Posted On: 2006-01-26
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And welcome back, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Jared Degnan and you are listening to the 20-Something Marketing Forum, an informative, engaging look at marketing, and of course the lives of 20-something professionals dealing with the realities and of course the drama of the modern workplace. This is the most relevant podcast on the Internet for 20-something professionals, and to start off, I just want to say thank you guys so much for listening. I was looking at this week, looking at some of your comments on the blog, and some of the emails, and I have to say that I am completely honored to come to you every single week and share with you some of the fun little nit-picky, annoying beautify ambitious things that are going on in this startling world of ours. And I just have to say that, Wow! What a week for business this week. We've got Apple's merger with Pixar. We've got the Disney thing that's going in on that. We've got Ford cutting jobs. We've got GM cutting jobs just a week ago, and now some of the other big auto makers are going to soon follow suit. And all I can say is that it's just, things are just flying by your head one after another after another. And anyone who basically doesn't have their head in the sand at this point in time is realizing that they have, there's something going on here. I don't know what the hell it is, but it has just been an emotional roller coaster the last couple of days, and I mean, my personal situation is like, I mean, mostly what you guys are. I'm dealing with everything else, but when it comes down to it, it's like this huge cocoon of the way in which we live, just kind of makes you reflect on your entire life and makes you realize that, damn, something's going on here!
Anyway, I do have a point today. And I was kind of thinking about this. And out of everything that's going on, out of all of the movement that's in the business world out of all of the things that we do personally, is it just me or is humanity changing? It seems like it's almost changing just a little bit. I mean we're talking professionally, we're talking personally, and we're almost talking physically. I mean, the way in which we are growing up, the 20-something professional, the reason why we do shows like this is because there's a fundamental difference between what we're going through or our parents went through, or the previous generation went through. I mean, there are new pressures on us. The world is moving much, much faster. And we, as a society must keep up with that. I mean, podcasting, my god! I mean, who would have ever thought that there would be this much of an impact with this technology? I mean, this allows people from all over the globe to interact with each other on a much more personal level than was previously available. And I mean, it's, you just have to look around the corner to see what's coming next, cause no one knows what's coming next, in all reality. No one could predict that after months and months of squabbling, Disney and Pixar would merge. No one expected that. What's going to happen to those people who work within the realm of Disney and Pixar? I mean, think about it. Disney is this very, typically traditional company. This is a company that kind of embodied the best of its generation. It's Imagineering. It's story telling. It's the development of fantastic, family-oriented theme parks. It's about the stories. And it's about kind of cultivating this family atmosphere where the most important thing at Disney is that you buy in to this beautiful, beautiful culture that they have created. In fact, if any of you have ever worked for Disney, now I personally haven't, but one of the main things you go through in your orientation is a class called Story Telling 101, which just infuses you with the history of the company. Now, juxtapose that to a company like Pixar. Now Pixar is a very, very modern company. It is a no-hold-barred, ideas run the company. If you have an idea and it's going to change the world, Pixar wants it. That's what Steve Jobs wants. That's how Steve Jobs built Apple. That's how Steve Jobs built Pixar. And the question is, what's going to happen when you bring these two things together? And it often seems like we are in that tiny little microcosm of this experience. Because we, as 20-somethings are going into these office places where sometimes we have been bred in business school to believe that ideas rule, that you really want a take-no-prisoners approach. And you get into the real world and you realize that things aren't always that simple. You have politics. You have workplace politics. You have politics with your boss. You have politics with co-workers. You have conflict with co-workers. There is this enormous, enormous world of juxtapositions. And it seems like the humanity is bearing down on us every single day of our lives. And it can drive you insane, folks. Really. I mean I just thought about it for a moment. I can't remember the last time that I listened to the radio on my way to work or like in my house, in the shower, whatever. I know that's a great image for you guys. But the idea here is, when was the last time you listened to the radio? I mean, beyond those people who might be stuck in their cars and don't have an iPod. But then again if you don't have an iPod you probably wouldn't be listening to this show. So. Beyond that little strange quirk of logic, I realize I can't stand those commercials any more. I think that some of them are so insipid and that's because we're getting into this new humanity where it's so commercial and you're being bombarded from all sides, and it's fascinating. It's fascinating, it's beautiful and it's annoying at the same time.
So today, I am going to try to direct as much of this insanity that is come around me today in one direction, which most of you who either know me or who have listened to this show for a long time realize that's very difficult for me. However, I think that we can do it. So I want to discuss today the new humanity of this world. The new humanity in which we live in, both professionally, personally, and of course physically, because I think physical is a very, very important part of this. And just try to make some sort of sense out of it. Now granted we're not always going to find the answers. We're not always going to say ok, what we need to do this, and, usually I really, really harp on tactics, in terms of what we need to do to further ourselves in our work environments. But sometimes it's just nice to take a look back and try to explain some things. So I'm going to pose some questions during this episode, and I'd love for you guys to answer me, both by email and by commenting on the blog. And also on the MySpace group. Because I think these are some really, really interesting questions that we are dealing with. And the better that we explain them, the better that we are going to get at understanding the culture. Therefore we're going to get better at marketing. And that's how I'm going to tie all this stuff together. So, I encourage you guys to strap in, cause this is going to be one fucked up episode. But I guarantee you it's going to be cool. So, ladies and gentlemen, submitted for your approval, episode #24 of the 20-Something Marketing Forum aptly named, "Oh! The humanity!"
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All right. So let's talk a little bit about humanity right now. First I think that it would be good to define humanity, as strange as that might sound. Humanity, as the dictionary defines it, is a quality or state of being or in the plural sense, human attributes or qualities. Now how does that kind of relate to what we're talking about here? Well, at very, very basic. Humanity's changed throughout the decades. What is sensible and what is attributed to a human value now is not something that was found to be human value maybe in the 18th century, or the 17th century, during the Renaissance period, or into the Crusades it was noble to go out and kill people for their beliefs. And I'm not going to dive into that. But it's not so much accepted right now. But the point with humanity is that it hits at the root of our very identity as a people. And when you're talking about really examining humanity in the terms of marketing and in terms of what drives people, we really have to decide for ourselves, do we really know who we are? Or is our identity thrust upon us? And what I mean is that you take these outside forces and you look at them in the context of how they affect who we are and how they affect, you know, where we go in life. So from that, I'd like to just kind of like address a couple of quick things. I mean, well, ok.
So let's first start out with questioning professional humanity. And the way that I'm going to explain this is that a couple days ago I came into work and there was a conflict between two of my coworkers. One wanted to drive a project where they kind of cracked a few eggs, bruised a few egos, and they were doing that for the sake of results. And believe it or not folks, I'm not trying to pseudonym this. This was not me for once. And the other coworker of course wanted to do it the other way. They wanted to be the person who was wary of other people's feelings, they wanted to sacrifice the potential greater gain of the project because they wanted to not offend certain people. So the question that we have here is that I made a realization that we're no longer working to live. Many, many more of us are living to work. And it's a great kind of framing point would be, the first question that someone asks you when you start dating in DC, which is, what do you do? So the question that I have for professional humanity is, where does the work life line blur? And that might seem like a simple question. But it's very complex when it comes down to the way that we work and the way that we have to place ourselves in the context of the greater meaning of humanity within, kind of understanding marketing. So, as far as I'm pretty much concerned, the blurring of the work life line comes in because of two main forces. The first of all, we're working longer hours. The LA Times had a great article that cited that in 2005 Americans were working 40% plus, sorry, 40% of us, upwards of 40% were working 50 hours a week. That's pretty intense, guys. And the fact of the matter is that we're going from just probably the same amount of working time in a given week, to having less vacation time. So for instance, I think in the 1970s we got maybe like 12 weeks of vacation a year, and now it's more like 4. That's pretty intense guys. I mean, some of us even have less. Nudge, nudge, hint, hint, wink, wink for those of my coworkers who are listening.
Also, we seem to be wasting more time at work. Funny enough. Salary.com and AOL did a survey that kind of surveyed different groups of people, and when you look at the main demographic of this show, and I think, I'm going to take a stab at this, people who were born between 1980 and 1985, or potentially even 1975 to 1985, on average we waste about 1.95 hours a day, which is 61% more than people who are maybe 10 years older than us. And that's just, that's kind of insane. What are we doing with that time? I mean, are we socializing? We're reading blogs, we're listening to podcasts. I mean, what does it mean? What does this translation where we're kind of spending more time at work, but we're not spending more time at work. I think what this eventually means in terms of understanding and questioning humanity as it relates to ourselves, is that we have conflicting priorities. We have our work life and then we have our real life. We are balancing results for a project with results for a particular element of our job with personal relationships. We either have to be the cut-throat guy or the nice guy. It's not mutually exclusive. And the thing is that the decisions here are getting tougher, because I don't care what anybody says, it's no longer just business. Increasingly it's personal. And I mean, it's, I mean it's absolutely driving me mad. There's often there's a huge disconnect in how much work that you do and sometimes how much your coworkers do. And this is the perfect example of life is not fair. In a couple of episodes ago or so, I talked kind of in depth about my job that I held previous to the current one that I'm in. And it was in a traditional big five environment where there were a lot of people there. You socialized a lot. But the fact of the matter was that I learned then and there that there is no higher rule than life is not going to be fair. I worked two to three times harder, or at least I like to think I did, harder than a lot of these people, and the question being, do you work harder and do you eventually shoot yourself in the foot in this respect? I mean, sometimes you just have to ask yourself, do you want to compromise your work just for the sake of your personal relationships at work? I mean, it's not always the case, and maybe you're not in such a dire situation. But many, many people are. And the implication on marketing is that our value judgments are changing within this. The question of what we're going to buy, what we're going to purchase, what drives that buying decision? Do we make, do we want to make the choice who's primary driver is that's going to make us more popular? Or are we going to make a choice that's going to effectively get us to better results? And think of this as the smart kid syndrome. And everybody knows about this. In grade school you were either the smart kid who raised you, would sit in the front of the class and raise your hand every single time, or you're the guy who resented the smart kid. And the funny thing is, the same deal goes with a lot of office environments. You can do the best that you can do, and you can show up many of your comparable coworkers, but then again you're just making them look bad. And with offices becoming increasingly social and social environments becoming more and more important in who gets promoted and who does not, can you afford to be the smart kid in the class? I mean, it's a very interesting question. And I talked a lot about peer pressure in one episode. And there's a lot of peer pressure to be the same. To do the work that everyone else does and no more. And I mean it sounds kind of strange, and maybe we don't have to deal, decide between one or another. But you can not deny the fact that there's a fundamental change that slowly creeping into all of our professionals lives. And it's been happening from the post-World War II era up until now. That line is blurring. Our humanity is now becoming who we are. We're becoming the job. And there's no way in changing that. I mean, the work life balance is changing and confronting this humanity is kind of the first step in my opinion, to sidestepping some serious issues. When you're at work, when you're trying to get our point across, when you're trying to effectively create change. When you're trying to maintain buy in within your office. You have to work with those little personal relationships. And that has to do with your humanity.
And on the other hand, what about our personal lives? And I think the greatest example of this is the prevalence of the urban tribe concept. You know, where you have, you don't just have one or two best friends. You have a bunch of friends and the main thing that this is going to do to effect humanity is that you're no longer relying on your own value judgments, you've got a shit load of group think in there. And what this is, it's the shrinking interpersonal relationships because you start to defer to the politics of the group. And to this, it's almost a question of supply and demand when it comes down to humanity. If we're out just to serve our own primary interests, or the interests of the group, and to that extent, if you make a decision that's contrary to the group's interest, it's just as easy for them to leave you and find someone else. And I preface this with the fact that I said an Urban tribe. Because this particular situation is very, very prevalent within the urban environments, and not so much within the suburban environments. It's kind of like the mean girls mentality, to lack of a better word. And the funny thing is, is that friendship used to be defined differently. I mean, as a matter of fact. I mean, you could still see the differences between then and now.
One of my very best friends, Natasha, who I speak of very frequently and who's kind of the technical producer of this show, she's coming out from, I guess what's basically a suburban mentality. She was out in Los Angeles for a while, but that really doesn't matter because she became jaded with it as so many people do. But the idea here is that, I mean, she came to DC and she sees some of the changes that have happened in some of our friends, and the question is almost like, what's going on here? She mentioned to me that friendship once meant that you had an almost contractual obligation to be of support to your friends. Now, it's almost like if your friend doesn't want to deal with you and doesn't want to deal with the responsibility, they can just go and hang with someone else. And I mean the perfect example of this is the gay microcosm. And for those of you who are gay, who are lesbian, you, I think you'll understand what I'm saying here. Gay people have always been the harbingers of social trends. And the perfect example I give of this is what I call a fagol, or a coven, as certain members of my girlfriends call them. They're basically a bitchy group of gay guys who move around in a pack, almost like a bunch of really fruity wolves. Like I was at the gym one time, and of course a fagol comes in, and they, not only do they like all hover around each other, but they're all doing the exact same things, so like if one of them does delts, they all have to do delts. If one goes on the treadmill, they all have to go on the treadmill. And to me, like this gay microcosm is the ultimate in how NOT to be a friend. Ok, and I mean this translates directly into dating trends. And I don't want to dive too deep into this. But it is such a fine line when you date. Cause I have dated most of the gay jerks in Washington DC. I have to tell you. And it's always interesting to look at how the friendship devolutes from something that's held on high to what's now kind of becoming a little bit more transactional. And I mean, it's not like, it's not necessarily a bad thing, though, 100%. But it is something that we need to understand. So the question for personal humanity is, is it getting harder to be yourself in a society that promotes trends and this group think mentality so heavily?
And this an exact example of pop culture. It's addictive. I mean, you take a look at what's going on right now with the battles, with body image and ageism, and fashion. The whole mentality that you have to dress like this or else you're not going to be liked. I mean, queer eye for the straight guy has completely been a great example of this. I mean the age of ourselves seems to be pressed upon us and glorified through the media. And I'm going to take an aside on this. There is a great video podcast called "Willing Warrior" and I really, really like Willing Warrior. I mean, it's a great podcast. I really do admire him. He had some fantastic coverage of the Chilean elections, but my gosh, he had an episode, I think it was number 12, where he had someone send in, or somebody rather had sent him in a video where it was an older guy, and he was not mocking, but he was basically reading off of a script of what these younger guys had done. I mean, they, he has these guys like basically doing video blogs and talking about, oh I'm 19 and your podcast has helped me out so much, I don't know what I would do without it. And of course they're usually with their shirts off. And it brought up a really good question of ageism and body image. Now, to rebut this, he actually placed the question on his blog, and then the very next episode he brought it back and he basically did his little commentary on it, but where I start to lose a little bit of respect for this guy is the fact that his entire videocast was him talking about the subject with the camera on him as he was half naked shaving his head in the bathroom. And brad, the Willing Warrior is not a bad looking buy. He's a very good looking guy with a very nice body. I don't mind saying that on the air right now. But it seems to me a little bit contradictory, and you lose, remember what we said last week about getting the information from the right source? He kind of downgraded his own source. When you're talking about body image, I don't know if he was trying to be ironic or not, but my gosh, there's better way of doing this.
So, the idea is that the qualities that make us human, those in which we seek to see ourselves, are being very heavily presented in the media. But then the media itself says it reflects on a perceive interest from society. So what is humanity then? Art, or is it life? Ok. And finally and lastly, gosh, I'm like, I'm trying to record this right now while people are IM-ing me all over the place, and I know it's extremely unprofessional for me to be doing this while I'm talking through this, but, the very last thing that I want to dwell on here is the question of physical humanity. And that's what, it's about physical space. The places in which we live. The environment. The culture. Our own bodies. And it seems like this part of our humanity is always under attach from external forces or from internal forces. Take the example of global warming on the environment. The problem is, seems like the ones doing the attacking are doing so because they believe themselves to be under attack. And a great example of this is the current culture wars right now, what's going on with the religious right. So, the question for physical humanity is, why are we constantly battling our situations physically? And it's simpler to explain than you might think. And that's because it's just being human. Now, the question is, is it part of being human to attack each other or to destroy things? At least I hope not. But, it's just like the battles amongst cultures, for example, drives us, it drives us to justify who we are. Like the smart kid example. It drives us to reassert our own identity such as the gay microcosm. And it drives us to accomplish our goals without excess guilt, which is I guess the greatest example is global warming and the kind of the corporate reaction to environmental impact laws. The impact on our current time, where we are right now, is that we spend so much battling our own physical humanity. I mean, some industries have been created and thrive off of this. As I mentioned, cosmetics, beauty, self-help. And in the end, it's just that. We are battling ourselves. We're always facing threats to our own physical humanity. The places in which we live, the things we believe in, the way in which we live. We're always looking for an escape in this. And that's a basic element to this. Our needs are driven by humanity, and of course, our needs in turn drive marketing. So you connect this back to all three of those question in terms of, I mean, all three of the questions, being like the question of professional humanity and where the work life line blurs. I mean, also, the personal humanity question, is it getting harder to be yourself in a society that promotes trends and group think so heavily? And then lastly, I mean with the physical humanity, why are we always battling ourselves and our physical place in life?
And the reason why I dwell so much on this and the reason why I did this is because we always have to take time to question humanity, professionally, personally and physically. Because it truly means that you're owning it if you understand the forces that are underlying who we are and what makes up identity. And let me tell you folks, the more that you own it, the more you can interpret it and use it to crack the code of what drives a human being and what drives marketing. Now, funny enough, it also happens to be a great tactic that I use just as a calming experience. It gives us fresh perspective. There are a lot of things that go on in life. There are always going to be projects that get you frustrated. People who tick you off, and situations that you rather not be in. And it gives you perspective when you examine it from a humanitarian point of view, that we are all human and that we all seek the same things. And when you try to understand the other person's point of view, if you try to understand those three questions, it gives you the perspective and it gives you a calming element, you know what, it's ok to be different. And it's ok to respect other people's differences. So with those three things in mind I leave you guys with the idea that you have to take time out to ponder these deep questions, no matter how much it is, because it always, always, always, is going to relate back to marketing.
Welcome back ladies and gentlemen. Today for the game plan, the moral story if you will of the show, I want to talk about the moments of sheer humanity in business. And it's one of those sobering moments right now for me. Just because every so often you come upon this moment of clarity, when you're in the business world. This week Ford Motor Company announced that it would be laying off 25 to 30,000 people in the next five to ten years. Ladies and gentlemen, submitted for your approval, there are moments in business, there are moments in life when you can not help but acknowledge the sheer and utter humanity of the way in which we work. One of the plants being closed is the one in Hapeville, Georgia, which is approximately 35 minutes outside downtown Atlanta, adjacent to a little town called College Park, Georgia, where I went to school. I went to former military prep school down there called Woodward Academy. I used to go and tutor at Hapeville Elementary every other week with some of my key club friends. And these are some of the most adorable, beautiful children that you will ever see in your entire life. Folks, a tenth of the property taxes from Hapeville County came from the Ford plant. It is those moments of clarity, those moments of pure and utter humanity that reminds us that we can never, never escape the humanity of business. We must always remember that those 25 to 30,000 people, many of those are the parents of the kids that I used to tutor. Those are folks who aren't going to be able to pay the bills, who are wondering what they're going to do right now. We work and strive at the highest echelons of an organization. We try our best to hold ourselves to the highest ideals. When the Ford Motor Company decides that needs a strategic change of the magnitude in which it has just announced, we have to remind ourselves the things in which we do, the things in which we practice, the business tactics that we choose to pursue, everything has consequences. Those are 25 to 30,000 people that are looking for new jobs right now. And though I understand the rationale of Ford Motor Company adjusting to the new way of life, the new reality of business, every single moment, whether you are an entry level marketer, if you are a VP of marketing, if you are a chief marketing officer, you always have to remember that your actions have consequences. And we, as a generation can never divorce ourselves from the fact that there is humanity in business. There is humanity in every step of our lives. The people you date, the friends you make. In this absolutely insane world that we live in sometimes, it can be overlooked that there is sheer humanity in particularly urban environments where there is an abundance of people you can get to know. And throwing away people is very, very easy. It's sometimes convenient to overlook the fact that these people have feelings. These people have lives. Just like these people in Hapeville, Georgia have lives. They have kids. They have kids that go to Hapeville Elementary. Their parents aren't going to have jobs any more folks. And it is a sobering reminder of the way in which we work, the way in which we live. Folks, for the game plan today, all I have to say is go out there and remind yourself about the humanity of business. Go out there and remind yourself in the world in which we live in that there are feelings, there are relationships. If you take one thing away from this show, please take with you the fact that you can not divorce humanity from business. You can not divorce humanity from art. You can not humanity from marketing. We all must live with each other. Relationships are what make the world go around, folks. Money might dictate actions. But relationships are what are going to make you survive and succeed in the long run. Make no mistake about it.
So I welcome your questions, comments, and always emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and encourage you to comment liberally on the blog at www.20somethingmarketing.com. Have a great week. Stay safe, and everyone, I'll catch you on the flip side.