Archive for June, 2012

It’s Not… But, It Could Be

Written by mitch. Posted in Uncategorized

I did something last night I rarely do. I watched television: specifically, the premier of the new HBO television series, Newsroom.
It may not sound like a big deal to those of you who watch television, but television and especially serialized dramas are a luxury I refuse to allow myself. Evenings are when I read or write or research or plan or develop or sometimes just sit and think, and lately there hasn’t been a lot of ‘thought provoking’ or even entertaining television to watch.
I’m not sure the majority of so-called reality shows would or could qualify as ‘thought provoking.’ So far, none of the ones I’ve forced myself to watch have. I certainly don’t have to watch the glut of reality shows currently filling the airwaves to immerse myself in drama if that’s what I choose to do with my time. All I have to do is show up at the shop and I have my own ‘reality show: a show I get to produce, direct, star in, and, yes, even watch!
Aside from that, I don’t want to get hooked on something I know I won’t have the time to watch because I’ve dedicated that time to something else. It’s too frustrating and I’m at a point in my life where frustration almost always degenerates into anger or resentment.
Consequently, I aggressively avoid watching television of any kind.
I’ve been marginally successful. That is, up until last night. Last night the fates conspired against me. I tried to write, but couldn’t find the melody or the rhythm I was looking for. I tried to read, but couldn’t quiet the noise in my head sufficiently to concentrate. So, I took my shower and got ready for bed just in time to watch the last twenty minutes of Newsroom. It was riveting. It was intelligently written. It was timely. It was provocative. It was, in fact, just about everything television could be. Or, more appropriately, could have been and isn’t.
I had a long list of things I wanted to do after dinner this evening… Important things, like finishing a column, scripting a new webcast, developing an idea for a colleague and the association we both belong to. Instead, I pulled Newsroom up on the DVR to catch what I had missed and instead watched it from beginning to end.
There are lots of things I could say about it, but I think I’ll stick with the two that impacted me the hardest: the two that have the most to say to us as a people, a country and a culture. The first spins off what I think may have been the first episode’s title: “We just decided to…” And, the second, has to do with a message the female lead had for Jeff Daniels, the male lead: “It’s Not… But, It Could Be.”
You’re going to have to watch the pilot on HBO or search for it on YouTube or someplace else to see how Aaron Sorkin, the writer, managed to weave those two ideas into the story line. I’ll just tell you that it’s worth the effort. Then, I’ll let you know what they had to say to me.
“It’s Not… But, It Could Be!” spoke to a realistic assessment of where we are as a nation: as a people. You and I could just as easily use that phrase to assess where we are as an industry. It’s not the best industry or the most satisfying. It’s not the most profitable or the most rewarding. At least, not for the majority of those who struggle just to get by day-to-day. But, it could be…
It could be if we put aside our differences and instead focused on the things that  we have in common: that we can all agree on. It could if we found a way to celebrate our shared values instead of focusing on the issues that divide us.
How do you do that? I think it’s probably clear that we have the knowledge: the understanding. We just need to decide to do something with that knowledge. The fact of the matter is, we just need to DO SOMETHING!
The same can be said of or for our Nation. We aren’t what we once were… One nation indivisible.
We may be better than most, but we seem to have lost sight of what we could be. The fact of the matter is, we could be better: in many ways, for many of our people. But, to regain that greatness we need huge, virtually unattainable goals: goals so big our differences become inconsequential in their shadow.
Then, all we would have to do is decide: decide to move forward… as individuals, as an industry, as a Nation, as a People.
It’s risky to suggest we aren’t what we could be, that we have not realized our potential: that we’ve somehow become lost along the way. I’m sure there are many who would disagree. But, as a diagnostician: a pragmatist, I look at the possibilities each set of beliefs drags along with it before making a decision.
Continually striving to achieve: to reach unattainable heights, achieve impossible goals, provide unparalleled freedoms has brought us to this moment. The kind of arrogance that suggests there are no more mountains to climb, no more challenges to confront: that all is left is desperately clinging to what once was leaves us all with only one direction in which move.
Watch Newsroom, then tell me what you think ‘isn’t,’ but could be. Tell me what we should  decide to do: as an industry or for our Nation.
Till then… Stay well. Take Care. Make money. Have fun. And, don’t do business with anyone you don’t like… There’s probably a good reason you don’t like ’em and you don’t really need to find out what that reason is!

It’s Not Fair

Written by mitch. Posted in Uncategorized

When our daughter was little and she didn’t like something I said, the restrictions I imposed or the limits I placed on her, she would do what affectionately became known as the “It’s Not Fair! Dance.”

It was a site to behold…

This beautiful child with an angelic smile and the cutest pigtails you’ve ever seen, would turn red, contort that beautiful face, plant one foot firmly on the ground and then ratchet herself around in a circle, stamping one foot on the ground, pumping her fists up and down and screaming at the top of her lungs, “It’s Not Fair!”

The more frustrated and angry she became the harder it was to take her admonitions seriously. There were times I actually had to look away rather than break out in what would have been a very inappropriate outburst under the circumstances. And, that sensitivity, the realization that as comical as daughter’s behavior might have been it was the result of some very serious frustration, anger and anxiety – all of which were very real to her.

Well, I feel like it’s my turn to do the “It’s Not Fair! Dance”today. I know it won’t accomplish anything. I know it’s not going to change what happened. Nor, is it likely any good could come of it. But, realistically, I’ll bet the exhaustion that followed such an outburst and the release of all that frustration and anger, anxiety and angst, would have to leave you in better shape than just bottling it all up and keeping it inside.

Besides, it’s not like we’re at a loss of things likely to torment us… There are days Dante’s Inferno would probably seem like a pretty good choice for a vacation spot!

The reason I want to plant my foot and bounce around in a circle screaming “It’s Not Fair!” today is the one accident our business has experienced in just about twenty years and what it just did to our Worker’s Comp Insurance. One accident in twenty years, with an otherwise spotless record – Admittedly, a mildly serious laceration to one finger, something no technician wants to comtemplate – and, our rates are about to go up 47%.

I know… That isn’t very fair, is it? And, that’s the rub. The prison is being run by the inmates with more crooks and charlatans in positions of responsibility, authority and power than there are honest, thoughtful, reasonable people to fight the lunacy.

One accident: twenty years: 47% increase in premium… Well, it doesn’t seem fair to me and I’m not sure what to do short of ‘the Dance.’

I understand the need to protect our employees: all employees, for that matter. It’s the right thing to do. I understand there are those who would brutalize the system through abuse. But, I’m not one of them. I just want to fix cars, take care of our customers, take care of the people who have cast their fate with mine and live a relatively simple yet productive life. It’s hard to do that in our business when your overhead is about to increase by $700 a month!

It’s hard to do that when Comp is based on Payroll and the only reasonable way to control the cost is to reduce the overhead and that means laying people off! Not exactly the way to end a Recession, is it?

So, here I am at sixty-five feeling like a five-year-old: jaw locked, teeth clenched, fingers curled into a ball and the vein in my forehead about to burst, begging to plant that left foot in the ground, ready to start singing and dancing.

I want to be five and my daughter and scream, “It’s Not Fair!” But, I know it won’t do any good. There is only one of me and one of me isn’t enough to tilt against that Windmill. It would take all of us… All of us in every State… To stand up and say, “It’s Not Fair! You can’t get rich on our backs any more! You can charge a fair premium for the service you provide, but it will have to reflect your record and not just a random mischance of fate. And, you certainly are NOT entitled to make back your loses no matter how large or small in a period of time so small it constitutes and unfair burden on your insureds!”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough!

OK, ok… I know… Calm down! But, you know something… It’s hard to remain calm when the insurance companies are making more money than they have ever made in the past and the people they insure are working harder, making less and struggling more than at any time in history.

So, are you ready? Are you ready to stomp and shout and raise a little hell? If you are, all you have to do is plant that left foot, scrunch your face up a little, clench your fists and then slowly, yet methodically, take your right foot, raise it up and then set it down hard just a few inches in front of where it was when you started, and howl at the top of your lungs, “It’s Not Fair!”

It may not change anything, but I’ll bet you feel better when you’re done!