No comment


Cynic: a person who believes that people are motivated purely by self-interest rather than acting for honorable or unselfish reasons.
Oxford Dictionary

It’s critical to recognize that the scandal engulfing Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is a result of cynicism—Murdoch’s own dark and corrosive suspicion of everyone’s motives.  This bleak view of human nature has long pervaded all Murdoch’s editorial products, from the News of The World to Fox News. Cynics have little faith in government, their fellow human beings, or the world in general.  Worst of all for journalists, they have little faith in truth.  I learned this first hand when I dealt with Murdoch’s New York Post reporters back in 1993 and 1994. I was Director of Corporate communications for QVC Chairman and CEO Barry Diller.  It was during Diller’s attempts to takeover Paramount Communications and then CBS that the Post reporters repeatedly floated bogus stories, even after I had cautioned them that they were incorrect.  Being wrong was not as important as being first and entertaining.  One clear goal of these Murdoch acolytes was simply to spark Wall Street speculation in potential takeover targets.

Being cynical makes one extremely skeptical of good intentions.  Cynics worship at the altar of power and money because of its verifiable influence.  Winning is what matters, not rules or the law.  As New Yorker columnist Ken Auletta wrote in a 1995 profile of Rupert Murdoch, “Murdoch is a pirate; he will cunningly circumvent rules, and sometimes principles, to get his way.”  Murdoch will even abandon his conservative principles when necessary. Witness his support for a Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair.  And if winning is the almighty goal, then it’s no surprise that bribery and phone hacking were employed to scoop the competition.

Because he himself is driven by the earthbound goals of money, power and fame, Murdoch is convinced that virtually everyone is driven by the same base goals.  As his lieutenant and Chairman of Fox News Roger Ailes put it to me when he briefly ran CNBC in 1993, “So, what motivates you, money, power or fame?”  When I responded that I wanted to produce better business news on TV, he retorted, “No, really!  What motivates you–money, power or fame?”

The Murdoch style of reporting as we’ve seen over the decades in a variety of venues and countries is remarkably consistent—appeal to the visceral and hold nothing dear. That’s why Fox News highlights the most combative and extreme elements in U.S. politics.  And that’s why his British tabloids attack and exploit anyone in the public eye, from Queen Elizabeth II to 13-year old murder victim Milly Dowler, whose cell phone was hacked by Murdoch’s News of The World newspaper. If anyone challenges a Murdoch media practice they are treated with sophomoric thuggery.  Ask Clare Short, a Labour Member of Parliament who dared to try and ban Murdoch’s page 3 topless photographs of young women.  The Sun relentlessly attacked Short, calling her “fat and jealous.”

The deeply cynical don’t believe in any higher authorities, not even church or country.  Note Murdoch’s acceptance of a Papal knighthood, not long before divorcing his Catholic second wife, and the trading of his Australian citizenship for American, in order to own U.S. media properties.  A cynic’s lack of belief in moral authority makes law breaking a technical hurdle rather than a personal failure.  And it makes the Murdochs’ appearance before a British Parliamentary committee seem like a contrived deception rather than decent contrition.

My focus this week is on the fifteenth trait of The Good Among the Great, that is—being appreciative. The good souls among the great achievers in our world “have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.”  So wrote Abraham Maslow, the late, great 20th Century psychologist who studied the healthiest psyches.  Focus in particular on Maslow’s words, “basic goods of life.” The best individuals that I’ve met and profiled delight in the simple pleasures that we can all share, such as beauty in nature, family, music, simple kindnesses, peace and quiet. These fundamentals are not what delight the Rupert Murdochs of the world. They appreciate only money, power and fame.  And when they are in positions of influence such as his, it is to all of our detriments.

Cheers From Sonoma,
Donald Van de Mark

Connect with me on:

Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Join the Forum





No comment


Life Magazine recently featured Diana, Princess of Wales on the cover, in a morbid tribute to her 50th birthday—of course, if she had only lived. What struck me, besides the inappropriate attempt to make money from a lost icon, was the profound sadness of Diana in the picture; see below.

 

Continue Reading…





Comment


Everyone is always wondering what makes some people simply happier than others.  I’ve learned over the years that there are a series of traits—yes, 19 specific traits—that help make one joyous as well as successful.  And  little by little psychologists, behavioral economists, social psychologists and even neuro-biologists are proving that to be true.

It’s even true on a national basis.  Go to this great piece by psychologist Robert A. Lavine in the Atlantic Monthly to see the reasons for the Danes’ elevated levels of happiness as a people. Continue Reading…





No comment


Think how cool the Navy Seals had to be to chopper into Pakistan to take out Osama bin Laden. The good among the great I’ve encountered are also cool, calm and collected. They have highly objective, even detached personalities. When you first meet them, they can come across as a little bit cool or aloof. But they are also deeply connected to the rest of humanity, especially those they love. It’s simply a paradox.

Continue Reading…





No comment


What a week! The future king of England marries a poised and beautiful commoner, President Obama slaps the “birther” movement upside the head with his long form birth certificate, and U.S. forces fight their way into Osama Bin Laden’s fortified Pakistani hideout and assassinate the terrorist leader.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c38lPvrPuT4[/youtube]

For our purposes this week, the love story that played out in Westminster Abbey is most instructive. For the most part, we 21st century earthlings are a jaded bunch. Despite our love of mythical adventures such as Harry Potter, we don’t believe much in Truth or chivalry. And we oppose inherited privilege. And yet, the marriage of His Royal Highness William Arthur Philip Louis to Kate Middleton made us hope, if not believe for a moment, that those of noble character not only exist, but sit on the highest seats in the land.

Continue Reading…





Comment


Hollywood has produced a crop of hit movies about mind control.  Bob Mondello’s excellent April 15th piece on NPR’s All Things Considered, Movies That Mess with Your Mind, is a great review of four recent hits about struggling to control one’s mind and life:  Inception, The Adjustment Bureau, Limitless and Source Code.

The gist of each plot is that contemporary men and women are losing control of their very selves; and further, that there are insidious and pervasive others who control us. In our highly connected, media-soaked lives, it’s easy to think that this is a new phenomenon. It’s not.

The late great psychologist, Abraham Maslow, wrote that the vast majority of people “do not make up their own minds… They are pawns to be moved by others rather than self-moving, self-determining individuals. Therefore, they are apt to feel helpless, weak, and totally determined. They are prey for predators, flabby whiners rather than self-determining, responsible persons.”

Ouch! It’s bad enough that we’re “pawns to be moved by others,” but Maslow has to throw in that we’re “flabby whiners” too. (No wonder the hottest consumer product these days is the new girdle, Spanx.) Setting aside America’s weight problem, how is it that most of us are pawns, to be moved about by others?
Continue Reading…





Comment


When I covered the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in 1994 for CNN, I was given just two minutes to interview the Chairman and Vice Chairman, Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger. I used one of my precious questions to ask Munger if his decision “to violate his own rule to not sit on outside boards and sit on the board of directors of Costco [Wholesale Corporation] was an implicit endorsement of the stock?” He glared down at me through his extra thick glasses. (The room was so small that I had to crouch on the floor to stay out of the camera shot.)

Charlie was peeved not only because I was pointing out an inconsistency between his words and actions, but also because I was asking him to violate his and Warren’s rule against making stock predictions. After about five agonizing seconds, Charlie finally, honestly, begrudgingly, spat out “Yes.” Warren, who had turned to stare at Charlie’s discomfort, swung his head back to me and exclaimed with a big smile, “That’s more than I ever get out of him!”

Charlie’s innate honesty kept him from ducking a question that most powerful people would fudge or simply decline to answer. But fudging and ducking is not what Charlie and Warren do, especially Charlie. They’re fully integrated human beings so, as former U.S. senator Bill Bradley recommends, the externals of their lives truly reflect the internals. They do and say what’s truly on their minds. And because they’re fundamentally honest and expressive, what you see and hear is who they truly are.

Continue Reading…





Comment


“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
E.E. Cummings

The first chapter in my new book The Good Among the Great discusses how to become autonomous. Autonomy means looking within, accepting and acting on your deepest, truest desires, and forging a life that reflects you—and then relaxing about it.

The first step is to believe deep down in your guts that it’s not selfish to follow your wants. Becoming “who you really are” is about freedom for yourself and usefulness to others. These are lofty goals, not self-serving ones. You owe it to yourself and to the world to be yourself. The trick, of course, is how.
Continue Reading…





Comment


This is the first of a series of comments on David Brooks’ book.

David Brooks nails it with his new book,The Social Animal.  After looking at all the great research going on these days into human behavior, one of his core conclusions is that the emotional connections we make throughout life determine who we are, and who we can become.

Brooks cites several research studies about the importance of student-teacher connection when it comes to student achievement. One comment from a great interview on San Francisco’s KQED radio show, “Forum” with Michael Krasny: “I came across one researcher who said that if you want to know who is going to drop out of school, go into… when you go into a school and ask the kid, ‘Who’s your favorite teacher?,’ and if they give you an answer to that question, that kid will not drop out.  If they look at you as if that question is absurd then those kids are at risk.”

That human connection is even more important than grades and SAT scores.  It’s about self-determination, which is so critical to happiness and productivity.

Continue Reading…





Comment


In an industry that is full of drama queens and one shot wonders, people have responded to Shelly Lazarus. She’s got the accolades and longevity to prove it. Now, the Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, she has been a leader at the storied advertising agency for decades; starting as an account executive when most women were still relegated to the secretarial pool, and advancing through the ranks in a series of promotions that landed her the top spot: Chief Executive Officer.

Keep reading to view a video of Shelly talking about her passion for her work.
Continue Reading…