Will Bill Cosby Rehabilitate Monica Lewinsky?

Will Bill Cosby Rehabilitate Monica Lewinsky?

Girl crying Bill Cosby’s alleged mistreatment of young women has permanently ruined his reputation as the family man of television comedy and as a leader of the African-American community whose popularity and reasonableness crossed all racial and ethnic lines.

If the allegations against him are true, the blame for each and every incident falls on Cosby alone. As almost everyone agrees, the young women involved were clearly the victims.

Cosby’s modus operandi was to lure the women with friendly advice, offering a potential mentoring relationship and even indicating that acting roles or creative positions might be available in productions in which he starred or produced. These offers had substantial credibility because of Cosby’s immense power within the television industry and the personal wealth and fame he accumulated as one of the medium’s most dominant stars. For impressionable young women, inexperienced in the ways of Hollywood yet understanding that true opportunities were in short supply, Cosby’s offers were over- whelming in their apparent generosity and thoughtfulness. The consensus opinion of Cosby’s guilt and his victims’ innocence formed quickly and with near complete unanimity, as well it should have.

Why then does Monica Lewinsky continue to be pilloried in the media, and in particular criticized by the very feminists and supporters of women’s rights who now rally to the cause of the Cosby victims?

Lewinsky’s mentor was someone with the ability to do a lot more than secure a minor role in a television show. Serving under the most powerful man in the world, who offered to open that world to her, was certainly at least as overwhelming as the lure which attracted Cosby’s victims.

The specifics of each situation vary, but at essence Lewinsky and Cosby’s accusers were all the victims of very powerful older men. Some observers want to parse the differences, pointing out that many of Cosby’s victims believe they were drugged and that Cosby forced his way well beyond anything consensual. However, something made Cosby’s victims place themselves in compromising positions where Cosby had control. They were well-manipulated to a point where the completion of Cosby’s goals apparently was not difficult. Whatever the facts of each event, neither they, nor Lewinsky, can be blamed for the end result. As anyone knows who as a parent has watched daughters grow up, or has been a trusted teacher or mentor to young female adults, young women aged 18-24 are all about two things: hopes and dreams. Consumer advertising openly plays to this with considerable success. For men with the power and charisma of Bill Cosby or Bill Clinton, it is much less of a challenge.

In Lewinsky’s case her emotional untethering by President Clinton led her immediately into the grasp of two more older people also more than happy to take advantage of her. Both Linda Tripp, who pretended to be her confidant in order to betray her, and special investigator Kenneth Starr used their wiles born of long experience to make Lewinsky do things which in retrospect she likely would not have done. Lewinsky then had the further indignity of her former boyfriend in California being compelled by Starr to turn over to the investigation personal photographs, letters, souvenirs and gifts Lewinsky had sent him during her time at the White House.

Despite this, the criticism of Lewinsky remains vicious. Just last month CNN.com published a piece entitled “Shame on Monica Lewinsky” in which the writer, 32-year-old Timothy Stanley, portrays Lewinsky as an evil protagonist and states that the primary victim was Clinton’s wife Hillary. At the time of the actual scandal, Stanley was all of fifteen years old. Hillary herself was quoted by her friend Diane Blair as calling Lewinsky a “narcissistic loony toon,” a characterization which Mrs. Clinton has never denied.

The difference now of course between the two Bills is that one of them is a pathetic has-been but the other is a potential king-maker whose full talents will be very much in need if Hillary is to make it to the Oval Office herself in 2016.

Indeed, 2016 is where the proper re-classification of Monica Lewinsky may come in to play. Hillary’s hurdle, as it was against Barack Obama in 2008, will be her authenticity. In light of the Cosby revelation and the attendant focus on the vulnerability of young adult women to powerful older men, will Hillary’s continued refusal to acknowledge Lewinsky as a legitimate victim serve as the defining example of her rehearsed, unnatural and often forced public persona?

That persona’s contrast with her husband’s boundless comfort in almost all situations only further complicates things for her.

Imagine Hillary being asked a question about Bill Cosby and whether Cosby’s victims and Monica Lewinsky were equally blameless. Then imagine Hillary answering by saying that, although she was hurt and angry at Lewinsky, with the passing of time, and watching her own daughter come of age, she now recognizes that Monica lacked adequate defenses against such a powerful man and that she was certainly a victim as much as Cosby’s victims were.

If you are a Hillary supporter, you should hope what we imagined above comes true – it could be exactly what proves she can be a true leader and worthy of our votes. In that case the other Bill might be the one to whom Hillary will owe the most gratitude.

Keith Danko November 26, 2014

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The Road Part II: Be Your Own Artisan

The Road Part II: Be Your Own Artisan

Be Your Own ArtisanTo achieve the greatest results from the cultivation of your positive attributes, commit your best ability. Think of yourself as a worker “employed” by yourself to benefit your career, and then imagine that worker as a craftsman or an artisan, old-fashioned terms that predate our rapid-production, cloud computing age. Craftsmen and artisans are special people who blend art with the practical, and through excellence and care create wonderful things that enrich our lives. Think of potters, carpenters, masons, smiths, all cultivating their abilities through the everyday items they make.

The artisan model for attribute cultivation came to me while watching the renovation of an old house I had purchased years ago. The house was over 90 years old, and the renovation called for extensive expertise, including the services of many specialized craftsmen to restore its former glory. Two that fascinated me were the plasterers and the masons. The plasterers handled their trowels like surgeons with their scalpels, using their hand and eye to create classic wave patterns on the walls. When they did the ceilings it was the same, except that they performed their magic while walking on two-foot stilts, bending their heads back to look upward. The masons were equally mesmerizing. Among their tasks was the restructuring of several archways and the laying of a patio of old bluestone. They used precise calculations to a point, but when the actual bricks were placed in the arch and the stones lain in the patio, it was their hands and eyes that finished the job. There was no repair or short-term fix on these artisans’ minds. Their work was done to last a lifetime, and they created real beauty. Part of my fascination was that none of these fellows was likely ever to see their work on my house again. Nonetheless each one of them manifested an artist-like mindset, dynamically striving for a personal masterpiece.

Envision them doing their careful and deliberate work as you contemplate how to best cultivate your positive attributes. Become the craftsman or artisan of your own career.

Or think of yourself as Michael Jordan. Not Jordan playing in front of thousands in the stands and millions watching on television, but Jordan shooting shot after shot, alone in a gym except for a teenager retrieving each shot and passing the ball quickly back to him. Or Derek Jeter, who had his own cultivation challenge.

When Jeter was signed by the Yankees, much of his attraction was the leadership qualities he exuded. As Yankee scout Dick Groch advised, “Sign him. You can build a team around him.” However, Jeter was signed to play shortstop, the most demanding and important defensive position. During his first season in the minor leagues he made an astounding 56 errors. Like Jordan he had to draw upon his innate abilities and cultivate them into a valuable skill, and after two years of hard work fielding ball after ball, practicing proper footwork and throwing, he was ready to take the field as shortstop for the Yankees.

The Jeter example brings up another aspect of cultivation. In certain instances the act of cultivation itself may advance your career prospects before you even begin to share your cultivated skills. That Jeter was willing to work so hard on mastering the intricacies of fielding a difficult position caught the attention of Yankee management. It enhanced their view of him as a leader and solidified their decision to invest in him as the future Yankee shortstop.

So choose your artisan or craftsman model: the athlete cultivating a skill to be displayed in front of the full public glare, or the mason perfecting an archway that he will never see again, and where those who do will not know the name of the person who built it. Or draw from your own internal reserves of motivation. Find whatever approach works for you. The cultivation of your best attributes establishes you to be a full participant for the rest of your career, with much to share.

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The Answer Starts Within

The Answer Starts Within

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There are constant calls from many self-help career advisors for a more assertive and aggressive attitude at work in the advancement of one’s career. The idea is that, especially for women and for those who are members of minority ethnic or racial groups such behavior is essential to getting ahead. But is this really a smart path to follow? Accepting such a belief couples the myth of confrontational necessity with the myth of an ambition gap. Those who support this argument continually point to statistics such as the low percentages of women and members of various minority groups in high leadership positions. However, the seeds for that imbalance were planted forty or fifty years ago; today an observer of current young people entering the business world can see that there is little such directed imbalance, and that in the US and other democracies of the West, opportunities based on merit are truly the norm. Competition in business today, heightened by the interdependency of our global economy, make active discrimination a very expensive proposition. Nowadays those who perform are rewarded, and those who do not are neither promoted nor well-paid.

If anything the human crisis in business today when it comes to personnel is what role the below-average employee will play. Years ago under-performing but well-meaning people could often remain gainfully employed, as companies felt some duty to provide a livelihood, especially as less competitive environments permitted them to control price levels and protect profit margins. Lack of technology then also allowed for a multitude of menial, easily-supervised tasks which could be performed by the less capable but which are now done by machines or software. Today, the idea that businesses can afford to allow attitudes toward work from decades ago to hold sway is not realistic; a business that did so with any consistency would risk becoming uncompetitive and be likely to falter.

The unfortunate part of the females/minorities statistical imbalance message is that it plays to people’s stereotypes and prejudices and thereby gains popularity. It breeds a lonely separatism. Coworkers can be transformed into suspicious factions, rather than potential allies. It ignores the real and most hopeful truth of business: that more people have an incentive to help your career than to harm it.

Of course it is possible that you may be the victim of a specific bias on a micro level. Such things do happen, and unfortunately more often than they should. Your age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, social background, looks or personal style might be held against you by another individual or a group of people within a larger business. In that event looking within yourself to identify, cultivate and share your best remains your essential task. Thinking about anything else only serves as an unnecessary distraction, and it is crucial to always remember that unnecessary distractions only slow you down. Instead of overtly or silently taking on the fear and burden of bias, manage the process. See and understand where your strengths and value-laden abilities may best be shared. If you do so relentlessly you will be noticed; many others besides those fostering the bias will observe and report on your capability.

The practice of identify/cultivate/share will lead to increased chances for success and fulfillment in your career. Promotions, raises, and new job offers come when others, and you may not even know in advance who those others will be, see and recognize the positive things you do and the best attributes you manifest. In addition, as a philosophy and belief it is re-affirming; the more you make it your primary career faith, the faster you will reap the benefits through your own productivity and sense of accomplishment.

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Wisdom in the Attic

Wisdom in the Attic

Unknown-2I recently cleared out some old boxes in my attic and came across a stack of yellowed papers written some forty years ago by my father-in-law. The typewritten pages consisted of a series of observations, perhaps in preparation for a book, drawn from his life in Britain prior to World War II, his time in India and Burma during the war, and his post-war career as an advertising executive. I never met him; he passed away from cancer not long after pulling these thoughts together.

An important aspect of his life was his war experience. As a captain in Britain’s Indian forces, he was assigned to the defense of Burma against Japanese attack. The fighting in Burma was gruesome, and not just because of the tenacity and tactics of the Japanese aggressors. Poor weather, disease, and the lack of transport infrastructure were constants. These severely hampered replenishing supply lines and made any maneuvering difficult for the British troops. In their retreat they took heavy losses and many soldiers were separated from their units and forced to fend for themselves. My father-in-law was one such soldier. He survived for five months on his own, eventually found, riddled with malaria dysentery, by a Burmese family who nursed him back to health and helped him find his way to India.

Returning home after the war he embarked on a successful career, married, and raised a happy family. He rarely spoke of the war years. Doctors believed his too-early death may have been caused in some part by his exposure to the Burmese jungles during those years.

Given his rare human experience of having to survive totally on his own, no comforts, no food other than what he could find, gather or hunt, and no idea of how long he would be lost, among all of his observations I was most interested in his summary guideline to achieve success.

It was direct and simple: “Be yourself. Work on yourself. You are the best raw material you have got.”

So much career advice today urges us to change what we are, to develop a new “us”, to cure all of our weaknesses, or to be more demanding in order to receive our share of life’s rewards. In other words, to be more like what we have been taught to believe successful people are like, or more like those we are persuaded to imagine have more fulfilled lives than we do. Yet here is a man who had no option but to rely completely on himself, on his innate talents, attributes and virtues, in order to survive. He speaks to us from forty years ago. His message: identify and cultivate yourself; find your inner raw material and work it to your very best ability.

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Manage the Process

Manage the Process

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Every home sale holds its own set of unique trials. For my wife Teresa and me the trial occurred when the buyer’s home inspector came around to perform his inspection. He spent an inordinate amount of time. We soon understood why. Two afternoons later we received a seventeen-page letter from the buyer’s attorney outlining over forty items to be repaired or replaced. Fix these items or the sale is off.

I read the list of items and as I read I began thinking immediately of the motivation behind the letter. To me it was simply a ploy to get a lower sales price. The list was so long and detailed, seemingly impossible to fulfill, and packed with things that no reasonable buyer would expect to have changed or “repaired”, that I focused quickly and solely on how much ransom the buyer intended to hold us for: $30,000? $40,000? More? Within minutes of getting through all seventeen pages, I saw the obvious answer: no dice! We would instruct our attorney to tell the buyer that he could take the house as is at the agreed price or walk away. It was a great house. Someone else more reasonable would buy it at our price.

Teresa listened quietly to my reasoning that we should stand firm. Later that evening she came back to me holding the letter.

“I think we can do all this,” she said

She asked me to hold off a day in responding. She wanted 24 hours to talk to the staff at the local hardware store, visit Home Depot, and call a few contractors who had done work for us in the past. The next evening she informed me that within ten days or so, with both of us pitching in a bit, and some small assistance from a contractor or two, we would be able to complete the list of items. At what cost, I asked. Her answer: “Three to four thousand.”

My attorney informed the buyer that everything would be perfect, and it soon was. I was not there, but our real estate agent told us that the buyer went over and over the list during his pre-closing walk-through, spending an extra hour looking unsuccessfully for some flaw he could claim was not repaired. We closed later that day at our full price.

What Teresa had done, and what I had failed to do, was to see the seventeen-page letter for what it was: one piece of the home sale process. She saw the whole process, understood it, and managed it accordingly. On the other hand I allowed myself to be distracted, seeing motivations and strategies, real or imagined, and rushed to contemplate potential outcomes.

Our work and our lives place us squarely in the midst of the great and small processes all around us. The more we see and comprehend these processes and focus on how they work and function, the less likely we are to be blown off course by distractions, and the better we become at managing our own lives.

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Within Your Grasp

Within Your Grasp

cropped-WYG-temp.cover_.2.jpgWithin Your Grasp is an original, carefully thought out philosphy of conduct and attitude that leads to an enriched life, employing the strengths we already possess. Banishing the distractions of futile comparison, competition, and attitude makeovers, Author Keith Danko invites individuals to manage the processes surrounding them – and guess what? You already hold the tools you need. Absolutely any gentleman or lady seeking more out of their business life will want to listen and learn from from these insights.

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