Category Archives: Quotes

The Reputation Economy and the Cult of Likability

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The reputation economy depends on everyone maintaining a reverentially conservative, imminently practical attitude: Keep your mouth shut and your skirt long, be modest and don’t have an opinion. The reputation economy is yet another example of the blanding of culture, and yet the enforcing of groupthink has only increased anxiety and paranoia, because the people who embrace the reputation economy are, of course, the most scared. What happens if they lose what has become their most valuable asset? The embrace of the reputation economy is an ominous reminder of how economically desperate people are and that the only tools they have to raise themselves up the economic ladder are their sparklingly upbeat reputations — which only adds to their ceaseless worry over their need to be liked.

Empowerment doesn’t come from liking this or that thing, but from being true to our messy contradictory selves […] What is being erased in the reputation economy are the contradictions inherent in all of us. Those of us who reveal flaws and inconsistencies become terrifying to others, the ones to avoid. An “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”-like world of conformity and censorship emerges, erasing the opinionated and the contrarian, corralling people into an ideal. Forget the negative or the difficult. Who wants solely that? But what if the negative and the difficult were attached to the genuinely interesting, the compelling, the unusual? That’s the real crime being perpetrated by the reputation culture: stamping out passion; stamping out the individual.

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Proactivity and Grit

It’s hard to hire the right people. One of the mistakes many leaders make is to hire on job titles. It’s easy to look at a résumé and see great titles and great company names and think, “Oh, this is the person for me. This one will be great!” But if you’re not looking at that résumé for signs of proactive behaviors, chances are good you will get an employee who has few skills in that area.

So, how do you find signs of proactive behavior on a résumé? I like to look at a résumé from the bottom—starting with the very first job. What did this person do to get started? Is it a “dirty” job? One that required hard work and perseverance? It’s one thing to start out your career as an intern in an investment bank. It’s another to mow golf course lawns. Or start your own in-home ironing service. Or work on commission for a telemarketer. Look for evidence on the résumé that this individual knows how to knuckle down and make a tough situation profitable.

Another place to look for proactive behavior is in the references. Don’t treat reference checks as an afterthought. And don’t assume you won’t get the “straight story” from a reference. If you ask the right questions, you learn what you need. One of my favorite questions to ask is this: “When a great person leaves a company, it leaves a hole to fill. What hole will this person leave in your company?” A bland or hesitant answer may indicate to you that this individual is not dynamic and is not making an impact now. That’s an indication the individual lacks experience being proactive.

from Jennifer Prosek, “Creating the Owner’s Mindset

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“That’s Not the Way We Learn”: Obama on “The Coddling of the American Mind”

I posted recently about the unfortunate cultural and educational phenomenon of “vindictive protectiveness” – a kind of political correctness increasingly enforced by people too sensitive to hear ideas that they disagree with – and now the President himself has weighed in on the issue:

It’s not just sometimes folks who are mad that colleges are too liberal that have a problem. Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal, and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues, who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side, and that’s a problem too. I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I gotta tell you, I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. I think you should be able to — anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with ‘em. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, “You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.” That’s not the way we learn either.

“Because there was this space where you could interact with people who didn’t agree with you and had different backgrounds from you … I started testing my own assumptions, and sometimes I changed my mind,” he said. “Sometimes I realized, maybe I’ve been too narrow-minded; maybe I didn’t take this into account; maybe I should see this person’s perspective. That’s what college, in part, is all about.”

Interesting.

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Teaching and Expertise

Well, again to return to teaching: Experience is very important. It comes only with time. I have time behind me so I venture to teach and say to students, “I don’t really know a hell of a lot more than you do except I’ve been around longer and I do have experience and if I can articulate it some of it will rub off and do you some good.

-Walker Evans

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Advice

“I heartily recommend starting in the academic world at the top level,” [Rogers] once wrote. “I have often been grateful that I have never had to live through the frequently degrading competitive process of step by step promotion in university faculties, where individuals so frequently learn only one lesson – not to stick their necks out.”

-Carl Rogers (as quoted in Howard Kirschenbaum, On Becoming Carl Rogers

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Narratives

Brene Brown

via Scott Barry Kaufmann.

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Growth Mindset, Van Gough Edition

He turned himself into an artist by acting like an artist and going through the motions by turning out mostly bad innumerable rough sketches, day and night.

In Van Gogh’s own words “Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don’t know how paralyzing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, “You can’t do a thing.” The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerizes some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of ‘you can’t’ once and for all by getting to work and painting.”

It was very difficult at times, but he believed nobody can do as he wishes in the beginning when you start but everything will be all right in the end. Each day he made every effort to improve because he knew making beautiful paintings meant painstaking work, disappointment and perseverance. In the end, Van Gogh produced 2000 works of art between 1880 and 1890 (1100 paintings and 900 sketches). That’s 4 works of art a week for a decade, and he didn’t start making art until his mid twenties.

More here. And here.

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On Carl Rogers

A colleague recently asked me who my favorite learning theorist is.

“Rogers,” I told him. “Carl Rogers.”

Carl Rogers

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Friday Quote

“Are you happier?” I ask him. “Were you ever clinically depressed?”

He nods. “I think I was quite clinically depressed. I feel so much happier now.”

“Is it a natural change? Something that comes with age?”

“With age,” he says, “you can put things in perspective and realize how absurd people are. When you’re younger, you feel that if a person is a lawyer or an accountant or a high court judge, they must actually know something.”

Morrissey, 2004 interview, Beverly Hills, CA

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Friday Quote

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