Perception is Reality

This Cart Makes Me Feel Stupid

You’ve no doubt gotten that shopping cart . . . you know the one. It’s that cart that has a messed up wheel that goes “clunk, clunk, clunk” as you speed down the store isles embarrassed and frustrated at your luck.

How could it happen? Maybe you just didn’t check out the wheels well enough before you rushed into the store to take care of your business. Maybe God has it in for you today! Maybe all the carts in this store have messed up wheels.

Whatever the reason, if you are like me, you’re hoping nobody sees you, but you are sure that everyone in the store will look up at you when they hear you coming from twenty feet away.

What are your options? You start putting more pressure onto one side of the cart in hopes that you will counter-balance the “clunk” but that’s no good. When nobody’s looking, you creep to a remote spot of the store and lift the cart off the ground a bit before dropping it. You do it a couple times just in case the first time didn’t do the trick. Neither trick works.

So you briefly consider leaving the cart and going back to the front of the store to get another. No way that’s gonna happen though. That’s a lot of walking. So you do the only thing you can do; you proceed with your cart clunking all the way. As you shop, you keep an eye out for an abandoned empty cart to make a fair switch.

If you do find one, you consider why it is there. Did someone else have a crappy, clunky cart that they left? Could it be any worse than the one you have now?

Ever stop to consider why this cart is distracting you from the matter at hand? I did that last night at Krogers. I got a doozy of a cart and before I knew it, I was mad at Krogers for having such a cart in their fleet.

But then I thought about it. Why is it distracting me and why am I mad? I concluded it’s because I think it makes me feel and look stupid. As if people are peering at me with their judgmental gazes and thinking to themselves that I am too dumb to pick out a good cart!

What do I care? Clunk happens, I guess.

We Are Still Prisoners of Our Fear

Something has happened that I was told many times over I would never ever see; that being the election of an African-American United States President. Despite insurmountable odds, Barack Obama did the unthinkable. And crazy as it might be, he has as many detractors as he does supporters.

This is not a Republican versus Democrat thing. It’s not even a black or white thing. It’s a fear thing. Deep down, whether we realize it or not, we all have a hidden propensity to act as terrorists if not for our own gain, then for the preservation of the status quo.

Fact is; people fear change. And they’ll do whatever they can to prevent it. Even if it means becoming just like those whom we are supposedly at war.

What the 2008 election represents is a United States 2.0. Please pardon the use of the stale and overly-used 2.0 vernacular, but it fits. This election was bound to happen sooner or later. If you’ve followed the drastic changes in US population over the years, you’d not be surprised by the fact that some individual would come in and shake up the political and socio-economical environment by being something other than the status quo.

For a long time, the Baby Boomers have been the “pot of gold” for corporations, politicians and anyone who has something to gain. It was pretty much old hat. If you need something, go to the Boomers. They represent the biggest generation in all of history and heck, they’re in their peak earning years. Let’s find out what makes ‘em tick and go get ‘em! YOU BETCHYA!

But a funny thing happened. It’s the rise of Generation Y (or the “millennials” as some call them). And when you start to look at things, this election makes sense. You’ll understand why this change was bound to happen. You’ll understand why so many of the fresh voices are all for it and you’ll understand why so many of the old guard are so pissed off about it. Neither one is going to sit idly by and allow it to just happen. But happen it will.

Myself, I am among the youngest crop of Generation X (the generation sandwiched between the Boomers and Gen Y). We are the forgotten folks in marketing circles because the Boomers and the Gen Y kids are so damn massive in size compared to us, we represent little opportunity for people to profit from. Couple that with the fact that our parents and grandparents won’t be passing near the level of wealth to us as they will to Gen Y, and it’s an understandable sentiment. But that’s really just a personal grudge.

The fact is, us late X’ers are much like the Y kids in terms of what we’ve seen and experienced. The major events of our lifetimes have shaped many of our perceptions of life, society and more. When I look though my life, there had been seven major events prior to the 2008 election that literally changed everything:

  1. Miracle on Ice (1980) –The 1980 US Olympic Hockey team’s Soviet counterparts were natural rivals due to the decades-old Cold War, and they were all powerful professionals and heavy favorites to win the gold medal. So, when the US team (composed of amateurs) matched up against the Soviets, they were given little to no chance. Only a dreamer would have considered a US win possible. But guess what, the dreamers won! Not only did they win that contest, they went on to with the gold. In their victory, they produced many new dreamers who felt it was possible to beat the odds.
  2. Live Aid (1985) – “We are the world. We are the children.” Those lyrics have become synonymous with giving and helping others. An estimated 400 million viewers, across 60 countries, watched the live broadcast of a multi-venue rock music concert that took place on July 13, 1985 with pretty much all of the biggest names in the music industry participating. Nearly 300 million dollars were raised through the event. Oh, and our babysitter (Mtv) made sure to tell us all about it!
  3. Challenger Explosion (1986) – The US Space Shuttle Challenger mission on January 28, 1986 was supposed to be a great blend of science, education and dreams. The “Teacher in Space” program was announced about a year and a half earlier by President Ronald Reagan to inspire students, to honor their teachers and spark interest in mathematics, science, and space exploration. Christa McAuliffe was on board having been the first teacher selected. She died along with the other crew members when the shuttle disintegrated 73 seconds into the flight. While it was poised to make history, it changed history for many different reasons.
  4. Fall of the Berlin Wall (1990) – On August 13, 1961 construction of a wall began in the country of Germany to separate it into east and west divisions. It became a longtime symbol of the Cold War. The division halted emigration between East and West Germany and effectively split many families. Some brave souls made attempts to cross it, but more died trying than those who were successful. In late 1989, border crossings began following a change in East Germany regime and heavy protests. On June 13, 1990, the official dismantling of the Wall by the East German military began. Celebrations with world-famous musicians, renowned politicians and other celebrities followed.
  5. OJ Simpson Bronco Chase (1994) – On June 17, 1994, millions of people watched the most bizarre spectacle they’d ever viewed on television. Following the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, the Los Angeles Police Department allowed OJ Simpson to turn himself in. When he didn’t show up, police tracked down Simpson in a friend’s white Ford Bronco and a low-speed chase ensued. Soon, millions were unable to pry themselves from their televisions. Others were out on the streets watching the chase as though it were a parade.
  6. Death of Diana, Princess of Wales (1997) – On August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales died following a high speed crash that occurred as the result of a paparazzi chase. Her passing was met with tremendous public interest and endless questions of how far is too far with regards to paparazzi, news media and personal privacy.
  7. Terrorist Attacks on World Trade Center (2001) – The lives of so many changed on the morning of September 11, 2001. Terrorists had hijacked planes and used them for mass destruction in multiple locations. Beyond the utter shock of the events and the loss of lives in the process, questions of national and personal safety ensured. Individuals, employers and sports teams literally stopped.

Now me being me, I’ve taken the context of these events and their aftermaths and simplified them into small resonators. The idea is not to undermine or diminish the enormity of their significance. Rather, the intent is to provide a means for developing an understanding of how and why they have shaped the values and attitudes of the emergent young generation that is now present in our world as consumers, professionals and yes, voters.

  1. The Miracle on Ice (1984) You can achieve your dreams even if it means defeating giants.
  2. Live Aid (1985) When we unite – and care – we can change the world.
  3. The Challenger Explosion (1986) Dreams are risky – but that does not mean you shouldn’t try.
  4. The Fall of the Berlin Wall (1990)The old world order has fallen. Peace and prosperity can reign.
  5. OJ Simpson Bronco Chase (1994) The rise of sensational media and a celebrity driven culture.
  6. Death of Princess Diana (1997) The death of an icon who linked two generations.
  7. 9/11 Terrorist Attacks (2001)Allow me to introduce you to the age of terror.

Remember that I am a young Gen-Xer. The span of 1984 through 2001 puts me between age 8 and 25. The first three events occurred while I was between ages 8 and 10. People younger than me probably have only heard about those events from older siblings and/or parents. But it was not just the stories of those events that were passed. The unique impressions and emotional connections they’ve made on the tellers of those stories — and thereby the values they molded — have trickled down because they are still timely enough that they can still be considered relevant.

But basically, when you look at the events, you’ll see that this generation has been molded to not only dream, but to pursue those dreams. You’ll notice that old-world regimes are falling for all the right reasons. We are a culture that does not sit idly by and allow life to happen. We are living it and we are involved in it. We don’t just let it happen, we make it happen.

The wars I have known are jokes when compared to Vietnam and the World Wards that preceding generations have known. Again, not to undermine the soldiers and those who gave their lives in battle during the Gulf Ware, Dessert Storm, etc. However, we’ve seen more figurative “wars” against drugs, against obesity, against “your cause of the day” than we have true military battles.

The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks happened over half a decade ago; sending people into fear for their personal security and safety. It’s resulted in less privacy for the American citizen and it has dominated business, elections, policy, and virtually every facet of life.

Yet, during our lifetimes, we’ve seen just as much domestic terrorists as we have the every-day run-of-the mill stereotypes that the media and spinsters would have us believe. Think about it. Just mention the world “Columbine” or “Oklahoma City” or “Virginia Tech” and you realize that we are as much at war with ourselves as we are with our supposed enemies.

But guess what – the young generation is tired of being scared. We’re ready for a change . . . a new age if you will. We’re seeking an age of global collaboration and restoration of the ability to dream. And it’s not just an American Dream, it’s a global dream of a hub culture that is social, ambitious and emerging into consumers, leaders, innovators and a new vibrancy.

The world had changed from what my grandparents have known. I still love and respect their value systems, but that doesn’t make it the order of the present or future.

I took a photo with my phone the other day. That alone should tell you what a different era we are living in. But what I took a picture of is even more telling. The picture was of a book; The Catcher in the Rye. I digitally snapped it while wandering the isles at Wal-Mart!

In 1999, I had recently purchased the book on Amazon.com and had it delivered. I told one of my undergrad professors that I was starting to read it. He laughed. Then he told that he had obtained his first copy years and year ago. Someone had secretly given it to him after having been wrapped in a brown paper bag and heavily taped. He was told to not show anyone and never say where he had gotten it.

Today, we’d pull that book right out of the wrapping, scan it, photograph it, transcribe it and throw it up on YouTube, Flickr, Wiki, and a host of other collaborative tools. The 2.0 Generation is here. Stop being afraid and stop trying to keep us in fear. Hop on the bandwagon and ride it into a greater tomorrow.

Perception is Reality: I don’t care what you think…wait, Yes I do!

Here is a reality that has been crushing my psyche lately. I will openly tell people that I don’t care what anyone thinks about me and that I refuse to fit any standard mold.

But here is the reality: I really do care. I care so much so, I sometimes feel like I’m an outsider – no matter the environment I inhabit. I often refuse to place myself into situations where embarrassment might occur. I often pass up events that may be tremendous opportunities because I start to get into a “what-if” suggestion in my mind.

I first noticed it when I was in my last year of college as I was driving my crappy-ass Ford Ranger to the Indiana Statehouse for a luncheon with 21st Century Scholars’ inaugural class. The Governor would be there. Former Governor Evan Bayh would be there. And many of my program cohorts whom I had never met would be there.

As I was driving along miles upon miles of farmland, I started thinking about how much I didn’t belong. I started to actually try to talk myself out of it and turn around to go home. Where I was comfortable – for the most part. I eventually convinced myself that the only way to grow is to place yourself into situations that are beyond your comfort, but I knew the truth.

The truth was that I was scared of not fitting in with the rest of the crew. The event itself was nice. I didn’t really talk to anyone. I walked through all the program steps and tried to mingle. But I was out of my element. I knew it, and I couldn’t help but wonder who else did.

“The all knew it too,” I thought to myself. “I’ll just hang out, get in my crappy-ass Ranger and drive back to Tri-State University.”

Later that year, I found myself being a speaker at a fancy alumnus dinner and as the emcee for our Senior Banquet. Talk about being out of my element. I enjoyed those experiences and I did grow from them, but I was desperately sick to my stomach and dreading every single moment of them.

As time has gone on, it’s gotten worse. At weddings, I find a place on the periphery and try to not stand out while not exactly fitting in. I can’t. I’m from another planet. It feels that way at least.

So I go about life as a virtual spectator. I observe, I think, I calculate and on occasion, I might indulge in society. But most often, I run from it.

When I am forced to participate either by circumstance of personal determination, I cower. I try to find reasons to back out of it or avoid it. At the very least, I look for ways to minimize, downplay or divert attention. It’s simply not my comfort zone.

This year has afforded me a few opportunities to grow in this area, and I really think I have made inroads. But for the most part, I am still conscious of the fact that I don’t truly enjoy life to the fullest because I refuse to allow myself to do so! In that regard, I am my own worst enemy.

The fact is, there are many things I have wanted to do in my life, yet I have bypassed the opportunities because I feared I would be the Carrie of the class. I’ve tried to convince myself that I don’t care and that I “had better things to do,” but I really didn’t. No matter if I tried to convince myself otherwise. No matter if I have convinced you I think otherwise, the perception is false.

I really do care.

Perception is Reality: Patriotism is Dead

IN 2006, I blogged a post called “Where is the Olympic Luster?” and it is getting visits in light of the 2008 Summer Olympics that are currently taking place. At the time, it was a simple pondering about whether or not I had become disenfranchised about the whole thing.

There was a day when I watched the Olympics with some sort of passion (as much as a twelve-year-old could anyway). But it seems, I no longer have any such sentiment. I really couldn’t care any less about the Olympics.

The sad fact is that I really don’t feel any different today than I did back then. But now I am thinking more about it. In general, the Olympics have become so much less than what they once were.

There is no doubting that the world has become a massive melting pot where boundaries between countries that once existed have been eliminated or less obtrusive. The rise in technology, mass transportation, easier crossing of borders have made hub culture a reality of life. The extermination of the “cold war” and the growing disenfranchisement with the so-called “war on terror” have left so many with a loss of nationalism.

In fact, we now have athletes participating for countries that are not their native lands. Add to that the fact that we have become a culture that thrives on individual celebrity status as well as the certain reality that many of the Olympians are doping in some fashion, there is little to get excited about.

Ratings show that the Games are being watched, but I still don’t see that rooting interest that once was present. People used to wait for the games with dire interest and salivated over the prospect of seeing their country bring home the gold. This sentiment plateaued when the US sent over the original “dream team” to crush the competition.

Had it not been for Michael Phelps, I don’t think I would know one thing about the latest installment of the Olympics. The events would be overshadowed by political BS, protesters, and tragedy. Instead, that thirst and fascination with individual celebrity status shines through.

Perception is Reality: Take Your Green and Shove it

Captain PlanetThere is a widespread perception that we all have to be “green” in order to sustain humanity on planet earth. Businesses are spending lots of green just to be green because some former Vice-President of the United States who may or may not have invented the Internet made a movie and got his butt kissed by a bunch of Hollywood’s finest fakers.

The common perception is that the there’s a giant hole in the Ozone, that the globe is warming and that we’re all going to die unless we quit using hairspray and start driving hybrid vehicles that are seriously lacking in their technologies.

My only question is “Where the hell were all of you back when I was in elementary school getting advice from Captain Planet and learning about the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (3R) concept?

You see, my perception is different. Therefore, my reality is different.

The fact is, Al Gore did not invent the Internet, but due to a poor choice of wording, media types and naysayers twisted his statement into something that was their perception and not the reality.

For the record, he stated in an interview with Wolf Blitzer that:

During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.

While this is definitely an overstatement, Gore does deserve some credit for the technology’s existence. He was – without a doubt – involved in programs that supported the development. Even Vinton Cerf, the Stanford researcher who sketched a design for the Internet in 1973, suggested that ‘It is entirely fitting that the vice president take some credit for helping to create an environment in which Internet could thrive.’

But what Gore has now done is create a frenzy that is based upon a generational shift to seek something more than materialistic gain. Right now, marketers and writers are trying to find ways to appeal to a youthful generation. This generation – while “it’s all about me” – is one that seeks greater meaning to their lives and lifestyle. And that’s why so many have latched onto this whole “green” concept.

My perception is that global warming is a fallacy. I have no facts to back this up, so don’t ask for them. And I probably won’t believe you if you try to feed me any.

Fact is; my perception is my reality.

Fact is; I was at least partially green before Al Gore made his damn movie. Fact is, my life is one of moderation in many (NOT ALL) areas. And that’s the real answer.

We don’t need to take drastic measures. We don’t have to create a television network that’s recruited some of the en vogue celebrities of the era to pitch their corporate motivated theories and products.

Fact is; we are a society that obsesses over consumption. Our additions to alcohol, caffeine, illegal drugs, shopping, music, eating, etc. are rooted in the fact that we thirst for greater consumption of whatever it is that consumes us. Our hobbies and our interests define us to the point that hey become our identities.

At that point, there’s little chance of escape. Suddenly, we’re known as “the drunkard,” “the Hulk Hoganjunkie,” “the fat guy (or girl).” Even the so-called positive obsessions receive labels that stir negative perceptions. The individual who always seeks to do right is labeled “the Prude” or “the Goodie-Goodie.” The person who smartly manages his or her finances by watching their spending and/or using coupons is labeled as “the Greedy Penny-Pincher” and even the Christian is labeled as – of all things – “the Christian.” I ask you, when did being called a Christian become shameful?

Accept it folks, we’re living in a culture where good is bad and bad is good. It was much easier when Hulk Hogan was a “real American” and not the leader of the New World Order – only to become “the Immortal” Hulk Hogan again. It’s no wonder we’re all confused.

You know why? It’s because, just like the current movement to “go green,” businesses and marketers continually monitor us and our behaviors to see what we are consuming. Surprisingly, it’s not a liquid, a food or even a drug that they are packaging. It’s ideology. They’re taking it and spending a whole lot of time, effort and money to wrap it up nicely and stocking it on the shelves of our souls so they can get us to buy in.

Hulk Hogan NWOThen you’re hooked. Before you know it, you’re wearing 100% chemically untreated cotton clothes and lightly pushing the accelerator of your hybrid with your vegan shoes on your feet so you can go home to cook your organic food (that you paid extra for) and enjoy an evening of watching Planet Green in your eco-friendly house that you paid a ton to produce and then paid some suit to certify that the house was build to green standards. Before you know it, you’ve financed the lives of those who made you believe there was a problem and made you the fool by making you think you could solve it.

Thanks Al Gore. Looks like you have a knack for creating social frenzies.

That’s my perception anyway. Comment and let me know if you’re with me or if you have a different reality.

Perception is Reality: Why I Will Probably Vote Obama

Your perception probably caught your interest in this post based solely upon the title. The word (or perhaps brand) “Obama” currently invokes emotion of some sort for pretty much everyone. Funny how that works, eh?

I am not one of those political bloggers and quite frankly, I hate politics; whether it is with regard my nation or my office. The term “politically correct” sends shivers down my spine as I find it inane to think that I must make an elaborate attempt to ensure my words, my actions, even my attire are the least offensive to every single person with whom I might come in contact.

So therefore, this is not a political post (and frankly, I don’t give a damn if it offends you). Rather, it is an observation on perception. My perception. Not yours – so my opinion is the only one that is right here (but feel free to argue my points because you might be able to change my perception).

There have been four United States Presidents where I have memory of their campaigns and/or society during their terms: Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush. That’s R, R, D, R respectively. For the record and supporting evidence later, I was alive during Carter’s term, but was too young to remember it.

From what I recall about Reagan’s terms; people loved him, but they hated their lives and times were difficult. Bush’s term was characterized by war and people generally hated their lives more than during Reagan’s. Then came Clinton. People hated him and his lifestyle, but I cannot recall a more economically prosperous time in my lifetime and people generally were happy, jobs were abundant and there were no wars. Gas prices were low and life was good. Then game Bush part deaux. More war, terrible economy and people are again downtrodden and pissed at the world.

See a pattern here?

This is where someone will undoubtedly say

“What about Carter? Times sucked then.”

You’re probably right, but I don’t have any perception of that era and I genuinely admire Carter as a person. Maybe he was just a crappy President. I don’t know. I was four when he was voted out of office.

This is where someone will undoubtedly say

“Well, all of the good things that happened during Clinton’s term were clearly the works of Reagan’s economic policies – it just took time for them to ripple.”

Uh, sorry, but that’s not my perception. Bill Gates and the Internet had more to do with the prosperity of the economy than Reagan.

Obama LogoSo now, we are enthralled in a new election where we have the presumptive Democratic nominee talking about “hope” and the presumptive Republican nominee talking about more war. I watch their appearances and see Obama engaged with a youthful, exuberant audience who appear open-minded enough to truly change the world because they realize there is no damn box. I watch McCain and I see a tired old man blinking to a group of people who are just as old, stuck in status quo and caring only about their own wallets. (Although, I do love a good game of “Pork Invaders” from time to time).

I want a country that isn’t afraid to hope for something more. I want a country with a leader that the rest of the world can admire and view as inspiring. I want a country that seeks innovation first and personal wealth second.

My perception is that Obama will provide that. My perception is that McCain will continue to entrench our nation – MY NATION – further into the chasms of war and economics where only the wealthy prosper and the poor . . . well, the poor die.

If you have to ask why I may vote for Obama, your perception must be a different reality. Leave a comment to tell my why I am right or wrong.

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