My daughter is getting a tattoo!

My daughter, Alex, texted me on Friday to tell me that she’s getting a tattoo. Alex is twenty-one and can do pretty much whatever she wants. I don’t financially support her, so I have no leverage on her. Alex has a couple of piercings, ears and one in the eyebrow (which I kinda like) – but she doesn’t have any tattoos. I guess I was hoping that she’d make through life like me, without one.

I don’t what it is about tattoos. Maybe it’s the permanency of it. At least with piercings – you can take them out. But with a tattoo … there you are, it’s yours forever. I just have this vision of Alex getting this thing she’ll regret in a week.

Rather than texting her back with the standard parental rant – “No you’re not getting it,” which would have been of no value – I waited to catch my breath. “What’s the tattoo going to be,” was my response four minutes later. “It’s going to be Phoenix on my arm,” replied my daughter. “I saw it and I couldn’t resist getting it.” “It’s me, especially after what I’ve gone through.”

Alex's tattoo scretch

If you’ve read any of my other posts here, you’d know Alex spent a good portion of her high school living in motels and a tent as we went through some rough times. And the year and half with her mother before then was even worse. She didn’t let it get her down, at least outwardly.

In fact she’s used those times to strengthen herself. Heck she got hired by Apple right after she turned eighteen. It’s kind of the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Alex is an embodiment of that. Alex is turning out great – mentally, physically and emotionally. I couldn’t be more pleased. She’s even a contrarian like me 😉

A lot of parents have a hard time communicating with their kids when they’re around this age. You never really know how they’re doing. They may say they’re good – but in reality they’re not. More times than not, they’ll tell you what they think you want to hear. So if something bad happens – you have no idea it’s coming till it’s too late. It’s the “I had no idea” thing.

Well … my daughter told me an awful lot in that tattoo that she’s getting.

By definition, a Phoenix is the mythical bird that rose from the ashes to become stronger than ever.

What this tattoo tells me is that Alex went through a lot in high school, probably more than I thought. Just because I didn’t mind sleeping in a tent in the Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach, doesn’t mean it didn’t take its toll on Alex. More than ever I realize that.

But what I also realize is that now she feels strong, stronger from the experiences she’s had (good and bad). She’s in a very good “place” right now, and if she’s willing to brand herself with that fact … then I couldn’t be happier.

She has the perfect positive totem when times looks bleak and she’s not on her game. All she has to do is look at her arm. After all she’s a Phoenix.

“All’s good in the hood.”

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“Put vinegar or onion under your scarf for tear gas”

As protesters in Tahrir Square in Egypt faced off against pro-government forces, they drew a lesson from their counterparts in Tunisia:  “Put vinegar or onion under your scarf for tear gas.”

You’d have to be living under a rock not to take note of what’s been happening in the Middle East over the last month. And it ain’t over yet. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece on the revolution in Egypt in my personal blog, “Millennials Rising.” I talked about what I thought all of it was about.

Well I tell you what it’s not about. It’s not about the price oil, Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood … and sure isn’t about terrorism – no matter what Glen Beck, or Rush Limbaugh says.  It’s about the “kids.”

And news flash – we have kids here too.

What we saw over there was the incredible execution of a game plan to overthrow regimes that had been in power for over three decades.  And they did it peacefully. The only violence committed in either Tunisia or Egypt was committed by those in power, not the demonstrators.

These young people used social media – Facebook, blogs and Twitter to communicate with each other and they followed a textbook … a textbook literally written years ago by a Harvard professor here in this country, Gene Sharp. And the disparate parts from all over the world worked together with military precision.

A don’t think this generation, Generation Y, the Millennials, hate their elders. On the contrary, they’re closer to them than we were at their age. It’s the truth. But for some reason their elders don’t seem to take them seriously.

“All they do is play video games and sit on Facebook.” It’s no different here in this country. And the ruling class of my old industry, printing – probably feels the same.

I don’t think you’ll lose your firm to a coup of “twenty somethings,” but then again maybe you will … if you don’t pay attention to this group. The printing industry you built, is hanging on for dear life, while the industry they built, social media, is on the way to the “next great frontier.” Recent speculation puts the valuation of Facebook at $50 billion, Twitter at $10 billion and Groupon at $6 billion. And all three of these companies were started and are privately held by this no good “video game generation.” Find me a printing group worth $10 billion let alone fifty.

Gen Y isn’t going to need to take over anything, well not anything but your clients. Because in a couple of years, if it isn’t happening already – most of the clients will be their peers. These will be people who they have as friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter. And what are you going to have … your Rolodex.

In the five short years since I quit recruiting,  my database for the most part has become a ghost of what it once was. Most of my contacts retired or just got burnt out and left the industry. I’m sure a lot of yours have too.

If the Millennials want to they’ll stay in the printing industry, they will … if they find it relevant. If not – they won’t. And with them will go their friends and followers – the clients.

But you don’t have to go of the way of Mubarak and Egypt or Ali and Tunisia. And all it takes is for you to listen and respect. Don’t treat this generation like you do your teenage children. Your priorities are not theirs.  The future of your firm will rely on how this group can identity with you and your company.

As I expounded on in my last piece, they are more concerned about others and the world than our generation is. If they don’t see you and your firm as being socially responsible – they will turn on you with the wrath of God. If you belittle their gaming culture or protest their socialization tendencies … they’ll do the same.

Remember your potential competition is not the same as it was twenty years ago. It doesn’t take millions of dollars to start a business. An extra bedroom, a couple of iMacs, that operator on your 2nd shift – and now you have your biggest nightmare. And there will be nothing you can do about it. Chances are they know more about technology than you do.

Why not use this knowledge … this resource. Do you let a perfectly good, new piece of equipment just sit there because you like the old one you’ve always used? What’s the difference?

What sort of reaction would you get if you went into your company tomorrow and called a meeting. Here’s the topic:

“What can we do to make OUR company appeal to young people and attract younger buyers. We don’t want to be old anymore.”

I guarantee you’d be enlightened. I also guarantee the word would get out that you had the coolest company to work for. You be the Google or Apple of your industry industry. And with it would come the best talent and the best ideas. And with that would follow profit.

Or maybe Mubarak has a spare room in Sharm-el-Sheikh. You can talk about the good old days.

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Millennials Rising!

Over the past year I’ve been writing about the Millennial Generation, Generation Y and their propensity to band together and move as groups. We see it with the proliferation of social media, heck, social media was invented by this generation, literally. Recently – here and elsewhere, I’ve talked about how workplace and societal treatment needs to be different for this generation. Stress collaboration not competition.

Most Boomers in power however just don’t get it. They view this “grouping together” as being clingy and over-dependant. “If you can’t fight on your own then you can’t fight.”

Well, as generational analysts Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of the Fourth Turning, so rightly pointed out … history repeats itself. And the generation labeled as “clingy” is actually the same generation labeled as “the Greatest,” the heroes of Normandy Beach. Our boys, and I say all the boys of the Allied forces banded together and did what only a couple of years earlier was assumed impossible. They won World War II.

I believe we may be seeing another Normandy Beach, this time in Egypt and before in Tunisia. Only, the common foe is not Hitler, but rather the dictators on their own soils. The fight for democracy in the Arab world is the war of the Millennials. These are educated young adults who only want a chance. They see their peers in other parts of the world, United States included, having access to opportunities they can only dream. And these are opportunities they see every hour of every day. Because remember, they associate with each other – they communicate. And it doesn’t matter with who or where they’re at. As long as they have common interests.

I’ve been following the uprisings in the Middle East in-depth other the last three weeks. One thing I’ve noticed:  Nobody talks about why what’s happening is happening now. All you hear how is it going to effect us here in the United States, and what would happen if the dreaded Muslim Brotherhood gains control of Egypt. It seems as if there is an edict from above (and where that above is I don’t know), that we keep our ubiquitous “war on terror” front and center. “Anywhere there’s a Muslim, terrorism is sure to follow.”

Well boys and girls … this whole thing in the Middle East is not about being Muslim. It’s not about being a Christian. It’s not about Israel. And it sure ain’t about terrorism.

It’s about generational discontent. These are educated, well-connected, aware young adults who are driving these rebellions. It’s all about loving their countries and wanting to make a go of it. They don’t care if the person fighting next to them is Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or whatever. They’re all on the same team – “the Pursuit of Opportunity Team.” And their team is not prejudice.

It only seems like it’s the western media, the CNNs, Fox News’s, etc – that wants to create division where there are none.

Boomers, take notice … the Millennials are not like you. They’re not hung up on race and religion and sexual preference. They’re way past it. These are your issues – not theirs. Case in point, look at this picture:  “Christians protecting Muslims while they pray.”

I find it interesting that while Egypt’s Generation Y continues their battle for their country in the streets – their Boomer elders are jockeying for positions of power in the new government that will undoubtedly transpire. There are members of current regime claiming to be reformed. There’s members of opposing parties, claiming to be reformed. There’s even someone who’s been in exile claiming he’s the one to make everything all better. They all say they’ll listen to the “youth movement” and hear their plights … whatever. Never mind the only reason we’re having this conversation is because of the “youth movement.”

How this all turns out in Egypt, in Tunisia and wherever else the next rebellion is – is anyone’s guess. All I know, is that with the Millennials new-found confidence in political activism … it really doesn’t matter which of the Boomers take over next. If they don’t pay attention  – they’ll go the way their predessesor did.

They’ll just be an irrelevant old man.

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“Motel kids” … an overlooked American tragedy

Even though I’ve moved to Montana, I still listen to Bill Handel on KFIAM radio on Internet from Los Angeles.  On Friday, Handel broadcasted his show from a restaurant in Orange County that every night provides free dinners for kids that live in motels in the area.  In less than three days, over $70,000 has been raised to assist this unfortunate sub-culture.

This topic hits home with me … big time.  A few years ago, while starting my starting my company, the bleedingEDGE – I was raising my teenage daughter, Alex … in a motel.  Finances were tight, and I wanted to make sure she finished high school around her friends in Manhattan Beach in the Los Angeles.  I had taken over full parenting duties after Alex had spent a year and a half with mother who lived in the area.

Getting into an apartment in Manhattan Beach meant a downstroke of $4000 to $5000 – money I didn’t have.  But what I could do is pay for a motel room.  So that’s what we did.  In fact, we spent nights in a campground when money was even tighter.  I felt the money was better spent on buying Alex a MacBook Pro computer.  She may not have a house, but she had the best technology in the school.

During this time we met several families a lot worse off than we were, all living in motels.  These weren’t families that were unemployed deadbeats.  They were working people who just couldn’t afford to get into permanent housing, especially in an area like Los Angeles.  And most of these people did not have the resources we had.  Their dinner consisted of a trip to MacDonald’s or Taco Bell.  Hardly a diet prone to promote synaptic development, let alone the physical wellbeing.

Motel kids of Orange County

We hear a lot about the homeless, those that live in shelters, in their cars, or even on the streets.  But we don’t hear about those caught in the middle, the “motel families.”  And with the current mortgage crisis, it will get even worse.  It’s a lot like the difference between the unemployed and the underemployed.  The former get the press, but the later latter might really be the true indicator of out economy.  Check out this link: The Real Underemployment is 22.5%.

Now Alex is twenty-one now and out of high school was hired by Apple.  The bleedingEDGE is in beta stage and moving along nicely, so things turned and it worked out for us.  But not everybody will be so lucky.  In fact most won’t.

Alexandra Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, did a document called, ‘Motel Kids of Orange County’ which aired on HBO this last summer.  Find it, and watch it.  It’s riveting.  While our situation was not as dramatic, we were still there.

Now here’s the call to action!

Now of course you can contribute to Bill Handel’s cause.  But better yet … make something happen in your own city.  If Handel can make people aware of this travesty, then why can’t a media personality in your area do the same.  Get on the phone, Tweet, email … use your connections to get the awareness out there.  These kids are on the edge.  They can either go the way of my daughter and get through it successfully, or they won’t.  And for a lot of them – it won’t take much to give them that little bit of help that will make the difference.

We can’t expect the government to step in.  Heck they don’t even acknowledge there’s an issue here.  Private solutions for social problems is THE SOLUTION!

Be part of it.

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Will Gen-X and Gen-Y kill the printing industry … or save it?

Over the past couple months, I’ve been following several discussions on LinkedIn concerning the fate of the printing industry.  The talk is all about convergence.  The consensus is that printers, specifically digital printers,  have to embrace electronic delivery systems, including social media, in order to survive.

Now all this is fine.  We all know the industry is in a period of change that is unprecedented – and something has to be done.  We know the what.  The big question though … is the how.

Will this survive?

How do digital printers start becoming full-scale communication firms … or as I contend, communication delivery firms?  I firmly believe the industry is missing the point, however.  And this point will become even more evident in the coming years.

This point is age.  There is a generation gap in the printing industry.  And it’s occurring on two fronts:

  • First:  Who’s going to transition the printing firm into this convergent marketplace.  The majority of the people running the firms are Baby Boomers, age 50 plus.  I’m one of them so I can talk about this.  Is your average print company owner or general manager going to spearhead an effort into social media.  I don’t think so.  Most don’t use Facebook or Twitter, let alone use it effectively.  This transition involves talent … and the talent is in their twenties and thirties.  How many printing firms not only have key people in this age group in positions of authority, but also let them make strategic decisions involving the future of their companies?
  • And second:  Let’s look at the demographics of the people doing the print or communications buying.  Most of the old print buyers have long since retired.  They have been replaced by either Gen-Xers (age 30 to 50) or the younger Gen-Yers.  How many of these people even check their mail on a daily basis.  If they’re anything like my daughter, not many.  Their primary mode of communication and media exposure is electronic and with the younger ones – social media;  Facebook and Twitter.  And on top of that, even if you do recognize this demographics shift – who’s selling to them.  If you have traditional “suit and tie” printing reps driving around delivering proofs … neither your reps nor you will be employed much longer.

All is not doom and gloom however.  We’re in a recession, or at least the end of one.  With recessions as with any economic change – come opportunities.

Business in the communications industry, all sectors of it, is not good.  This includes the companies that are doing the content.  Now I’m talking about social media, web design, back-end programming and all of the other neat stuff that most us know absolutely nothing about.  And guess what, the people owning and operating these firms are same Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers that I spoke of above.  I’m willing to bet that a lot of them would be more than willing to join forces and collaborate with an established printing firm – if not outright sell and stay on as a consultant.

In this scenario, you not only have an inroad from a technological standpoint – you would also have a conduit to the generation of buyers that will determine your future.  You could go out and hire a staff.  But why?  Who’s to say you’re qualified enough to put together the right mix technically and socially.

I wrote a post last year in the middle of the recession and reposted again this year called the Alliance.  The message is still appropriate.

The Sioux and Cheyenne realized it and formed an alliance.  How did that work out for Custer?

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Brilliant self-promotion … or egotism?

I find this whole personal branding thing that’s hot right now very interesting.  With all the social media and visibility outlets available, i.e. Facebook, LinkedIN, Twitter, etc., one came spend so time branding, that there’s no time for anything else.  It’s not uncommon for twenty-five year old kids to have 500 Facebook friends and 5000 Twitter followers.  And aside from time, this exposure costs them nothing.  Now whether they do anything with it … another story.

Back when I was twenty-five, twenty-five years ago (interesting how that calculated), there wasn’t any social media.  What are you going to get your name out there … put a poster of your mug on a telephone pole on the way to the local party destination?  The best you could hope for is your friends wrote your number down on a piece of paper and hung next to the their home phone on the wall.  Now a wall is a Facebook homepage.

This brings me to the point of this post. The last year, I’ve been delving into the current music scene.  Through Alex, my daughter (age twenty), I’ve received a crash course.

Eminem

One thing I’ve noticed is a lot of the current top performers say their name in their songs; Lady Gaga, Jason Deroa, Soulja Boy, Ludacris and so on.  Now what’s prompting this recent trend.  This never happened back in my day.  In fact I don’t even remember it happening even five years ago.  You had Eminem and his alter-ego Slim Shady.  But that was a character – not so much an exercise in self-promotion.

Alex’s friend, Jason, attributes it to egotism.  Jason, do I sense a bit of jealousy … maybe just a bit.? Maybe he’s right.  There’s been a ton of articles written recently on this age group, Generation Y.  They’re lazy, they feel they’re entitled, etc.  Funny how the authors of these articles are all Baby Boomers, go figure!

Now it brings us to the question … “Brilliant self-promotion or egotism?”

In this day and age, we are bombarded with stimuli.  There’s more information than we know what to do with.  To try to get yourself into line to be heard is … well, enough said.

But there’s another thing I noticed different in the music industry these days – specifically on radio.  Now with the iPod, you know what song is playing, who’s playing it, what album it’s on and in lot of case what the album cover looks like.  Recognition isn’t an issue … or is it?

Take my situation.  I have an iPod, but it’s a Shuffle.  It has no screen, only buttons.  I don’t know who’s playing what.  I downloaded songs from my daughter and my memory isn’t quite what was :-(.  But I’m in the vast minority here.  Virtually nobody has the iPod Shuffle, just me.

But here’s the kicker, back to the radio. I listen to the radio … and whole lot of other people do too.  This is where we are exposed to music that we will ultimately buy and put on our computers and iPods.  These days they don’t tell you who playing the song anymore! I can’t count the number of time I’ve called a radio station to find out who played a song I liked that I heard.

Maybe Lady Gaga, Ludacris and a lot of the other mega-stars realized this too?  If they don’t promote their brand in their product … who’s going to know it’s them (especially in the early stages of their careers)?

Brilliant self-promotion … or egotism?  I’d say the former.

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Heroes, a Nomad, Hip Hop, hope … and Haiti!

I heard something that makes me think there is God after all.

As we all know, Haiti was devastated this January by a debilitating earthquake.  Haiti, a county that is already the poorest in the Western hemisphere.  Everybody, and their brother and even sister, was either sending money or volunteering.  The relief effort was unprecedented.  But in the end … what has actually been accomplished.  I’m sure there has been inroads in debris clean-up.  Some of the infrastructure has been rebuilt and hopefully for the better.  But in the end … what will happen – going forward.  Haiti will still be the poorest country in our connected land mass.  There is no leadership, has been no leadership and doesn’t look like there be any leadership there to relieve the Haitian plight.

The devistating Haiti earthquake

Until yesterday.

For years … or should I say decades Haiti was decimated by corruption of mammoth proportions.  With ascendancy of Jean-Claude Duvalier, Bebe’ Doc, after the death of his father, Francious, the country was stripped of its resources in every conceivable way imaginable.  And through the use of the paramilitary guard, his successor, Jean-Bertrand Aristede only made matters worse.

Aristede was run out in 1991, but by that time, the damage had been done.  And there was no competent  political replacement.  Anybody who was any anybody, left town and set up shop in our country; no different from the what happened in Cuba in the ’50s.  With that, went the brainpower, leadership and most of all hope – hope that was most definitely needed at that time.  Also, Haitian law was changed so these expatriates were forbidden to come back to Haiti and participate in government in any way shape or form.

But yesterday things changed … and hope is back and maybe a lot more.

Haiti’s favorite son is coming home.  And he’s coming home to lead … to be their President.

Wycif Jean, the world renown hip-hop star and producer has announced that he will run in Haiti’s November presidential election.

On the face, this probably seems like just another celebrity, with no government experience putting his nose in where it need not go.  Just a publicity stunt to sell more records for himself or his protegé, Shakira.  There’s more to it than you think.  Wyclif, as he’s known, is not just a celebrity in Haiti – he’s an icon.  Roughly equivalent to what Bob Marley was in Jamaica at his peak.  One of the very few Haitians that has succeeded.

Not only will he win … he will change game in Haiti – and I’m going to tell you why.

First, he will win – and win in a landslide.

1.  He has considerable wealth.  His worth is well into the tens of millions.  This is more than enough to wage a formidable campaign.  And on top of it, he’s technologically savvy so to make the best use of his resources.

2.  He known and revered by the bulk of Haitians.  Seventy percent of Haiti is under thirty years old.  While the country is definitely third world in western standards, it’s not so much that they don’t know contemporary music – especially music by a fellow countryman.  Don’t be surprised if voter turnout is the largest in decades, especially amongst the young and disenfranchised.

And he will be able to govern and enact change.

1.  Wyclif technically has dual citizenship, Haiti and United States.  He has lived in this country since he was young and is definitely westernized.  He will definitely be embraced by Barak Obama.  Obama has shown an affinity for the leaders in the music community.  In fact several, musicians such as Jay Z are regular visitors to the White House.  If he hasn’t already been there, Wyclif will definitely be welcome … especially as the chief of state of one our neighbors.  With this embrace will come assistance and assistance in a big way.

2.  The first thing Wyclif has said he would do as President is to rescind the expatriate ban on government participation.  These people will provide the backbone of his government, the leadership experience that critics say he does not have (i.e. the Reagan administration).

3.  Here’s the big one.  All the money and U.S. assistance; all the management experience, will do nothing if the people in the streets don’t buy into the plan.  The 20 something year olds, the Millennials, Haiti’s Heroes, will be the soldiers of implementation.  They will be the ones who will rebuild the country and provide the mentoring to their younger brothers and sisters of the next generation – the generation that years down the road will continue to drag Haiti into the 21st Century.

At present, any semblance of leadership Haiti has are Baby Boomers, idealogues who will spout truisms but do not get into the trenches, and the trenches in Haiti are not pretty.  Wyclif on the other hand is a Gen Xer, a Nomad.  Wyclif is thirty-seven and the Heroes can identify with him not only because of his music but also his age.  He’s not so removed from them to not know what life is like to be twenty or twenty-five and not have any prospect of opportunity, any prospect of hope.

Plus a common characteristic of the Nomad generational archetype is being hands on … do, don’t just talk.  Wyclif was actually in Haiti after the earthquake helping recover bodies in the rubble.  No doubt he had friends or relatives who perished in the disaster.  His younger constituency will identity with that and be motivated to help rebuild their homeland and their future.

All of the above will create an equation that will … render an answer, an answer that our neighbors to south could only pray for.

Haiti, hope has returned … your favorite son is coming home.

 

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