Beware of fake news and biased reporting

In December 2016, a screenwriter named Edgar Welch read online that Comet Ping Pong, a pizzeria in Washington D.C., was harboring young children as part of a child abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton. Welch believed the false conspiracy theory and took it upon himself to visit Comet Ping Pong, unleashing an AR-15 rifle on the workers there. By some miracle, no one was hurt and the police arrested him. He was snookered by fake news.

In the U.K. a post on Facebook purported that places of worship are exempt from council tax—but only if the worshippers are Muslim. The post claims followers of Islam who use their living areas as a place to pray do not need to pay council tax. The image attached to the post shows a copy of the petition dated 2013. The fake story was finally expunged in 2018 when the House of Commons officially stated, “It is not possible for owners of domestic property to avoid council tax by claiming that their property, or part of it, is used for religious purposes.”

Fake news is completely false information, photos, or videos purposefully created and spread to confuse or misinform. Not surprisingly, Facebook and Twitter are the two main conduits for the spread of fake news. Fake news is not a new nemesis (consider supermarket tabloids that have been published for decades), but the internet has allowed it to increase exponentially.

I think most of my readers are astute enough to recognize and reject fake news, but many of us may be inordinately swayed by biased reporting in which a news source does report facts (or selected facts) but presents them in a biased way such that the reader is intentionally manipulated toward a certain persuasion. 

That’s why I never watch FOX or MSNBC news channels. Though they may not promulgate fake news, I find their biased reporting to be misleading. If you get a steady diet of either source, you’ll eventually be swayed to an extreme position. CNN and NBC are slightly left of center but are more careful about the stories they choose to report and how they present them. 

Here’s a good article on how to recognize a fake news story.

Here’s a graphic showing the ideological leaning of familiar news sources.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Don’t get caught without a pencil

Capture good thoughts, even if you’re not sure how they might help in the future. —Andrew Hargadon

“The novelist Paul Auster tells a story about growing up as an eight-year-old in New York City and being obsessed with baseball, particularly the New York Giants. The only thing he remembers about attending his first major league baseball game at the Polo Grounds with his parents and friends is that he saw his idol, Willie Mays, outside the players’ locker room after the game. The young Auster screwed up his courage and approached the great centerfielder. ‘Mr. Mays,’ he said, ‘could I please have your autograph?’

“‘Sure, kid, sure,’ the obliging Mays replied. ‘You got a pencil?’“

Auster didn’t have a pencil on him, neither did his father or his mother or anyone else in his group.

“Mays waited patiently, but when it became obvious that no one present had anything to write with, he shrugged and said, ‘Sorry, kid. Ain’t got no pencil, can’t give no autograph.’

“From that day on, Auster made it a habit to never leave the house without a pencil in his pocket.” [From The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, pg. 29]

Several years ago I wrote a blog post on how significant thoughts can positively affect your life. A meaningful thought can change the trajectory of your life, so always be looking for them. You might find one while reading the newspaper, or talking to a friend, or listening to the radio, or (and these are the best kind) you might have an original thought that is worth archiving.

But when you come across a significant thought, you must write it down because short-term memory is unreliable.

So always carry a pen and paper. You never know when you’re going to encounter a significant thought, and if you don’t write it down, you’ll lose it. Don’t miss out on a notable statement just because you “ain’t got no pencil.”

Obviously, the emphasis of this post is on recognizing, valuing, and recording important thoughts, not on writing utensils, but sometimes the smallest things trip us up, like not having a pencil when we need one.

For instance, several days ago I read this sentence by Thomas Huxley—Try to learn something about everything and everything about something. It caught my attention, so I wrote it down, thought about it, talked to some friends about it, and now it’s part of my life. But this bit of wisdom would have been lost to me if I had not written it down.

Get into the habit of writing down interesting and helpful thoughts. [I transfer my hand-written notes into an app called Evernote.]

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Sometimes, leaders must make major decisions quickly

On June 22, 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered an attack on the French Navy after the German-French armistice was signed. Within five minutes of the initial shots being fired, nearly all of the French warships were destroyed or crippled. More than 1,000 French sailors were killed in the attack, all of whom were allies only days previously. Churchill made this decision, amidst strong cabinet opposition, to prevent a potential shift in naval superiority.

That was a gutsy call. It was also a quick decision; Churchill only had a few hours to decide. 

Leaders, 90% of the decisions you make are not urgent. Simply submit them to due process: clarify the decision, seek input from your team, consider alternatives, and take time to get it right. But some decisions must be made quickly. Know and recognize the difference. Don’t be impulsive if you can submit the decision to a considered process, but don’t procrastinate when a decision must be made quickly.

Don’t be rash or impulsive, but do be decisive.

You’ll not always make the right decision. When you make a mistake, admit it, own it, and then press on. 

History proved Churchill’s decision to be a good one. If he had not destroyed the French Navy, each ship would have flown a swastika and the Nazis would have ruled the seas and probably won the war. 

When was the last time you had to make a major decision, quickly? What was the outcome?

Sometimes, good enough is good enough

In the deepest poverty you should never do anything perfectly. If you do you are stealing resources from where they can be better used. Ingegerd Roth, missionary nurse in Congo 

This principle applies anytime we are prioritizing scarce resources.

Today I spent an hour washing my car. On a scale from 1 (extremely dirty) to 10 (near perfect), it started out as a 3 and 30 minutes later it was an 8. I could have worked another hour and reached 9.5 but it would not have been worth it. To invest another 60 minutes for a 1.5 increase didn’t seem prudent. After all, it may rain tomorrow.

I had the same thought when pruning the bushes at my house. Must I pursue perfection when the bushes are still vigorously growing? Within a day or two, an energetic stem will poke through the top of the well-manicured hedge and ruin my straight line, so why bother?

Other projects require a higher standard.

  • If the stakes are high, strive for perfection—we want our surgeon to be persnickety.
  • If the item is a prototype to be mass-produced, be obsessive about getting the first one right. (I’m always disappointed to see typos in first-edition books published by major publishing companies.) 
  • If you’re a professional, people pay you to be good and fast, so be both.  

But sometimes, good enough is good enough. Sometimes done is better than perfect.

Tom Peterson adds this to the conversation: “By the way, what is perfect? Paul McCartney’s Blackbird—is it done or perfect? I lean toward perfect. But most Beatles recordings (there are around 300) are simply done. Yet their combined effect was a fantastically creative body of work. 

“In the early years, the group performed relentlessly and found its sound. And when they were in song writing mode, Lennon and McCartney would set aside a series of days. Paul would drive to John’s house on the scheduled day, ‘We always wrote a song a day, whatever happened we always wrote a song a day,’ he said. ‘We never had a dry day.’

“Voltaire wrote, ‘Perfect is the enemy of the good.’ Had the Beatles performed only their perfect work perfectly, we’d have never heard of them.

“As we create projects and campaigns to improve the world, we shoot not for perfect but done. Yes, we should develop our programs as well as we can. But will any of our work be perfect? Not likely.”

Here’s a good article on the downside of perfectionism. 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/better-perfect/201611/9-signs-you-might-be-perfectionist

   

Resist abnormality

Trip to Peru - information meeting on May 18

It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a sick society. Jiddu Krishnamurti

I’ll expand Krishnamurti’s insightful advice to include multiple applications.

  • It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a sick relationship.
  • It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a sick job.
  • It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a sick organization or movement.

We often find ourselves in an unhealthy environment but instead of resisting, we adjust to the pathology and consider it the new normal. We may have pure motives—to maintain peace and equilibrium, or to help others who are in the same situation—but the end result is the same: the abnormal becomes the new standard.    

For instance, we may consciously or unconsciously adjust to society’s infatuation with consumerism, or to an abusive relationship, or to an unfulfilling job, or to a failing organization—and soon embrace a distorted sense of well-being. We become passive and ignore the need for change.

The first step out of the morass is to see clearly the abnormality. But that’s usually hard to do. How can we tell when we’re in a sick environment, particularly when we’ve been in it for a long time? For instance, when growing up in a particular family, how is a child to know what is normal and abnormal? Often the acclimation has been so slow and subtle that we’re unaware something is amiss (frog in the boiling water syndrome).

It often takes an outside intervention to help us see clearly. A good and faithful friend tells us that something in our life seems wrong. An outside consultant tells us that parts of our organization are dysfunctional.

Visiting other environments can also help us gain clarity. For instance, as a teenager, when I was around my friends’ families I began to realize the oddities of my own. Traveling to foreign countries may expose inadequacies of your homeland. In other words, exposure to healthy situations can reveal the sickness of our own.

Once we see that something is atypical, the next challenge is to courageously resist, which is difficult because we may have a vested interest in the situation and/or the problems may be deeply engrained. In some cases, freedom will only come through a complete break with the system.

Ask yourself: in what areas of life have I succumbed to an unhealthy norm?

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I’m hosting a trip to Peru, May 6-15, 2020. It will be limited to 50 travelers. Here’s the brochure. On Saturday, May 18, 2019 from 4:00-5:00, I’m hosting a free information meeting for anyone who wants more details about the trip. It will be held in the DFW metroplex and broadcast live on Facebook for those who live elsewhere. If you want to attend, email me at djmcminn@msn.com or respond to this blot post.

Ready, fire, aim

Trip to Peru - information meeting on May 18

Last year I wrote a post titled Have a bias toward action, in which I suggested: “We’ve all heard the adage—ready, aim, fire—which sounds like a logical sequence of events, but sometimes we get transfixed on the aim element. Some organizations (and individuals) get bogged down by over-analyzing and over-thinking details and options. Paralysis by analysis sets in; nothing gets done. Perhaps we should consider: ready, fire, aim.”

A friend of mine, Dane H., who has a military background, added this to the conversation: “Here’s an example of what you talk about, taken from my days in the Army.

“Prior to firing on the range, we ‘zero’ our weapon. That is, we have to calibrate the sights for how the soldier firing that rifle shoots in order to hit the target. The first step is to fire three shots at a target from 25 meters, triangulate the holes in the paper and adjust the sights in order to achieve a tighter shot group closer to the center of the target. So, to your point, we literally ready and fire understanding that our results won’t be optimal until we course-correct.”

Sometimes, ready-fire-aim is the smart process to pursue:

    • Before you make a major career change, try it out. If you’re thinking of being a UPS driver, ride around on a truck for several days. 
    • If you’re thinking of marrying someone, travel with him or her for two weeks. Travel brings out the best and worst in people.
    • Before launching a new product or service, submit a prototype or just the idea to a focus group and recalibrate based on their response.

Seldom do we get things right the first time. Most successful products and services are the result of many iterations. We learn a lot by acting and then adjusting.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I’m hosting a trip to Peru, May 6-15, 2020. It will be limited to 50 travelers. Here’s the brochure. On Saturday, May 18, 2019 from 4:00-5:00, I’m hosting a free information meeting for anyone who wants more details about the trip. It will be held in the DFW metroplex and broadcast live on Facebook for those who live elsewhere. If you want to attend, email me at djmcminn@msn.com or respond to this blot post.

Who’s the real perpetrator?

Trip to Peru - information meeting on May 18

There are two sides to every story, yet people end up listening to one side and believe it to be the truth.

Consider a hypothetical relationship in which one person commits a never-ending string of offenses, none of which are serious enough to warrant a drastic reaction from others, but their cumulative effect is great. The victim of these constant misdemeanors finally “has had enough” and commits a one-time, substantial offense that is obviously wrong. Most people who hear of the flagrant offense will lay blame on that person and not consider the balance of offenses. But, in this scenario, who is the real perpetrator?  

Reflect on these two examples:

For years, a spouse is negligent in meeting the emotional needs of his or her partner. Instead of fostering a caring, loving relationship, the persistent neglect leads to a cold, unbearable detachment. The marriage exists but it doesn’t.

After years of suffering, the neglected partner has an affair, seeking to have legitimate, important needs met but in an inappropriate way. Society sees only one culprit: the adulterer. But who is the real perpetrator? 

For years, a person tolerates an annoying family member, responding with grace to his or her constant litany of irritating behavior and verbal abuse. Finally, the recipient explodes in anger, using curse words to express years of pent-up frustration. Those who observe the confrontation are aghast at the terms used and think less of the person who said them, not being privy to the years of subtle yet constant abuse. But who is the real perpetrator?

Don’t fall prey to this unfair scenario. If you’re in a situation that is slowly eroding your well-being, make changes; don’t let the offenses slowly cumulate and then make a drastic reaction that turns you into the bad-guy. 

Also, don’t judge from afar, a situation in which you’re not privy to all the issues. Often, we only see the dramatic climax, not the cumulative effect of minor issues over time.  

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I’m hosting a trip to Peru, May 6-15, 2020. It will be limited to 50 travelers. Here’s the brochure. On Saturday, May 18, 2019 from 4:00-5:00, I’m hosting a free information meeting for anyone who wants more details about the trip. It will be held in the DFW metroplex and broadcast live on Facebook for those who live elsewhere. If you want to attend, email me at djmcminn@msn.com or respond to this blot post.

 

Leaders: don’t let your personal capacity limit the capacity of your organization

Trip to Peru - information meeting on May 18

I define individual capacity as the maximum amount of productivity that a person can do and/or negotiate in a given period of time. Though we all have 24 hours in a day to produce, we each differ in how much work we’re able to complete. Some people can only keep “two plates spinning simultaneously,” others can negotiate four spinning plates, and others even more.

Every person has his or her personal capacity level and that level can can be increased.

Business consultant Robert Schaffer challenges us by saying: “Join me in testing the view that most companies are functioning at only 40, 50, or 60 percent of their capacity, and that the much higher levels of performance reached in emergencies are actually closer to true, sustainable potentials than are the ‘normal’ levels of performance.” 

In Schaffer’s sentence, let’s substitute the word “individual” for “companies”: “Join me in testing the view that most individuals are functioning at only 40, 50, or 60 percent of their capacity.” 

Twenty-five years ago I worked with a man who could spin ten plates simultaneously, but at that point in my life, I could only keep three or four plates spinning. When I compared my productivity to his, I often felt inadequate and intimidated (which stemmed from my own insecurity, not anything he said or did). But through the years I worked on increasing my capacity and now I can keep ten plates spinning.

Capacity is a function that can be increased. It is a natural part of maturation (a child’s capacity increases with age). A good goal in life is to continually increase your capacity. While there is a theoretical maximum, I doubt if any of us will reach it.  

Every organization also has a capacity level. Its baseline may be determined by resources (time, money, ideas, physical resources, etc.) but ultimately it is governed by human resources, primarily leadership. 

Having said all that, the main point I want to make in this essay is: leaders, don’t let your personal capacity limit the capacity of your organization. 

(I know I’m extending this metaphor to the breaking point, but…) if you’re only able to negotiate four spinning plates, don’t project that limit onto your organization; it’s probably capable of much more. Don’t crimp your organization’s potential by funneling everything through your personal capacity level. In fact, good leaders do the opposite-they encourage their team members and organization to achieve increasing levels of production. Instead of functioning as a governor they serve as an enabler. 

The very essence of good leadership is leveraging human resources. Strategic delegation can unleash fettered resources and capacity. Challenge and empower others and your organization will grow.

Sometimes, the roles are reversed: a leader’s capacity exceeds that of the organization and its individuals. In which case the leader can carefully and gradually increase the organization’s capacity.

The growth of an organization should never be constrained by any one person.  

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I’m hosting a trip to Peru, May 6-15, 2020. It will be limited to 50 travelers. Here’s the brochure. On Saturday, May 18, 2019 from 4:00-5:00, I’m hosting a free information meeting for anyone who wants more details about the trip. It will be held in the DFW metroplex and broadcast live on Facebook for those who live elsewhere. If you want to attend, email me at djmcminn@msn.com or respond to this blot post.