“It’s emasculating in a way. I’m filled with admiration, but there are almost equal parts shame.”

“Some rise so high. Others stoop so low. I’m not putting you in the latter bucket.”

“But you’re not putting me in the former either. Nor should you. There are people that do things that matter. There are those that don’t.”

“Everything matters. Anything can matter. The littlest thing can save a life.”

“We always say that after the biggest things happen. ‘Well, I patted someone on the back the other day who looked really down. Who knows what might have happened… It’s utter bullshit.”

“If you’re conning yourself it is. But it doesn’t have to be.”

“How so.”

“I see a ton of cops in here. I see a ton of firefighters. To a man, they don’t view what they do as heroic.”

“Maybe they make a distinction between glamorous and heroic. There’s virtually zero chance I’ll throw someone over my shoulder today and carry them out of a burning building. Unless one of the girls in Accounting gets pissed, nobody will shoot at me during the course of a day.”

“That’s not your job. Or mine.”

“You’re proving my point.”

“You’re missing mine.”

“‘splain. And shake me a martini so my consciousness is expanded to grasp what you’re saying.”

“Most of their days are just like yours. Completely different, but largely the same. Tedium. Paperwork. Routine. Politics. Bureaucracy. The bullshit the ninety-percent trudges through daily— with the help of Ketel One and the grace of God.”

“I get that, but there’s always the potential for danger and an acceptance of risk. Without much in the way of reward, I might add.”

“You have the potential for risk. Not as much. But it’s very real. A car’s lying on its side on the highway. Everyone files by. ‘Sucks to be them.’ What do you do?”

“I pull over. I jump out. I hop up on it and try to pull him out.”

“And did you act bravely in that situation? In that split-second when you had to act?”

“The car was not on fire. The kid kicked that back window out himself and crawled out. It’s not the same.”

“What if it was on fire?”

“I’ld like to think I’d have still done everything I could.”

“Right. These guys have the training and experience to make that split second decision in a split-split-second. They don’t think. They act. It’s what they’ve been trained to do. What you call ‘braver’ they call muscle memory and reflexes.”


“At that moment they’re not thinking, ‘this is my SportsCenter moment. Du nu nu. Du nu nu.’ They’re thinking ‘there are people upstairs and the fire’s coming from the basement. I’ll take the basement you clear the upstairs.’”

“Right. Their instinct is to run in when others are running out. I’m a running out kind of guy. I think.”

“You think. They don’t think. They act. But you acted too at that rollover. You didn’t think. And without any training or skills of any kind you went in when others passed by so they could make a tee time or whatever. If that car was on fire and you did pull the kid out, you’d have been a hero too.”

“If ifs and buts were candy and nuts…”

“Maybe you’re not so different. Not as different as you think, anyway. They’ve just had more at bats. You’ve been on the bench. But when you got your shot, you had a real good at bat.”

“I walked.”

“Others walked away.”

“So I’m not a huge shit stain? I’m just running the course I’m on and may have behaved just like those two facing similar circumstances?”

“Fuck no. You’re a huge pussy. Those are real men. I’m just talking you off the ledge.”

“One more. Make it dry.”


I think this whole mess is about connections or our lack thereof. I also believe that connections are our salvation. But real ones. Not IP ones. Not iConnections.

The only way you could do something like what happened at the marathon is if you viewed all those bystanders as separate and apart from you. At this point whether “you” is a person, a group of people, a nation or a region is unclear. But I’m sure “you” feel disconnected. Otherwise you’d be blowing up yourself, right?

On a macro level I think that since the harmonic convergence of the 60s the world is now retreating back into our respective corners. Turns out love is not, in fact, all we need. Seems we need stuff, wealth, power, guns and devices. Lots and lots of devices.

The Us vs. Them that’s playing out on the global stage is mutated a bit on smaller scale. It’s not Us vs. Them but Me and You. It’s less sinister and corrosive but no less dangerous. Whereas Us vs. Them (UvT moving forward) frequently takes the form of aggression towards our neighbors, MaY takes the form of regression. It’s a retreat into our shells. Our heads ensconced in headphones and soon Google Glasses if Satan is real as I strongly suspect, we plug into our vWorlds and disconnect from our real ones. Sorry, the real one. We all come at it differently, but there’s just one. And we share it.
I see tweets and headlines today about “What can Tech do in response to yesterday’s bombing?” or godforbid “What can advertising do…?”


I take it back. There is something.

Lay down your weapons. We can’t app or advertise our way out of this jam. Don’t push the quick fix. These will be the hard yards. This is the proverbial crawl through glass. We have to actually do something. Not talk about doing something. Not create a “something experience”. There is no app for this.

It’s not about starting a movement. It’s about moving. Action.

And real discussion. We obviously need to find out who did this and handle our business there. But there’s a million or more right behind them. That’s one place I agree with Gun nuts. If you take an AK away bad guys will come up with something else to murder and maim. That’s sadly true. We are obligated to make it harder, however, but it’s a fair point. Guns do kill people but it really is true that it’s actually people that kill people.

And so people have to start talking to people again. In the pubs. In the coffee shops. At soccer games. In the lunch room.  Around the dinner table. Disconnect the devices and reconnect with our fellow humans.

Gawker.com will still be there when we get back. The question is will our first-person interactions make third-person social voyeurism less appealing.

I guess we’ll have to google that bridge when we come to it.

(Yes, I’m aware I’m delivering this sermon via blog. Boston wasn’t built in a day. But it was blown up on one.)

Curly Was Wrong

Curly Was Wrong

I was reading Fast Company’s list of “Most Innovative Companies” when it struck me: Curly was wrong.

You know– leather-faced Curly from City Slickers. Specifically when he (played by all-time badass Jack Palance) was imparting his cowboy wisdom on hapless (and now similarly leather-faced Oscar host) Billy Crystal that the key to life was ‘just one thing.’

All apologies, but wrong.

Life is about a bunch of things. Big things. Smaller things. But “things” plural. Fast Company’s top four most innovative companies—Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon—have this decidedly in common. In a seemingly ‘there’s an app for that world’ where ‘do one thing and do it better than anyone else’ is the mantra, they stand in contrast to a degree. Their utility is not one-dimensional or limited in any way. Their future seems wider, not deeper.

I won’t belabor the Applification of America. Apple is pervasive, thanks largely to ease of use and enormous utility. Apple works like you think it should and does a bunch of stuff that makes your life better or more enjoyable—even if you didn’t know it prior. What started with the iconic Mac has ballooned into something much, much more—a mix of hardware and software wrapped around an elegant experiential core. Even now, Apple seems nearer to its beginning than its end. Don’t delude yourself. We’ll all be driving Apple cars soon and asking Siri where the best place to beat the meter is.

Facebook began as a great way to keep in touch with friends new and old, to share some pictures, and blow off a little steam and time. Now it’s a way to share music, is on its way to becoming the prevalent Search venue, and will soon be all of our personal valet. It will know what we want—from turkey sandwich to Turkey vacation—before we do. Its key is that it’s so outwardly anthropomorphic. It doesn’t feel like software or layered databases. It feels like the corner pub, the high school reunion, or Aunt Gertrude’s parlor. Eight-hundred million people and counting stick with Facebook and all its foibles because we’re deeply engaged with it and have too much invested to unplug from it and move to Google+ or any of the other suitors for our social pursuits. In time, I have every reason to believe the Pinterests of the world will be bought or buried, reincarnated inside THE Facebook as it further solidifies its position as the place people digitally commune with one another for a long, long time.

Google, in contrast to Facebook’s warm and fuzzy human qualities, was the icily efficient box you typed search terms into. Remember that? Now it is email, calendars, maps, hardware, and the single best way to visualize a 3D rendering of the ulnar nerve. We all feed it more and use it more because it works—usually quickly and efficiently. Honestly, we’d all be reduced to nose-picking mouth-breathers if it went away one day. It is the undisputed champion of moving information into our heads. Think about it. Its utility and inroads into our lives (and soon our wallets) will grow unabated for the foreseeable future. Google it. You’ll see.

Amazon was a place to buy books. Now you can get Hugo Boss jeans (I’m told), organic pickles, or authentic MG (the iconic British convertible) cufflinks. Oh, and you could even get a Kindle, arguably doing more to promote reading than Harry Potter. With a significant share of hardware, software, and content sales, Amazon is not just transforming retail, but virtually all industries. It works. People like it. It’s simple. Why change?

Ultimately, I’ll give Curly this—they all began with ‘just one thing.’ From there, they consolidated their bases and built upon them vast, diverse enterprises that give us all more and more reason to use them. And use them. And use them some more. If it aint broke, don’t fix it, most of us say.

In a world increasingly thin-sliced, these four (with Foursquare hot on their heels) are becoming less specialized and more generally utilitarian. One and done competitors should take care. These all-in-one giants are not quite monopolies, but they’ve clearly got hotels on the green and yellow properties. They’re so hard to avoid because no one really wants to.

There’s a time for the new and a time for the familiar. And as these familiars are proving, there’s profit in bringing the new inside a familiar trusted source environment.

Don’t tell Curly. He’s packing.



(This post originally appeared in iMedia http://blogs.imediaconnection.com/blog/2012/03/26/curly-was-wrong/)