Two Glimmers of Insight

17 April 2009 · 3 comments

I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences lately that I’m not able to write about for a variety of reasons. However, I had two encounters yesterday that seemed especially important to me, and I wanted to write them down before I lost them. These anecdotes will be a little vague. Sorry.

I’m in San Francisco for some professional development and media relations training. (Yes, I’m serious.) It’s been a whirlwind of activity, but I love it.

In a morning meeting, I was complaining about the entire journalistic process in the United States. I’ve seen enough of it from the inside now to know that I cannot trust a single thing I see on television or read in a magazine. (Remember our five-year-old argument about Truth vs. truth? The media takes this to a whole new level.) These stories are manufactured, just like a cardboard box. They’re not reported. The “journalists” create the story they think their audience wants, and when they contact me, I’m just an ingredient.

Bill, one of the fellows working with me, listened to my complaints, and then he said, “J.D., you can’t look at it like that. You can’t expect it to be straight reporting because it’s not. You have to think of it like sausage. What they’re producing is sausage. The media is a giant sausage factory. You don’t want to know what goes into the sausage or how it’s made. You just have to trust that what comes out at the other end tastes good.”

I loved this analogy. Based on my experience, it’s so completely apt. It’s exactly what goes on.

I’m in the midst of participating in a bit for tonight’s episode of “On the Money” on CNBC. I’ll be on their Success Stories segment. But you do not want to know the ingredients to this piece of sausage.

Later in the day, I was working with Michelle, who is giving me public speaking training. She was asking me about my story and my goals. She wanted to know how I present myself. What do I want people to remember me as? I kept coming back to my old song-and-dance: I want people to trust my advice and listen to what I have to say, but I don’t want them to think of me as a financial expert. “I’m just a regular guy,” I said.

Michelle shook her head. “That won’t work,” she said. “You can’t kiss a girl through the screen door.” She didn’t even have to explain what she meant. I understood her meaning immediately. “The truth is, you are an expert. You’re an expert on the fundamentals of personal finance. You’re a common-sense advisor.”

Great stuff. (She also gave me a good disclaimer to use after I bill myself as a spokesman for common-sense fundamentals. She told me to say: “I am not an expert in this space. You should seek a professional advisor.” In other words, I should lay claim to what I can, and then offer people further options.)

I have another entire day of training ahead of me. I have to be over at the office in 25 minutes. I’m excited for what it might hold.

1 Lauren April 17, 2009 at 09:11

Hi JD,

I’ve had vast experience with “journalism”. You are right: “journalists” (or tv producers of ‘news segments’) already have the story written. They have their “angle”, and they want to to support that. Often, if you add information they don’t expect or understand, they won’t listen. It’s a familiar look on these ‘journalists’ faces: compete incomprehensibility. For years it prompted me to think that journalists are stupid. Now I just think they are blinded – blinded by a story they’ve essentially pre-written – to get attention.

That being said, what breaks through this is an honest conversation with the journalist. Break through their prescribed time controls. Ask them their thoughts, and offer to give them a fuller view. If they accept, you have the opportunity for them to actually report/discuss the bigger thought. If they don’t, it’s easy to tell that they are just slap-dashing it.

As for being “the common-sense advisor” – we discussed this together already. You are a success story of experience (through trial and error, or trial and success). Many ‘experts’ are just theorists. They sound good, they look good, they say respectable things, but they do not always have the appropriate cautions or experience. They have theories. They perhaps haven’t struggled. They can’t truly empathize. (You know, like the rich senators and Congressmen with 100% excellent healthcare don’t understand the rest of us, nor will they fight for healthcare change).

Best wishes on the conference. KNow you are where you are for a reason: to help other. Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.

2 Kris B. April 17, 2009 at 10:46

Exciting opportunities and success! Thanks for letting us look in on the process of your development.

Hope we can see you and Kris soon.

3 Joel May 4, 2009 at 10:50

I beg to differ with Michelle on a small point. You can kiss a girl through a screen door, and it can be a very enjoyable experience, and afterwards your faces look all griddy, like you’re pixelated. Definite turn-on for Matrix geeks.

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