Monday, September 29, 2008

Why the Bailout Failed

Hoisted by one’s own petard

1. (idiomatic) to be hurt, or destroyed by one’s own plot or device, of one’s own doing which one intended for another; to be “blown up by one’s own bomb”

He has no one to blame but himself; he was hoisted by his own petard.

Most people have a short attention span during non-stressful times and when they are afraid that attention span drops to zero. As a result people jump without thinking, onto what they hear, draw the wrong conclusion, and then remain fixated there resistant to new facts and evidence. Such a mindset is much stronger than all the logic and convincing in the world.

Witness how a tantruming baby can bring an entire dinner if not vacation to its knees.

This is what is happening in the current financial crisis and why once people are locked onto believing that the bailout is all about Wall Street and giving the pigs who caused it a second chance at the trough they will not change their minds.

Given how often I have seen people stay fixated on the wrong thing until the bitter end, I am not optimistic about their changing their mind soon in this crisis. I hope I am wrong.

What usually changes their mind is such a real threat (vs. “dire”) to their survival –losing that job, not having money to buy food, having their car repossessed, or junior returned from college for failure to pay tuition—that they finally see the light and being right or self-righteous doesn’t seem so important. People will keep choking on pride until something is literally choking them to death.

How did we develop such “jump to the wrong conclusionitis?” Americans by nature find reading, listening, thinking painful and will avoid all of them if they can. They have lost their curiosity and replaced it with what is exciting in the moment. They have become adrenaline junkies where they keep chasing after what is interesting at the expense of what is important. And that compulsion/addiction is reinforced everywhere. Why wait for something to be satisfying when you can get immediate gratification now? Why bother with college when you can become an American Idol? Why bother learning when you can be a “know it all” today?

Wall Street, sensationalistic movies, video game manufacturers, ipoderations and political candidates have done everything they can to take advantage of this increasing tendency to be both thoughtless and impulsive.

On the latter note, both candidates do everything they can in every ad they run to take whatever the other has said out of context, because they know they can hook you and me and bend you to their will.

Unfortunately, this devolution (reversing evolution) of Americans from thoughtful humans to thoughtless animals has now put us all on the hook.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Usable Insight - Don't Panic!

first seen at: basil and spice!

When you focus on what needs to be done today and just do it,
you stop being afraid of what might happen tomorrow.
-Bob Eckert, CEO and Chairman, Mattel

Bob Eckert, the CEO of Mattel, Inc., told me the story of a time when panic nearly overtook him. It was Sunday afternoon in 1990, and the 35-year old Eckert, then a division president at Kraft Foods, stared at the NFL game on television. He felt like a deer in the headlights of a career disaster.

Kraft had been accused of price gauging in the Chicago Tribune. The outcries against the company and Eckert were immediate and strong. “Legislators were talking about coming down on Kraft as a monopoly and multiple trade rags said that heads were going to roll,” he recalls. “And the head that would roll first would no doubt be mine. My fear of failure was palpable.” Watching the game, he felt like he was about to be massively and injuriously tackled.

Bob Eckert kept staring at the television and listened to an interview with the innovative Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche. The Bengals – who had won the Super Bowl the previous year — had just lost their ninth game of the season. Wyche had been called on the carpet; it was common knowledge that he was about to lose his job.

A reporter approached him and said: “Coach, you’re going to get fired on Tuesday. Tell me about it.” Wyche responded directly to the camera: “You know I’m going to get fired Tuesday and I know. But that’s not important. What is important is to help this team get better up until I’m let go.”

Eckert felt stunned. “It seemed like he was talking directly to me,” he said. The next morning, he went back to work accepting that he would be fired, but determined to help the company do better in the meantime. Instead of continuing to feel like Chicken Little worrying about the sky falling, he applied himself to important tasks that pulled Kraft through the crisis.

Needless to say, Eckert wasn’t fired. He stayed on at Kraft, became its President and CEO, and moved on to the top job at Mattel, Inc.(where he has continued to heed this advice through the recalls of many Mattel products using lead paint).

“Of all the advice I’ve ever received and followed, Wyche’s is pre-eminent,” Eckert told me later. “Maybe it’s because when you’re alone in self-doubt it can escalate rapidly until you can’t move. But when someone who’s in the hot seat shows such determination, it can inspire you to develop your own resolve. Wyche’s advice helped me to overcome being afraid to fail. It guides me still.”

The above was excerpted from“Chapter 16: Panicking” Get Out of Your Own Way at Work …and Help Others Do the Same, by Mark Goulston, M.D. Perigee Books, $14.95).

Of additional interest on the topic of this blog in the same book is “Chapter 9: Lacking Self-Discipline.” The essence of that chapter is that life is not about self-discipline, it is about habits. Successful people have different habits than unsuccessful people AND people who panic have different habits than those who remain calm. A habit is a routine behavior that you do regularly that requires little to no effort to maintain, because it has become internalized.

* LINKS AND EVENTS FOR USABLE INSIGHT SUBSCRIBERS:* WE ARE ALL IN THIS WORLD TOGETHER, BUT IN TIMES OF FEAR WE PULL APART, ISOLATE AND THAT’S WHEN FEAR CAN TURN TO PANIC. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY. IF YOU WANT TO BUILD A TOUGH, SMART, “BAND OF BROTHERS” TEAM AND CULTURE THAT CAN MAKE IT THROUGH ANYTHING, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE SIGN UP TO ATTEND THIS SEMINAR. Become a Tribal Leader, September 30, 2008 9:30-11 AM PST. Live virtual seminar featuring Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fisher Wright authors of Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, hosted by Dr. Mark Goulston at The Center for Great Management.

* Join my new FOCUS and READY, AIM, CHANGE Groups at the new Keith Ferrazzi community. Sign in and become a member.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

“There are few things I hate more

than people who waste my time.”

- CEO, Fortune 50 company

Time is a CEO’s most valuable and most protected resource, which is why there are often so many barriers to getting through to them.

If you do have the opportunity to meet with one, there are three questions on their mind about you:

  1. Have you prepared well enough?
  2. Are you a quick study?
  3. What can you actually get done for me that is relevant?

  1. Have you prepared well enough?

“Do you get where my company and I are coming from, what we’re trying to accomplish (or avoid), why, and why now?”

  1. Are you a quick study?

“Can you quickly and deeply, get what I am saying without having to explain?”

  1. What can you actually get done for me that is relevant?

“What have you already done for companies and individuals like me that I need you to do now that produced a positive measurable change?”

Monday, April 28, 2008

Is Your Teen Depressed or Anxious?

by Mark Goulston, April 5, 2008

Mother: Do you think he'll put his fist through the wall?

Father: Let's hope it's not his head!

And so begins another evening of pillow talk between the parents of an angry, sullen teenager.

If your child is angry, negative, brooding and avoids people and you're thinking depression, think again.

More and more research shows that in a majority of cases where adults or adolescents have a mixture of anxiety and depression, the anxiety comes first and in most cases causes the depression. That anxiety causes such people to withdraw socially, self-medicate with alcohol or pot, and eventually to have it cross over to poor school or work performance. It's these disastrous effects that intolerable anxiety has on their lives that causes them to feel depressed, it's not the depression itself.

This is important to keep in mind, because although many anti-depressant medications (such as Lexapro™, Paxil™, Zoloft™, Effexor™) are also effective on anxiety, anxiety is a different entity than depression and requires a different approach.

If you treat the depression and miss out on the underlying anxiety that's causing it, people with it will not do as well.

Unfortunately one of the worst combinations that adolescents can have is what I refer to as the "Triple A - lethal cocktail of adolescence" – Anxiety, Alcohol and Arrogance. The anxiety and alcohol use are quite treatable, but it is that "leave me alone," refuse to accept help arrogance that keeps adolescents from getting the help they need and getting better.

Please feel free to share this with your adolescent if you think it will help.

© 2008
Mark Goulston


If you think your child may have an anxiety disorder, please answer the following questions "Yes" or "No", print out the page, and show the results to your child's health care professional:

Yes No

Does the child have a distinct and ongoing fear of social situations involving unfamiliar people?

Yes No

Does the child worry excessively about a number of events or activities?

Yes No

Does the child experience shortness of breath or a racing heart for no apparent reason?

Yes No

Does the child experience age-appropriate social relationships with family members and other familiar people?

Yes No

Does the child often appear anxious when interacting with her peers and avoid them?

Yes No

Does the child have a persistent and unreasonable fear of an object or situation, such as flying, heights, or animals?

Yes No

When the child encounters the feared object or situation, does he react by freezing, clinging, or having a tantrum?

Yes No

Does the child worry excessively about her competence and quality of performance?

Yes No

Does the child cry, have tantrums, or refuse to leave a family member or other familiar person when she must?

Yes No

Has the child experienced a decline in classroom performance, refused to go to school, or avoided age-appropriate social activities?

Yes No

Does the child spend too much time each day doing things over and over again (for example, hand washing, checking things, or counting)?

Yes No

Does the child have exaggerated fears of people or events (i.e., burglars, kidnappers, car accidents) that might be difficult, such as in a crowd or on an elevator?

Yes No

Does the child experience a high number of nightmares, headaches, or stomachaches?

Yes No

Does the child repetitively re-enact with toys scenes from a disturbing event?

Yes No

Does the child redo tasks because of excessive dissatisfaction with less-than-perfect performance?


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition.
Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1994.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Measure of a Civilization

The measure of a civilization at war is
how it treats those who have hurt it;

The measure of a civilization in peace
is how it treats those who are
hurting in it.

- Mark Goulston

U.S. Military Dead in Iraq : 3,333

U.S. Military Wounded/Mutilated in Iraq: 24,314

Incomplete List Of Contractors Dead in Iraq: 393 (incomplete list)

Journalists Dead in Iraq: 117 (incomplete list)

Iraqi Civilians Dead: 62,281

Child Abuse: 2006 report from 2004 data: 3,000,000 alleged abused or neglected; 872,000 confirmed

Child Abuse: 2005 report from 2003 data: 2,900,000 alleged abused or neglected; 906,000 confirmed

Child Abuse: 2004 report from 2002 data: 1,800,000 alleged abused or neglected; 896,000 confirmed

2005 National Crime Victimization Survey: 191,670 victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assaults

The Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (February 2007): 754,000 homeless on any given night in the United States

Just how civilized are we?

Talk Out Your Grief and You'll Begin to Heal

The second longest wait in life
is the time it takes for angst from a tragedy
to turn into grief;
the longest wait in life is the time it takes for grief
to turn into wisdom.

-Mark Goulston

The tragedy at Virginia Tech is such a devastating loss to those closely and even not so closely affected by it and creates an emotional abscess that needs to be drained completely before it can begin to heal. To clean this wound to their hearts and souls, they will need to feel and express, then pause and feel and express again, until they have drained the pus completely.

This will not be easy. Once you begin to grieve a certain tragedy, you risk opening the floodgates to unfelt, unexpressed and unhealed inner angst from other traumatic events in your life.

Yet sharing your feelings with people who can relate based on their own similar experiences can be extremely valuable during the recovery process. This explains why women with breast cancer are so helped by "Reach to Recovery" groups, and why the group experience is the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous recovery programs.

To open the door to your own process of emotional excavation, healing and rebuilding, begin to talk in great detail with others about what you saw and heard, thought and felt, as you watched the tragedy of this awful event unfold.

Also use the following 10 signposts as a guide through the Valley of this Shadow of Death:

1. Cry
2. Scream
3. Shriek
4. Reach out to others
5. Reach into yourself
6. Sob
7. Take a deep breath
8. Whimper
9. Rest
10. Repeat the above as often as needed until you know that you'll make it through.
(c) 2007 Mark Goulston

Subscribe to Usable Insight of the Week

Mark Goulston is a partner at Los Angeles-based Ferrazzi Greenlight and the author of the upcoming book, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for Dummies (due November, 2007). Visit Mark at:

Monday, April 23, 2007

Getting an Upset Person to Listen to Reason

A person can’t actively listen and scream at the same time,
and when they don’t listen to you,
get them to listen to them.

- Mark Goulston

One of the key tipping points in calming an upset person down who you're having a conversation with is to repeat what they are saying to you in a calm and measured voice. This takes discipline and focus, because your tendency is to react to people who are venting, blaming, etc. and either become defensive, competitive or hostile back at them.

So if someone is saying to you: "I hate this job, it's a bunch of bullsh-t, and nobody gives a damn," wait until they completely finish and then say calmly: "It's very important (just using the word "important" in connection with a person who is feeling unimportant is calming in itself) that I heard you correctly (pause) so what you're saying is that you hate this job, you think it's a bunch of bullsh-t, and you believe nobody gives a damn, is that correct?"

When you do this, it forces the upset person to go from venting to listening. They will begin to listen at the speed you are talking and will be drawn to listening, because you're saying what they told you.

If they resist and say, “You’re just trying to make fun of me” or “I’m not going to listen to anything you say,” repeat back to them in a calm voice, “This really is TOO important for me to have not correctly heard what you said, because if I did, it will be more difficult to figure out what to do to make things better.” Persist with this approach until they begin to listen.

It's important not to have a "passive aggressive" baiting, or ridiculing tone in your voice, but to assume a true inquiring attitude to sincerely check if you have heard them correctly.

If they tell you that you didn't hear them correctly, ask them to correct what you said and then repeat the corrected phrase back to them.

After you have repeated it correctly and they have agreed with what you say, you have not only caused them to listen, but you have caused them to say, "yes" to you in their mind which begins to ease them away from the hostile and agitated "no" in their head.

From here there are a variety of places you can take them. Such as asking them: "Do you really believe what you are saying and if so why?" or "It's also very important for me to know what has caused you to feel and think that way so I can see what might be done to make things better, so tell me, you hate your job and you think it's a bunch of bullsh-t and that nobody gives a damn because ---------"

By the way asking someone to fill in the blank as in the last phrase, " tell me, you hate your job and you think it's a bunch of bullsh-t and that nobody gives a damn because ---------" validates there thoughts and feeling and is more inviting and less confrontational than asking a question such as: "why do you hate your job and why do you think it's a bunch of bullsh-t."

By using this conversation you have led the person away from their animal reflex attack mode into listening and then into thinking what they’re saying and when they do that, they will begin to calm down and if you're patient, they will begin to listen to reason.

(c) 2007 Mark Goulston

Subscribe to Usable Insight of the Week.

Mark Goulston is a partner at Los Angeles-based Ferrazzi Greenlight and the author of Get Out of Your Own Way at Work...and Help Others Do the Same the upcoming book, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for Dummies (due November, 2007). Visit Mark at: