John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Numbers Lie

jyb_musingsHow numbers lie!

My book Musings from the Middle is currently ranked as the 865,544th best-selling book on Amazon.com.

To someone who didn’t know better, they may think, “Wow, John. That’s not very good.”

And that would be understandable…. But wrong.

Why?

Click here to purchase

Click here to purchase

Because numbers lie and the number (or ranking) 865,544th is compared to “all” books currently selling on Amazon.com.

That includes every genre fiction, non-fiction, sports, biography, crime, history, religion, comic, fix it, nature and so on and so on.

In the important and more appropriate category (or genre) for me, “Books published in July of this year in the non-fiction, human interest and humor categories that starts with the letter “M” and ends in the letter “E” and is written by a self-published author from Louisville, KY” well, let’s just say, my book would then rank in the Top Ten.

Jason Grill: Content Marketing is the New Black

In the last few years the words “content marketing” have become buzzwords in the corporate business, marketing, digital and media space. But what is it really? Content marketing as defined by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI):

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Content marketing is becoming the new black from both a quantity and quality standpoint for individuals throughout the world. Some have stumbled into this world. Businesses both large and small are realizing that in order to compete they must embrace this new era of interaction and develop true content marketing programs. Content marketing is becoming a disruptive force. In the past marketing pros have relied on production, publishing and promotional amplifications tools. Content is the fuel that makes all of those platforms run. However, a few blog posts or an email campaign won’t suffice anymore.

Relevant content coming from a business through a thought leadership perspective has proven to have such a valuable effect to attract and retain customers. It’s not hokey, it’s not a pitch and it’s not everyday sales, it truly has become almost an educational and informative way to deliver knowledge and content to build brand loyalty and awareness. A study by Roper Public Affairs shows that 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in article form rather than in an advertisement. Seventy percent say content marketing makes them feel closer to a company, while 60 percent say that company content helps them make better product decisions. “Content marketing works because it delivers relevant proof of value,” says interactive content marketing strategist Mark O’Renick. Quality content marketing will engage consumers to look at a business differently in many instances.

Many C-suite, advertising and marketing executives believe their company has great content to shoot out and share in the public arena, however they don’t feel they can do this quick enough or keep it moving through a streamlined process. Spreadsheets, emails and project management systems have all been used by marketing teams in recent times to churn out content on a routine basis. This has led to a whole new industry of technology solutions that make your typical marketing editorial calendar look like a thing of the stone age.

110901_grill_arenaA Kansas City, Missouri based startup, DivvyHQ, realized that content marketing is the present and the future of marketing. Their founders, both from the digital agency world, developed an ideation, planning and production workflow specialty tool to help businesses and online publishers embrace content marketing and collaboration, but in a manner that allows the user or users to do so in a more efficient way without all the headaches. Simply put, DivvyHQ aims to take content marketers out of spreadsheet, email, storage and organizational hell and alleviate the challenging manual and laborious process. Corporations such as Intel, Toyota, Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart, Sprint, H & R Block, Travelocity and Adobe have all worked with DivvyHQ. PR and media giants Ogilvy, Edelman and the National Geographic Channel have also used the product to streamline their content needs.

“Despite the traditional publishing industry taking a beating over the last decade, companies can learn a lot from the day-to-day planning methods, scheduling tools and production processes that help publishers hit deadlines and crank out great content every day,” says content marketing expert Brody Dorland.

Companies and enterprise level organizations who handle multiple individuals and tasks are finding out they need a way to plan, divide and conquer their content marketing and editorial needs on the cloud. They have discovered they also need ways to break down the internal silos in the workplace. Some have used the old fashioned approach and tried breaking down physical walls in their office to get their employees and content producers to talk. There is an easier way. Virtual, real-time sharing and collaboration significantly improves these situations and breaks down silo walls.

Dorland believes, “Simplifying things and leveraging the cloud to help global, decentralized content teams collaborate, share assets and increase the quantity and quality of their content output is huge right now.”

The content marketing phenomenon isn’t going away. Content collaboration and team calendaring is on the upswing. The spreadsheet free editorial calendar is the new king of the castle. Companies both large and small are yearning and will continue to yearn for high-powered specific content marketing tools to help take their business to the next level.

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Jason Grill: Content Marketing is the New Black

Julie Rath: Summer Footwear

Even naked isn’t naked enough in the ridiculous heat and humidity we’ve been  having on the east coast. In my last article, I listed hot weather survival measures for  clothing and grooming, but this time shoes are on my mind. If you’ve never  switched up your footwear when the temperature rises and your dogs start  barking, I urge you to consider it. You’ll look more seasonally appropriate, and  your feet will thank you. Read on for Rath-approved picks in 8 categories of  summer footwear.

Men's Stylist: Espadrilles

1) Espadrilles These stylishly nonchalant espadrilles  from Castañer ($150) are an excellent alternative to flip-flops  for those wanting more toe coverage.

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Men's Stylist: Summer Shoes

2) Leisure Shoes Ok, so this category is totally made-up.  But the name fits these Riviera shoes ($80), doesn’t it? Don’t wear for anything  other than leisure.

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Julie Rath: Summer Footwear

Michael Steele On Trayvon Martin: “Killed For No Reason Other Than Being Black, Young, Wearing A Hoodie”

From 92Y at the Jefferson:

446px-Michael_SteeleFormer Chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele recently sat down with 92Y Producer Jordan Chariton at The Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C. to discuss how to revive the Republican Party.

In part two of our extended interview, Steele touched on everything from the Tea Party movement to the Trayvon Martin case.

Steele doesn’t see Tea Party lawmakers as obstructionists:

“They had a charge from the people who elected them…you go to Washington and you draw a line in the sand, you put a hold on the amount of spending, and you say no to more spending without some level of contraction.”

Where Steele does acknowledges issues Republicans are having is with communication, specifically with minority groups, joking:

“I think there’s a huge gap between our brain and our mouth,” Steele said, adding, “You don’t always express what you’re thinking without thinking it through.”

Steele also shared his views on the murder of Trayvon Martin.

“A 17-year-old African American with a bottle of tea and a bag of Skittles was killed for no reason other than being black, young, wearing a hoodie.”

He also spoke about President Obama’s election, pointing out that it has not ended racism in America.

“Obama’s election was not a panacea for race relations. All these folks running around talking about, ‘Oh, we’re in a postracial America’ … BS, as the Trayvon Martin case readily proves.”

Do you agree with Steele’s take on the Trayvon Martin murder? Comment below.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: My Recipe for Peace

They say that when you give a speech you really give three speeches.

The one you planned on giving. The one you gave. And the one you wish you gave on the way home.

At last night’s My Recipe for Peace Dinner I was asked to prepare 3 minutes of remarks describing my personal recipe for peace. I did. And after starting off the speech on an unrelated note and talking around the issue for 4 or 5 minut…es, I covered about 1/20th of the speech I had planned to give. And I didn’t bother concocting a third speech on the way home that I’d wished I’d given. Because I figured I’d just post the original. And wouldn’t feel so bad about never getting around to giving it. ; )

It’s Being of Service, Stupid!

Remember the famous mantra from Bill Clinton’s successful presidential campaign in 1992, “It’s the Economy, Stupid?” Well, my recipe for peace is a re-phrasing of that formulation that is applicable in our everyday business (and personal) lives.

We are the “I” generation. We have iPods for “our” I-music, I-Phones with our personalized I-apps and our iPads where we get our I-News that tends to reinforce our comfortable echo chamber in our I-world we have proudly created for ourselves. And we want our food (and about everything else we buy) “my way.”

We live in a custom suit— not an off-the-rack —world. And can scarcely remember when we didn’t. We celebrate our individuality but often to the point of vanity and short-sighted narcissism

Yes, our I-World mentality is a proud celebration of our individual uniqueness, an indication of our real personality, and a reflection of our authenticity. And all that is a good thing. But like all good things taken to an extreme it has a destructive side as well. If we take our “I” absorption to an extreme—which is easier to do than resisting doing once we begin down this path—it can eventually lead to lives of intolerance, selfishness, disconnectedness and self-absorption. And that is bad thing for all involved. Bad personally and bad professionally.

So, how do we bring balance back from this imbalance? If we are focusing too far inwardly into serving ourselves the obvious answer is to focus more outwardly toward serving others.

How do I do that in my daily life? That was the question I was tasked to ask and answer for myself tonight. Well, quite frankly, I don’t. Not every day anyway, if I am honest. But I try and do it some days….perhaps many days. But I have to be mindful of this discipline and very deliberate or it fades quickly from memory.

Throughout every day in my job I am involved in multiple meetings on behalf of clients who I represent and advocate for. My job is, using the language of the day, to make sure clients I work with “get theirs.” After all, isn’t that what most people do each day? Make sure they “get theirs”?

jyb_musingsNothing wrong with that in and of itself. We all first and foremost need make sure we take care of our basic survival needs. But I believe there is an even better way to approach the world that is more a reflection of peace than fear. A way that allows all parties, in most cases, to get theirs too and to make the world in that particular instance just a little bit better for all involved.

Is that a Pollyanish viewpoint? No, it’s not. It is a fact I get to live and see daily.

Several years ago I was advised by a wise and caring mentor to take a different approach than I had been trained to do. Before each “meeting” I was told to pause before the meeting began, quietly bow my head and say a prayer something like this

“Lord, please help me be of service today and to be useful to You and others as we begin this meeting. Amen.”

That is a simple prayer. But has at times had profound results. It is a simple but powerful prayer.

It recalibrates me at the very time (moments before a business meeting) when I am leaning toward the brink of my most closed-off, defensive, narrow, and self-serving self and moves me into a completely different mindset that allows me to see many more possibilities, opportunities and to convey sincerity, genuine concern for all involved and credibility to be trusted by both my clients and the other side and encourage them both to work toward a common and mutually beneficial resolution.

And it works.

It doesn’t work in the “graph it on an Excel spreadsheet to prove it to me” kind of way. It does work in a way that can be conveyed as a successful mantra hanging in an office much like candidate Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign mantra, “It’s the Economy, Stupid”

Except it is “It’s Being of Service, Stupid!”

One final point. This isn’t a gimmick to help you get more of what you want. It is a prayer to help us be as useful as we can be in our daily lives. And that is the first and last goal. It often includes getting more for everyone but if service isn’t the primary motive it doesn’t seem to work so well. And this small act ….this short silent prayer….almost always leads to our own enhanced peace of mind. And it is also–and especially on this night— my offering of a small recipe for peace I would like to share at this blessed event.

Artur Davis: The New Mind of the South: A Native Southerner’s Miss

Click here to review and purchase

Click here to review and purchase

The modern South is waiting for its epic; or failing that, for a book that captures how one region can be so distinctive and still emblematic of every national psychosis at the same time. Peter Applebome’s excellent 1997 work “Dixie Rising” (facts out of date, conclusions still dead on) comes the closest in a pretty sparse field to hitting that zone, but there is no southern themed version of what George Packer just did so skillfully in excavating the Great Recession in “The Unwinding”.  Tracy Thompson’s sometimes very good but nowhere near great effort, “The New Mind of the South” doesn’t threaten “Dixie Rising’s” standing. It might have, if the author had done a little less translation and a little more interpretation.

Some of Thompson’s flaws are relatively lower case blunders: identifying William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic presidential nominee who reconfigured his party as a populist vehicle, as a third party candidate is not unforgivable, although it is the kind of gaffe that calls every other obscure detail  into some degree of doubt. Some of her faults are the price of an approach that prefers the anecdote and the cherry-picked stat to heavy duty research.  This is a book that devotes a chapter to Hispanic immigration while tossing off two sentences about Alabama’s controversial law; that reaches conclusions about the racialization of southern politics without acknowledging that at the time she went to print, the nation’s only black senator happened to be a South Carolina Republican who defeated Strom Thurmond’s son in a congressional primary.

But Thompson did not set out to write a tome or a textbook. And her intuition that the best impressionistic essays can be deep without being a fact dump is surely right. But where she falls short is that a stylishly rendered, graceful account still constantly feels one step away from the depth she was striving toward. This is well done description of a road trip laced with a little data, not so much analysis, and likely would have fared better with critics if it had been packaged that way.

Exhibit One: The sketch of teenaged Latinos in Asheboro, North Carolina is a smart, interesting read on their space between absorption into and alienation from their surroundings, and that duality does add a tricky side note to the rising Hispanic southern population. But that same half-in, half-out condition also applies equally well to, oh, inner city black teenagers in the Ivy League, or imported northern professionals filling downtown condos from Richmond to Nashville. Thompson dwells on whether that ordinary enough ambiguity in place identity will change the nature of southerness, as if it were something profound, but skims the surface of more immediately relevant questions: are Hispanics really the key to a Democratic revival in a Georgia or North Carolina or will the social conservatism of the region’s Latinos (which she pauses to address for only about a sentence) turn them into a bloc that Republicans may woo when the immigrant bashing drains out of the right’s system? Is their rightward lean on faith and family different than or tantamount to the one that black southerners possess but don’t take into the voting booth? And if those details are too tediously political, how about this big question: how is that Alabamians and Georgians who so conspicuously pride themselves on racial progress had no compunction passing some of the nation’s harshest immigration  laws at obvious cost to their reputation? Thompson’s take on whether there is rationalizing or back sliding at the source of this tension would have been worth hearing.

davis_artur-1There is more of this pattern of reporting up to but not including the point of real insight. She is laser like in capturing Atlanta’s rising tide that didn’t lift enough boats, and is appropriately critical of Atlanta’s run of political mediocrity and its lapsed civil rights generation succession. All true, but interesting for this book’s purposes only if it traces a path that surfaces in the rest of the New South. Thompson never lets us know if a Birmingham, Memphis and Little Rock tell the same story, even if just by way of an aside. Moreover, by subscribing so predictably to the lament over right wing Republicans and self serving civil rights cut-offs, she brushes aside another thorny issue: why have southern progressives had so little to offer lately beyond a bought and paid for  defense of plaintiffs lawyers and casinos? The absence of a reform culture in 21st century liberal southern politicians is the kind of thing a southern liberal like Thompson should have appreciated. But she opts for the cliché instead.

For every spot-on instinct about southern ways—give her credit for placing the southerner’s casual interrogations as to who raised you and who you married as anxiety to find a zone of connection rather than snobbery or nosiness—there seems to be a spot where her antenna goes dead. One would like to know what Thompson makes of a more consequential oddity most northerners don’t know: the fact that the South’s politics are arguably the most classless in the country—downscale whites vote roughly the same as white southern economic elites, and not just when a certain black president is on the ballot. The phenomenon of upper income voters forming the newest element of the Democratic electoral base is altogether missing down South.  Also, what does Thompson take from the perverse reality that the irrelevance of class, rather than birthing some new fangled populism, has instead produced an electorate disengaged from class oriented problems in one of the sections of American where they are festering?

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Artur Davis: The New Mind of the South: A Native Southerner’s Miss

Josh Bowen: The Scale is Misleading

Michael Steele: The ‘Dream’ is still alive

I had the pleasure of running into Donna Brazile the other day and talking about the 50th Anniversary programs and celebrations for the 1963 March on Washington.

She noted that she had been asked by Coretta Scott King to serve as the National Youth Coordinator for the 20th anniversary celebrations in 1983 and showed me a vintage poster proclaiming “We Still Have A Dream – Jobs Peace Freedom”. Our shared remembrances and that poster got me thinking about how much America has changed, and how important Dr. King’s Dream was for a nation and a young black boy coming of age in late 20th century America.

The America that convenes on the Mall in 2013 to celebrate and commemorate Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is a very different America from the one Dr. King spoke to in August, 1963.

While the vice-like grip of Jim Crow laws were slowly weakening across the country and “For Whites Only” signs no longer greeted those who sought relief at nearby water fountains on the Mall that hot August day, Dr. King surely knew that this moment would be less about the past and more about the future. His words would not only speak to those assembled, but would also press upon future generations the need to “take up the cause of freedom”.

In some respects, that iconic moment which launched an historic movement closed a particularly dark chapter in America’s history: a chapter which chronicled the burden of slavery and institutionalized discrimination; a chapter which imprinted segregated public accommodations and schools on the very soul of American life; a chapter in which the foundation of America—freedom and equality—was rocked by lynchings and fire bombings.

In that moment, Dr. King turned the page to reveal a new chapter for America—one we are still writing today—steeped in hope, yes, but desperate for opportunity. So, where are we fifty years later? How much of the Dream has become reality; and how much of our reality has faded the Dream?

Steele MMO_1368-EditWe’ve elected a black man president of the United States and yet a black boy is still “profiled” to be a threat and killed because of it. African Americans have reached the pinnacles of industry and commerce, entertainment, sports and politics and yet black unemployment sits at 13.4 percent and the poverty rate exceeds 28 percent (46 percent for a single mother with children under 18). The black family and the black church—the “social safety net” of the black community—anchored the African American experience as we marched off plantations and ultimately on Washington.

But now 67 percent of black children live with one parent (black children are seven times more likely to have a parent in prison) and 68 percent of black babies are born to unwed mothers. African Americans have overcome the terror of police dogs and water hoses but find themselves three times more likely to be stopped, questioned and arrested on the streets of metropolitan America than Whites. The passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act guaranteed political and civil opportunities for full participation at the ballot box, but many African Americans now find that access under reconsideration in the face of new voter registration and voter ID laws and recent Supreme Court decisions.

Dr. King’s speech challenged the status quo of his time and now so must we. But we must first answer for our generation the question often asked of him: ‘When will you be satisfied?’

As Dr. King would reply, “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “for whites only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

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Michael Steele: The ‘Dream’ is still alive

Jeff Smith: Do Liberals Deserve Larry Summers as Fed Chair?

The conventional wisdom in the political class is that Tea Party-inspired primary challenges of recent years have had decidedly mixed success. Sure, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee have beaten sitting senators and establishment-anointed candidates, changing the issue terrain and nature of debate in the Senate. But most Tea Party candidates imploded.

That view largely misses the point. Interest groups seeking more influence within their party should think more like class-action trial lawyers: While it would be great to beat the company, the real reason to fight is not to win a 43-cent check for every plaintiff but to change corporate behavior in a lasting way.

Seen this way, even widely mocked far-right challengers have had lasting impact. Although Senate nominees Christine O’Donnell (Delaware), Sharron Angle (Nevada), and Richard Mourdock (Indiana) lost, their primary wins over establishment candidates terrified some other senators, causing them to move right. Witness the pandering of Senate Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn since 2010 to their home-state counterparts Paul and Cruz. Even very marginal primary losers like Arizona’s J.D. Hayworth had an impact, temporarily moving John McCain to the right on key issues like immigration. (McCain, who appears unlikely to seek reelection in 2016, has since shifted back.)

Jeff SmithWhen tough votes arise, many Republican senators can’t help but consider ex-Senators Dick Lugar of Indiana and Robert Bennett of Utah — both unceremoniously booted in primaries — which usually leads to appeasement of the Tea Party. That’s the nature of politics. As congressional scholar Gary Jacobson has documented, politicians run scared, altering their behavior in anticipation of future challenges. That’s why it is helpful, but not necessary, for interest groups seeking power within a party to get a scalp.

Economic progressives are now clamoring for a Federal Reserve chair more progressive than Larry Summers. But they should’ve thought of that last year and, for instance, challenged incumbent Delaware Senator Tom Carper, who consistently votes with Republicans on banking and finance issues. They could have attempted to nationalize the race as conservative interests groups such as the Club for Growth did for Lee, Mourdock, Cruz, and others. They could have tried to capitalize on the residual energy of the Occupy movement to energize liberals angry at the Clinton-ushered takeover of the Democratic Party by Wall Street which has proven relatively durable even in the wake of the finance-induced Great Collapse.

There are many reasons Carper should have been a progressive target — from the obvious policy ones (Carper is the Senate Democrat who votes furthest to the right of his constituency) to logistical (a tiny state where grassroots activism can trump money) and media (close to the Beltway and so easily covered) advantages. And again, winning isn’t necessary: Primary challenges to incumbents can help change policy before the fact — despite ultimately losing, Netroots darling Bill Halter’s Arkansas primary in 2010 made Senator Blanche Lincoln stronger on Dodd-Frank.

And if progressives had found a credible candidate, it likely would not have been a fool’s errand — Elizabeth Warren demonstrated the national grassroots thirst for a populist Democrat last cycle, and locally, a political nobody fresh out of law school named Bryan Townsend ran a longshot primary in Delaware last year and upset the entrenched state Senate president, suggesting at least some Delaware Democrats are willing to buck party orthodoxy.

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Jeff Smith: Do Liberals Deserve Larry Summers as Fed Chair?

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: What Does a Man (or Woman) Truly Thinketh?

“As a man thinketh in his heart –so is he. ” –Proverbs

Of course, we try to fill our minds with lofty, visionary and aspirational thoughts that lead both to self improvement and a better world.

But what does a man (or woman) really and truly thinketh in the course of a day? If you really want to know look at your internet search history.  Mine over the last two days includes:

  1. Looking for the actual name of a restaurant in Louisville I had forgotten but had the word “pig” in it.
  2. Ebay and charging cables for my cell phone
  3. Looking up the definition and history of the word “Nimrod” which came to me out of the blue and I wanted to make sure if I ever used the term I would use it correctly
  4. Terry Meiners Twitter account because I heard he tweeted a funny Sigmund Freud quote yesterday about assholes.
  5. Whether it was “John” or “David” Hume after my son made a joking reference about the English philosopher and I couldn’t remember his first name. (It’s David Hume and John Locke).
  6. The number of calories in a pineapple curry dish that I like a lot from Viet Nam kitchen.
  7. The lowest BMI number for my height for “obesity.”
  8. Googled myself and my book to see if anyone had written a review on Amazon.com. They hadn’t.
  9. Pictures on Facebook of some of the students in my daughter’s sophomore class. And to see if the boys were bigger than me yet. (Only taller)
  10. jyb_musingsLooked up “How to meditate” without wasting a lot of time. And if meditation can improve circulation. (Open to debate.)
  11. Zillow to see if the estimated value of our house had gone ip enough to refinance and borrow a little more. (It handn’t)
  12. Googled myself and my book to see if there were any new reviews on Amazon.com. (There weren’t.) Thought about increasing my own review of the book from 4 starts to 5 starts but couldn’t find out how to edit my review.
  13. Dates of Kentucky’s special legislative session.
  14. Checked if the classic rock group Traffic was touring through Louisville this year. (Steve Winwood is but didn’t buy ticket and may not if Winwood is by himself.
  15. Confirmed exact definition of Nimrod since I was having trouble remembering it from earlier in the day.

And so…..as Proverbs teaches us, more or less……”As a man searcheth the internet–so is he.”

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