You've probably familiar with the idea: when you're under attack, the hardest thing is not defending yourself. But the truth is that you're when you choose not to react, you're not really avoiding a fight, you're just choosing a far more familiar opponent. As Ben Zoma, a Talmudic sage from the second-century, once said: \
Who is strong? He who controls his impulses. As is stated (Proverbs 16:32), "Better one who is slow to anger than one with might, one who rules his spirit than the captor of a city."
Last night, I watched the end of "42," a film about baseball pioneer and legend Jackie Robinson. As Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, he endured racist taunts and threats everywhere he played. It was not reacting, keeping his focus on baseball, that allowed him to succeed in the battle for equality.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker follows the same playbook. When he receives angry and profane tweets from constituents, he responds by killing them with kindness. In an article on Quartz, Max Nisen quotes some of Booker's gracious Twitter responses. They're amazing to read. Check out this one featured in the article:

  1. @RWwatchMA @RichNj5 @newsagg @CoryBooker Booker is corporate slime.
And I think you are probably a good person. I wish you the best RT @rtpburns: Booker is corporate slime.
So what happens when you let your anger get the better of you? No need to worry. You can still fight back. In a beautiful essay in the Huffington Post, Josh Misner tells about the time he apologized to a Delta airlines employee after missing his connecting flight. Misner's apology was not only reciprocated, but resulted in better seats on the next flight.

I guess nice guys don't always finish last.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sometimes you're better off keeping quiet and ignoring the clock

What's worse: (A) getting interrupted when you talk or (B) getting no reaction? For Americans, the answer is probably B. While incessant interruptions can be annoying, silence can be destructive. When we speak in the US, we expect eye contact with audience members, and laughs, applause, and questions at the end. When the audience just sits in silence, it vexes us a great deal.

In some cultures, though, staying quiet while another speaks is of the utmost importance. In a recent blog post on the Harvard Business Review website, cross-cultural expert Erin Meyer tells of her frustrating experience presenting to a Chinese colleague who waited until the very end to assist in her presentation. The reason, she learned, wasn't malicious. Rather, Chinese people are taught to  sit quietly and wait until someone finishes speaking before saying anything.

The same can be said for how different cultures appreciate time. In another post, Meyer discusses the relative importance of time around the world, by comparing recent speaking engagements in the US and Brazil. In the US, the conference organizer kept Meyer on time with signs that indicated how many minutes were left in the session. In Brazil, her presentation got off to a late start, and exceeded the time allotted. But there, she was told she could have spoken even longer, given the interest of the crowd. Below is an excerpt from that Meyer's blog post:
In some cultures — such as the German, Dutch, British, Danish, Australian, and my own American cultures — we tend to value structure over flexibility. But in many of the world’s fastest growing countries, such as Brazil, India, Indonesia, Russia and Nigeria, there is much more emphasis put on being flexible than on being structured.  In these cultures strongly emphasizing punctuality signals an inability to adapt and even a lack of priorities. 
Like most people, I don't like being late. But to me, the question of when to speak and when to shut up isn't just a question of time; it's a matter of respect. Arriving late to a class is unpleasant, even disrespectful; but leaving when an instructor goes a few minutes over time is just rude. So next time you're looking at the clock, think about the speaker who's waiting for a reaction and try to come up with a good question for the end.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Is Live TV the Answer? To Be Continued...

How can traditional TV survive in the era of DVR, On-Demand, and Netflix?

The answer may lie in TV's roots, as a source of convenient and timely home entertainment. In a story today on Quartz, writer Jason Lynch suggested five ways that TV can "save itself in 2014." The ideas ranged from abandoning dying genres like talent competitions, to developing more "limited series" like last year's The Bible and the upcoming 24: Live Another Day. His solutions, however, that I found the most compelling were based on the foundations of television:
  • Live TV: Instead of relying on taped programs that people can easily record and watch later, Lynch suggested that networks need to increase their live programming -- something that was the hallmark of the "Golden Age of Television." He pointed to the recent live production of The Sound of Music with Carrie Underwood that attracted 18.6 million viewers to NBC. (In case you were wondering, the movie is still far better). 
  • To Be Continued: Netflix appeals to millions of people, in part, because they are able to view entire seasons in one sitting. Lynch said networks need to adapt this new habit of "binge-viewing" and acquire the rights to air multiple episodes back to back.
For sure, these ideas would help TV appeal to today's viewers. But they are not enough. At the core of TV's decline is the rise of online video. It's not DVR and Netflix that's making TV less appealing; it's the web. It doesn't matter whether you're using a highly publicized platform like or a Bit Torrent site with pirated shows, at the end of the day you're not watching TV.

Unfortunately, the future of TV will be the same as the history of American manufacturing: without government regulation, people will always choose the cheapest way to get what they want. So should the government make the survival of TV a priority? Should TV be saved? I guess you'll have to stay tuned to find out.