As those of you following my blog know, I have only been out in the "real world" since the end of August, 2008, after paroling from Folsom State Prison and 12 years of incarceration--the details are in my first posting, WHERE IN THE WORLD IS JERRY GILLIES? As I work on my
book on the health benefits of dark chocolate, I am also thinking, from time to time, about the book I will eventually write about that prison experience and about what it is like to reemerge into a society that has dramatically changed in 12 years.
Well, one of the big things I notice, and even a lot of reading and watching TV did not prepare me for this, is the nation's profound shortening of its attention span. Or maybe it's a case of collective Alzheimer's. Symptomatic of this is that cultural icon, Jay Leno's Jaywalking segments, where he goes to a public setting, like Universal Studios in North Hollywood, and talks to passersby, often college students, sometimes college graduates or teachers. And they display the most astounding ignorance about things most people should know--if they paid
attention and remembered. But they don't. So you have a history major who can't name who
the combatants were in World War Two, or the last Vice President, or identify the photograph of any famous American who isn't a movie or music star. It isn't really stupidity, it's more a case of so much information coming at us so rapidly, we don't have time--or the inclination--to take it all in.
The news media are possibly the worst offenders. I have often advocated not watching or reading the news--it's a false picture of what's going on in the world, a small slice of reality,
and more so in recent years, and usually negative. The major network anchors commit almost daily offenses for which I would have been fired when I worked at radio stations in New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Virginia, and even Dover, Delaware. Sins of commission and omission that indicate they haven't done their homework, have not checked the back story, and don't remember major events from the past that should be reported along with the current story.
The few times I watch the news, it is almost inevitable that I want to slap my palm against the anchor's forehead for an egregious offense against accuracy. Of course events are partly to blame, they are happening so fast and furious, the world is changing so rapidly, that it is hard to keep up with it all. Probably media news operations should have research departments to check all this stuff. At one time they did, but budget cuts got rid of most of them.
To give one example, a few years ago a major story was Viacom taking over CBS. I checked a
lot of the coverage and did not find one mention of a fact that was one of the most interesting
parts of the story. I assume it was because no one reporting checked on the history of Viacom.
But I was working in the media in New York at the time the company was created. And it was
a spinoff from CBS, which was told by regulators that it could no longer own and market its
own syndicated shows, like I LOVE LUCY. So Viacom was created to be the syndicator of all the CBS Television shows. I found it fascinating that this little company that was an offshoot of the giant media corporation grew so powerful it eventually, some thirty years later, swallowed its
founding entity. But no one else got to feel that fascination, because hardly anyone else knew
about it. Oh, I did find one sentence referring to that part of the story in one newspaper.
Why does it matter? Who cares about these long ago details? That's not the significance of
this--what does matter is that we are not getting the whole story about anything anymore.
We get bits and pieces. The whole world is reduced to instant messaging abbreviations.
People shocked by something can't even bring themselves to say "Oh my God!" nowadays,
it's almost always "OMG". The less we take in and the faster we get it, the less there will be to
People used to compliment me on how I could stand in front of an audience and speak spontaneously for an hour or two or three without notes. But I could only do that because I
had studied and thought about my subject for dozens of hours, and practiced speaking in my head or out loud for many hours more. Now people can't be bothered taking the time. Everyone
wants a shortcut. We have speed dating, one or two minute encounters with strangers, in which time we're supposed to figure out if they can make us happy. I suggest we take it to the next
level. We sit down opposite someone new, introduce ourselves, make a commitment to be in a relationship together, and then break up--all in two or maybe three minutes. After all, most relationships do eventually end, why not save the time and heartache? And who's paying attention anyway? If you do go out for a longer date with one of those people, they'll probably bring their iPhone or Blackberry so they can text the person who was their second choice at the speed-dating event, or maybe you were their second choice and the first person turned them down, but could still call when their first choice turns out to be a dud. It's so scattered and confusing out here.
But you know what? It's still better than being locked in a cell for the night with someone you
wouldn't ordinarily choose to have as a friend, let alone spend 24 hours a day with. And after
some of the cellmates I've had, a two minute date actually doesn't look bad.
And I remember when shopping was a much slower and more entertaining experience. Take bookstores, for example. When I was a kid in Philadelphia, we had Leary's used bookstore, and everyone who worked there read books and loved to talk about them. If you expressed an interest in one author, they would tell you about several others you might like. The other day,
I went into one of the giant chain bookstores. The woman in charge of "Customer Service" could not even tell me if they stocked any books on chocolate, or where they might be. She found a couple on her computer, but that was the full extent of her service. Online shopping does give you a lot of information, but it lacks that personal touch, and eliminates the art of
discovering a salesperson who has similar tastes and can turn you on to something you never would have thought of, and certainly a computer wouldn't think of. Oh, didn't you know?--they really don't think, they just do a great job of imitating thought.
One of the things I admire about Jeanette Brooks, the founder of MXI, who produce the dark chocolate I am helping to market now, is that she turned down an offer from Wal-Mart to put her product on its shelves, a $30 million offer. Because she knew that when it came to a product with so many health benefits, there had to be a conversation between the buyer and the seller, an actual human discussion. Can you imagine a Wal-Mart sales clerk who could do that?
"Healthy dark chocolate? Oh sure, try aisle 28."
The amazing growth of network marketing, and small specialty shops, and online services that provide the human touch merely confirm a trend I first predicted in MONEYLOVE. I talked then about how we had gotten away from the personal touch, and said that as
the corporate and financial world became more mechanized and dehumanized, people would be looking for human-to-human services.
And I predict that trend will intensify in this current economic crisis. What service or knowledge can you provide that people used to take for granted, but is no longer easy to
find? Make that connection and make your fortune. And don't forget where you read it!
And by the way, if you'd like to find out more about tasting and sharing delicious and
astoundingly healthy dark chocolate, I am putting together a prosperity team I will work with closely. Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or check out the videos on my partner's websites. www.darkchocolatebenefits.net, and www.alphasonics.com, (look at the video under Chocolate For Health.) We could have a lot of fun together providing that personal touch.