"The tiny, spontaneous, human act has enormous power." Tom Peters
You overestimate me
You overestimate me. You think I have something profound to say. More fool you.
I’m like you. Just a guy trying to cope. With a world where American Might doesn’t count for everything. Where business goes into the tank -- and "up" is not a God-given right, as we thought just a while back.
Actually, I am happier than I’ve been in years. HOW ABOUT YOU?
That is, I’m no longer living in make-believe land. Message: SHIT HAPPENS. Even if you are an American. It has always bugged me that we could read daily stories about hundreds of thousands wiped out by starvation here or there … and react with calm or not at all … and then got all uptight when a single kid got stuck in a culvert in Texas (or wherever). It’s not that I don’t feel for the family of the imperiled kid, it’s just that I worry that we don’t worry much about the thousands suffering in wherever.
Now, post 0911, we are part of the VERY REAL WORLD. Shit Happens. TO US.
We ought to be more thoughtful to the jerk in line in front of us, boarding the plane. Hey, he’s human. Flawed. Like you and me. Perhaps it’s his and our last moment before a terrorist brings us both down. I’ve long been enamored with the exercises that ask us, "If you knew you had but 2 months to live, would you be doing what you’re doing at this moment?" WHAT A "HOLY SHIT" QUESTION. Right? It spooks me -- because the answer is invariably "No."
So a new year dawns. Not Y2K. But a year in which we are asked to wonder what we’re about. I hope you’ll take a moment -- or an hour or two -- to reflect on what really matters as the calendar turns. I’m not one of those mindlessly asking you to "spend more time with your family." Maybe you should be spending less time with you r family -- and more time on a project that will change the world. No, my only goal is to ask you to think a little bit more than normal about "stuff that matters."
My friend Larry Holman passed away last week. Fact is, he took his own life. His life was Bigger than the Sun and the Moon combined. Larry, the cofounder of the firm that produces my 1-day seminars, WYNCOM, asked me for a recommendation letter a year ago, after heâ€™d had a falling out with WYNCOM and decided to leave his "baby." Hereâ€™s what I wrote, and Iâ€™ve never written anything like it:
To Whom It May Concern:
It is my great pleasure to talk to you about my friend & business partner, Larry Holman. Larry stormed into my life 15 years ago. We have been through good times and tough times together. But there are few -- if any -- other people in my life for whom Iâ€™d so clearly go to the mat.
In short, Larry has given me fame & fortune & friendship, as a clear-cut result of his vision, passion, energy, and leadership-organizational skills.
Larry is neither "classic entrepreneur" nor "classic businessperson." He's not "classic" anything! He is a genuine original. He is a dreamer. He re-imagines the world ... and then works 25-hour days to pull off his "absurd" dreams. He screws up big time at times. He succeeds more often than not. But he never fails at Vision + Imagination + Energy + Commitment + Raw Leadership-Enthusiasm.
I could go on ... and on. I will not. I am, simply, a shameless "Larry Holman fan." The world needs more Larrys! Easy to deal with? Not always! Because he becomes captivated-obsessed with his dreams. There is no quality I admire more in a human.
5 August 2000
That was the query from a reporter writing his year-end piece. It struck me as an obvious -- but no less brilliant for being so -- question. Sooo …
WHAT REALLY CHANGED ON SEPTEMBER 11? "Everything" -- that was the clear & certain answer on September 12. And so it felt. All of 2.5 months later, many/most of the VBGs -- Very Bad Guys -- are on the run, and we’ve gotten used to getting to airports 2 hours early, and the fact that we now don’t get any airline food. Hey, we always said we hated it -- and they cut it out for reasons only vaguely related to 11 September. (It’s one of many examples of "September 11 decisions" … that were really driven by the demise of the longest boom in our history, not 11 September.)
So has anything changed? To try to answer that, I decided after much thought that I must shed my analyst’s chapeau … and speak to the only thing I’m even a little sure about: me.
Everything has changed. Nothing has changed.
I had lunch with an exec in October. He said at one point, "Seinfeld was perfect for the ’90s. The message: nothing matters." I THINK THAT’S PRETTY PROFOUND. Change #1 wrought by 11 September was subtle. Look, Reagan’s specific economic policies in the ’80s are debatable as hell. So, too, Ms. Thatcher’s. But it’s not debatable -- and I’m a Democrat -- that Reagan and Thatcher uplifted our collective and numerous and "malaise"-sodden spirits -- and got us back to believing in our entrepreneurial, optimistic, feisty selves. So 11 September got us "in focus" -- and I’d guess that will last for a while. We were working hard … but were we serious about what we were aiming to do? Will we, say, be a little less overwrought as of 12 September about not getting little Jenny into the "premier" Manhattan pre-pre-pre-school, at age 2.5? Perhaps.
I also think -- in my professional world -- that something substantive might have changed. On the one hand, we have recession -- and a lot of idiot CEOs are pulling in their horns and cutting their IS/IT investments. Dumb! On the other hand, the world’s greatest superpower -- us! -- was brought to its knees by a virtual/networked/e-empowered/self-organizing "pinprick" outfit. Admiral Bill Owens, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says our current military structure was in effect designed by Napoleon. In short, 30+ years into the "IS Revolution," the Navy can’t talk to the Army who can’t talk to the INS who can’t talk to the FBI who can’t talk to the NSA who can’t talk to the IRS who can’t talk to the CDC who can’t talk to the FAA. (Etc.) (Etc.) (Etc.)
I am not a "techie" -- but I am a TRUE BELIEVER. That is, I think these new technologies -- Enron fiasco not withstanding -- will indeed change everything in the next 25 years. The Amazons and Dells and, yes, Enrons -- and all too few others -- are the faint harbingers of dramatic and encompassing change. (As are sophisticated terrorist networks.) And I can imagine that 11 September will catalyze, short-term recession aside, the unfiltered call to action and no-bull modernization of our enterprises that both the public and private sectors need so desperately.
We need the rock-solid and timely response to catastrophe that Rudy Giuliani symbolizes. But maybe Mike Bloomberg can translate the lessons of Bloomberg Inc. into thoroughly info-savvy government that is well-connected, well-informed and therefore instantly responsive to a new and only half-emerged set of threats and opportunities. Thus, I think there’s a good chance we’ll look back on 11 September 2001, and say, "This is when we began to truly figure out that we really lived in a New World Order -- commercially, socially, politically, militarily"
Tom Peters/12.09.2001/West Tinmouth VT
Before blogging became all the rage, Tom was posting book reviews and Observations (essentially early blog posts) to this site. You can find the archives below.