Give children chores
We’ve all said things that people interpreted much differently than we thought they would. These seemingly benign comments lead to the awful feeling that only comes when you’ve planted your foot firmly into your mouth.
Verbal slip-ups often occur because we say things without knowledge of the subtle implications they carry. Understanding these implications requires social awareness — the ability to pick up on the emotions and experiences of other people.
TalentSmart has tested the emotional intelligence (EQ) of more than a million people and discovered that social awareness is a skill in which many of us are lacking.
We lack social awareness because we’re so focused on what we’re going to say next — and how what other people are saying affects us — that we completely lose sight of other people.
This is a problem because people are complicated. You can’t hope to understand someone until you focus all of your attention in his or her direction.
The beauty of social awareness is that a few simple adjustments to what you say can vastly improve your relationships with other people.
To that end, there are some phrases that emotionally intelligent people are careful to avoid in casual conversation. The following phrases are nine of the worst offenders. You should avoid them at all costs.
1. “You look tired”
Tired people are incredibly unappealing — they have droopy eyes and messy hair, they have trouble concentrating, and they’re as grouchy as they come. Telling someone he looks tired implies all of the above and then some.
Instead say: “Is everything okay?”
Most people ask if someone is tired because they’re intending to be helpful (they want to know if the other person is okay). Instead of assuming someone’s disposition, just ask. This way, he can open up and share. More importantly, he will see you as concerned instead of rude.
2. “Wow, you’ve lost a ton of weight!”
Once again, a well-meaning comment—in this case a compliment—creates the impression that you’re being critical. Telling someone that she has lost a lot of weight suggests that she used to look fat or unattractive.
Instead say: “You look fantastic.”
This one is an easy fix. Instead of comparing how she looks now to how she used to look, just compliment her for looking great. It takes the past right out of the picture.
3. “You were too good for her anyway”
When someone severs ties with a relationship of any type, personal or professional, this comment implies he has bad taste and made a poor choice in the first place.
Instead say: “Her loss!”
This provides the same enthusiastic support and optimism without any implied criticism.
4. “You always . . .” or “You never . . .”
No one always or never does anything. People don’t see themselves as one-dimensional, so you shouldn’t attempt to define them as such. These phrases make people defensive and closed off to your message, which is a really bad thing because you likely use these phrases when you have something important to discuss.
Instead say: Simply point out what the other person did that’s a problem for you. Stick to the facts. If the frequency of the behavior is an issue, you can always say, “It seems like you do this often.” or “You do this often enough for me to notice.”
5. “You look great for your age”
Using “for your” as a qualifier always comes across as condescending and rude. No one wants to be smart for an athlete or in good shape relative to other people who are also knocking on death’s door. People simply want to be smart and fit.
Instead say: “You look great.”
This one is another easy fix. Genuine compliments don’t need qualifiers.
6. “As I said before . . .”
We all forget things from time to time. This phrase makes it sound as if you’re insulted at having to repeat yourself, which is hard on the recipient (someone who is genuinely interested in hearing your perspective).
Getting insulted over having to repeat yourself suggests that either you’re insecure or you think you’re better than everyone else (or both!). Few people who use this phrase actually feel this way.
Instead say: When you say it again, see what you can do to convey the message in a clearer and more interesting manner. This way they’ll remember what you said.
7. “Good luck”
This is a subtle one. It certainly isn’t the end of the world if you wish someone good luck, but you can do better because this phrase implies that they need luck to succeed.
Instead say: “I know you have what it takes.”
This is better than wishing her luck because suggesting that she has the skills needed to succeed provides a huge boost of confidence. You’ll stand out from everyone else who simply wishes her luck.
8. “It’s up to you” or “Whatever you want”
While you may be indifferent to the question, your opinion is important to the person asking (or else he wouldn’t have asked you in the first place).
Instead say: “I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but a couple things to consider are . . .”
When you offer an opinion (even without choosing a side), it shows that you care about the person asking.
9. “Well at least I’ve never ___”
This phrase is an aggressive way to shift attention away from your mistake by pointing out an old, likely irrelevant mistake the other person made (and one you should have forgiven her for by now).
Instead say: “I’m sorry.”
Owning up to your mistake is the best way to bring the discussion to a more rational, calm place so that you can work things out. Admitting guilt is an amazing way to prevent escalation.
Bringing it all together
In everyday conversation, it’s the little things that make all the difference. Try these suggestions out, and you’ll be amazed at the positive response you get.
By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. Friend, I suspect you are not up on the all-important words and necessary phrases from the world of croquet. That is scandalous, of course, and you should be ashamed of yourself for the dereliction. Fortunately it can be remedied at once by going to the always helpful Wikipedia, where you’ll find an admirable glossary. Go now… and while you’re there be sure to find the original score for the quirky film “Heathers.” (1989). Why?
Because those ever inventive jeunes femmes fatales invent a game (so clever, don’t you know) called “strip croquet”. You won’t play it in your neighborhood; your crusty neighbors would be scandalized… but I can play it in mine, because I live in Cambridge… where beautiful young people abound, glorious to look at but without the sense they were born with.
They’d love the inspired innovation. Play the theme music right away. It will put you in just the right frame of mind for this scrutiny of one of the most conspiratorial and vengeful games on earth and where (on the pretext of helping another player with her grip) you can snuggle up without demur…
Lord Reggie learns the power of croquet…
Lord Reggie Pasworthy was in despair. This 7th impecunious son of the impecunious 17th marquess of Unworthington had heard, always on the very best authority, that Lady Pamela Noacres had cast sheep eyes at…… but that couldn’t possibly be… for she was… his… and had once nearly said so. She couldn’t…… she wouldn’t. But it appears she might.
What could he do?
He applied at once to Basil Uppercrust, who knew all but said nothing, so admirably discrete, so clever Basil. “Freddie, old chum, you need to do only one thing to be right as rain with the gel… ” Then he whispered just one word……
“Croquet”…. and immediately wrote his cousin the duchess to arrange a week-end where Lord Freddie might shine amongst the wickets, his admirable figure displayed to best advantage.
Though it has been many years now since that week-end at Castle Allworthy not a thing about it has been forgotten. How Lord Freddie confounded Lady Pamela’s advance with a ball-in-hand.
How Lady Pamela distracted him by proposing a double-bank with her grace. (He won that, too.)
How it all came down to the final hoop… and that unforgettable moment when Lord Freddie took control, determined, insistent, a gentleman no longer but a beast, my dear, I tell you a beast…. Lady Pamela’s temperature rose from tepid to scalding… from polite interest to… riveted… while Freddie ran the hoops until he completed that glorious sextuple peel to roquet her ball spinning down the verdant acres… and when the gallant victor offered his lavendered handkerchief, her fate was sealed…
The engagement was announced in the “Morning Post” just today.
The plight of the World Croquet Association.
Pity the situation and plight of these admirable folks and their invaluable efforts on behalf of croquet. They want us to see croquet in the benign light of demos and beer…. when most of us enjoy the game because of its unabashed elitist, aristocratic nuances played out with insouciance and fine champagne on the most perfect grass we have ever seen, the result of hundreds of years of arrogance and care.
A brief history of croquet.
Ask anyone (anyone, that is, of any intelligence and discernment whatsoever) just where croquet was invented… and, without missing a beat — they’d tell you “Why, old man, in Jolly Old England, what.” And, of course, they’d be wrong… and, such are the ways of croquet, they’d also be right.
Croquet scholars (fastidious and accurate) will tell you the rules of the modern game arrived from Ireland during the 1850s, perhaps coming from Brittany, where a similar game was played on the beaches. A game called “crookey” was played at Castlebellingham in 1834 and, in 1835 was played in the bishop’s palace garden; later that year it was played in the genteel Dublin suburb then called Kingstowne (now Dun Laoghaire) where it was first spelled as “croquet.” There is, however, no pre-1858 Irish document that describes the way the game was played… but the Irish don’t care about such details. They claim croquet and that is that…
…but, of course, that most assuredly is not that, especially if you are of the English ilk, and damn their cheeky assertion.
In the book “Queen of Games: The History of Croquet,” author Nicky Smith offers another hypothesis. Smith says that the game was introduced to Britain from France during the reign of Charles II of England, and was played under the name of paille maille or pall mall, derived ultimately from the Latin words for “ball and mallet.” This is what the “Encyclopedia Britannica” wrote in 1877. But of course the xenophobic Britannica would say so, wouldn’t they?
But at last there is documentary evidence that confirms English inventiveness and croquet paternity. Isaac Spratt is the champion. He created the oldest document known to bear the word “croquet”. He wrote a description of the modern game of croquet and the first set of rules and regulations of a game which became ever more esoteric, obscure, arcane. Just the way the players like it!
Spratt’s contribution came in November, 1856 when he filed his document with the Stationers’ Company in London. It is now in the English Public Records Office. In 1868 the first croquet all-comers’ meeting was held at Morton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire and in the same year the All England Croquet Club was formed at Wimbleton, London. There was absolutely nothing democratic about any of it, and one would have drunk beer, instead of a stirrup cup, at one’s considerable peril.
This result, however, was unacceptable to Ellery McClatchy, dead at 86, in September, 2011 at his home in Pope Valley, California.
If you live in Northern California and are even remotely with it, you will recognize at once the surname, for there (and amongst the politically sentient) it is a household name because of their substantial newspaper properties, not least the major paper in Sacramento, the Bee. As you may imagine, to have such a property, such a position in the largest state in the Great Republic is to have financial resources… and the time and ability to pursue your particular interests. In this case… croquet.
McClatchy was, and this is crucial to the case, an all-American boy; thus he disdained the exclusivities of old regimes everywhere. He had a “desire to make croquet available to people of all ages and to see croquet lawns in a great variety of places,” according to a profile on the US Croquet Association website. He pursued this inclusive objective over the many years he was a ranked croquet player and in 1995 when he was inducted into the US Croquet Hall of Fame.
While we all think highly of his years of effort, democratic (or republican) croquet is not what any of us desires. Which is why our favorite croquet match ever is the one overseen by the Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll’s immortal book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). The balls are live hedge hogs and the mallets are opinionated flamingoes. It is curious, odd, unconventional, the best way to play this marvelous game which puts dull baseball and interminable football in their places. I say “off with their heads” to any with the reckless temerity to gainsay me.
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About The Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Republished with author’s permission by Howard Martell http://HomeProfitCoach.com . Check out Massive Traffic Ultimatum -> http://www.HomeProfitCoach.com/?rd=sk9BRJWy
By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note:
Jam! Can you imagine life without it… smooth, delectable, always there, never contumacious like your last lover, never foul mouthed or vulgar (like some of your friends); something which never disappoints… always satisfies… a friend in fair weather or foul. Yes, jam is all this — and more.
Thus, we will today remember the preparers of jam (some of the most important people on earth)… moments of pure joy as you ate it… then dipped a spoon into the jar.. and ate some more, for additional, predictable bliss.
For such a day of exaltation, celebration and mouth-watering delectation, I have selected (as theme music) the peppy little number written by Cole Porter (1940), sung by Judy Garland at her most bouncy. She belts it out, “If you’re ever in a jam, here I am….” The tune is, of course, “Friendship”.
Go to any search engine now… find the recording. Don’t play it quite yet. First, get your very best serving bowl out… and fill it, heaping, with something you love now, have loved from the beginning, something you will always love and desire… jam.
Grammie’s best crystal… for a boy she loved who loved her incomparable jams.
The snows in the interminable prairies of the Great Republic bring days when you are sure the sun is a hoax, when the light is gray and harsh, when the wind howls early and late and your thoughts turn maudlin, oppressive, inward looking and sad. For such days God invented Grammie… and her jams.
My grandmother, Victoria Burgess Lauing, was of English stock… and this, I am sure accounts for her sweet tooth… and her love of (amongst many glorious foods) the concentrated joy that is jam. She came by it, I am sure, in her genes… even in her name, for the Great Queen she was named after had a sweet tooth, too, which she indulged with imperial frequency. Sweeties, and this included jam, were the secret of the empire… the reason the sun never set… and tea was religiously served each day… for tiffin meant….. jam and thoughts of England, home, so very far away and loved.
The very best jam in the very best crystal.
Grammie was what young women today disdain, but do not know or understand. She, the “lady of the house”, was a house wife. She mastered, she perfected, she exemplified every virtue of her place and profession… and just how practiced and most excellent she was could be seen to clear advantage with the jam she served on her best crystal.
It may have been Lennox or even Waterford, a boy doesn’t notice such things, but you knew you were being treated better than Little Lord Fauntleroy (published 1886) when, with great ceremony, she presented what you craved — jam — on a dish ordinarily used only and solely for the great family festivals of the year. On such a Winter’s day when the bleakness of the prairies had seeped into your soul, she knew a potent counterattack was absolutely necessary. And she knew where to find it… in the jams which harbored the sunlight and sweetness we all require on such days.
She, a thoughtful, conscientious, practical woman, had planned for just this day when, in high Summer, she had decreed it was time for making the jams, so sweet, so necessary against the inevitable Winter, its winds, and howling oppressions.
Pursuit of sweet perfection, labor of love.
It is time to tell you, for unless you had such a Grammie you cannot know, of the process, at once exacting and precise, that produced the jam which would, all too soon, sustain us.
My grandmother’s kitchen was her domain, everything about it was redolent of who she was, of her beliefs, values, organizational skills, what she deemed essential… and what she discarded, and when. Unobservant folk missed all this, but other house wives of the prairies never did… and it was partly for them that all was laid out in perfection. Grammie was a competitive woman… and she would never allow or tolerate any imperfection that would cause her neighbors to cavil, denigrate, or exult over any fault found. She was a proud woman… and she wanted to stand well before her peers and the world. She never disdained the house wife’s role… and what she did, she did in exemplary fashion, with exemplary results. So it was when it was time to make the jam.
Hot, hot, infernally hot.
If Illinois was arctic in Winter, it was nothing less than an inferno in Summer when the oppressive heat slowed the pace and made one wish, if only for a moment, of the snows they would get soon enough and disdain.
Jam, as you probably don’t know if you are an urban dweller, is made of chopped or crushed fruit and sugar. To begin, you wash the fruit. Crush it, but don’t puree. Then cook it stove top until the ingredients are well mixed and start to boil. At this point, very much on the qui vivre, Grammie would be vigilant, alert, watchful so as not to scorch. Perfection, she knew, is the result of every necessary decision exactly made, no error made, allowed, or tolerated.
The mixture, having reached a boil, would then be transferred from stove top to oven, always being sure to stir with practiced skill and care. Maestro that she was, she would have taken, time to time, a spoon full’s quantity of perfection in progress; to place this small amount in the freezer for just a minute, thereby knowing, in meticulous fashion, whether the jam was done, or would be better still by waiting a bit. These were not matters of conjecture… but of a lifetime’s knowledge of her subject, sternly to be followed and adhered to now, without rush or cutting corners. That would never do, and so was never done.
This was work that called for judgement, unstinting care, patience… of knowing just what to do and when to do it… and it was all done in a place heated twice, first by the unrelentingly sun of Summer… and then by the high heat of stove and oven. It was all necessary to derive the excellence, the perfection of the jam she would afterward share with her critical neighbors and friends (proof of her mastery) and with her family, who tasted in the finished jam the evidence she loved us so and would never give less than her always astonishing best.
Grammie gone, her revelations gone, too.
I have always wondered why neither of Grammie’s two daughters, my mother and her younger sister, bothered to record Grammie’s recipes, for they were her true genius and legacy. My mother now is gone herself so I cannot ask… but whatever the reason I rue the result and wish it otherwise. All this came home to me the other day when I saw that Tommy at the Montrose Spa right up the street was having a sale of Bonne Maman jams. I bought the fig preserves first… and the next day went back and bought the plum, the blueberry, the strawberry, and (for good measure) another fig. They are (and this is my highest praise) reminiscent of my Grammie’s highest skill. Product of France they may be, they yet bring me home to my English Grammie, who on the highest days of Summer could be found stirring the mixture that brought sweetness and comfort to all, reassurance we would get through the rigors of the Winter to come, made bearable by her great art and always by her love.
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About The Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Republished with author’s permission by Howard Martell http://HomeProfitCoach.com . Check out Massive Traffic Ultimatum -> http://www.HomeProfitCoach.com/?rd=sk9BRJWy
I have always taken a great interest in the Presidency of the United States. I’ve wanted to know who was elected, who was defeated, and what happened next. I just cannot get enough, and I know readers are in the same boat.
Everything any President does is hot news, subject to instant analysis and argumentation. In this connection, I am especially interested in the burgeoning candidacy of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). She clearly wants to run in 2020, and is making all the old familiar moves.
Since her two-story Victorian home is just a few blocks from where I live and am writing you now, my interest is more tense than it usually is. I mean, how are we going to install a helipad in our ultra-packed neighborhood? Where are we going to put the Secret Service agents? Where will the journalists covering her hang their hats?
This is problem enough, and when I ask people in the neighborhood about these things, I am pleased to tell you that no one but me has given any attention to these issues at all – just me.
Of course, each and every one of them has an answer, but not worth too much trouble until she demonstrates that she may well end up as the President of the United States. However this may never take place. First, because of the Massachusetts Curse.
Massachusetts has nominated more candidates for President than any other state in the nation, including big ones like New York and California. In recent years, some of the best and brightest Americans of both parties have been nominated and then crushed in the Presidential election, thereby making Massachusetts Presidential and Vice Presidential poison.
Senator Henry Cabot Lodge was on the 1960 Nixon ticket. John F. Kennedy, of course, headed the 1960 Democratic ticket. Michael Dukakis, Democratic nominee, was on the 1988 ticket. The next one was Mitt Romney, who headed the 2012 Republican ticket. All were defeated except JFK.
The next potential Massachusetts Presidential Candidate is Senator Elizabeth Warren. Will the curse capture her? I think there are good reasons to suppose so, and the prime one of these reasons may well be the fact that she sounds like everybody’s mother in law… nagging, hectoring, determined to have the last word on every subject. Is America ready for a White House nag?
Hillary Clinton tried this stubborn carping approach that boiled down to this failed formula: “I know everything in the whole wide world, and you better listen to me, because you don’t know squat.” Understandably, this approach to the important business of changing America, correcting the flaws, and improving her in every aspect, did not go down well with the American electorate, particularly men, who found Hillary insufferable, and her mode of information distribution irritating in the extreme.
Despite the fact that she was America’s best funded and arguably smartest candidate ever, she took it on the chin, because particularly men in the West, Midwest, and South had enough criticism at home everyday from their nagging wives… She Who Must be Obeyed. They didn’t like it at home (thank God for the golf course), and they didn’t like the thought of it for the White House… and so the “cannot be lost” election became a historic nightmare for the Democratic party.
Before I go further, let me state unequivocally that Elizabeth Warren is a smart cookie. But, she needs better advice than she’s been given. Consider the way she handled the matter of a $400,000 speaker’s fee to be given to former President Barack Obama. The story broke on April 28th, 2017, just the other day. The payment in question came from a large Wall St. firm with substantial interests in the healthcare industry.
Elizabeth Warren jumped on this matter immediately, and soon the world knew that she was “troubled” by the Obama speaking fee. Now here is where judgment comes in. Imagine the situation. Obama opens an envelope, and there inside is a pledge for $400,000. He is not a rich man; never has been. He has no particular capital, and pretty much has to live on his income, which includes his White House pension. You can imagine how happy Michelle was when she learned about this plum.
And then, the manure hit the fan. Just think for a second what Michelle said, and what you would have said if someone offered you a chance to clear off some nagging bills merely by giving a 60 minute presentation. Then Elizabeth Warren did what she always does… she scolded, she criticized, she yapped, and tisk-tisked Obama.
I think we can all guess which word the exasperated Obamas would use to describe Elizabeth Warren’s interference in a manner which was quintessential American politics. Can you guess the word? It starts with a “b”. “Just where does Elizabeth Warren get off criticizing us?” That kind of comment rancors, and can simmer for years to come.
The thing we all need to realize about politics is that little things often count for more than big things. The littlest things produce welts and acute irritation. This was a situation tailor made for Senator Warren to shut up and keep her mouth closed. But the lady is constitutionally unable to let small things go by the wayside. And one of these things is you do not criticize a former President from your own party about a matter which is perfectly legal and customary.
However, Elizabeth Warren is famous for lack of discretion and people skills. This may not matter much in her Harvard Law School classes. After all, these pirhanas will do anything to get an A… even when they know their professor is wrong. You won’t find any of them out on the street corner hammering their professors. That’s just out of the question.
One of the things that constantly bothers Senator Warren is the role of banks and financial institutions in the government of the United States. Thus, every chance she gets to clobber the financial institution industry, she takes it, despite the fact that she is a card carrying capitalist herself, with a magnificent Victorian home worth close to $2 million dollars, a salary of nearly half a million dollars a year (currently suspended because of her Senate term), and a net worth of over $15 million dollars.
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks”
A few facts you should be aware of regarding Elizabeth Warren and campaign finance. Despite her constant jeremiads on the subject of campaign finance, as of 2017, she had $4.8 million in her account. This was more than any other Democrat up for re-election next year had in their account. It is also $1 million more than any other Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) aside.
Needless to say, Elizabeth Warren never troubles to discuss the financial resources that she has available for her re-election campaign in 2018, and whatever resources are available for her to give in key states where she would have to do well to stand any chance of being the Democratic nominee in 2020, presumably against President Trump and his re-election bid.
Elizabeth Warren now finds herself in a position where White House dreams may dance in her head like so many sugar plums; however to win she must make some major adjustments and make them immediately. First, America does not require a comment from Senator Warren on every single thing on the national agenda. What she needs to do now is do the behind the scenes grunt work that every Presidential candidate needs to master.
1) That is to say, identifying potential donors, and continuing to build significant fundraising lists.
2) Work the phones. She should be aware of and in touch with key Democrats, including all the Democrats who were elected as delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. It is likely at least three quarters of the delegates who were active in 2016 will be active again in 2020. Everyday Senator Warren’s staff should hand her a list of 15-20 calls. She should stay in her office, establishing beneficial contact with these people, and of course, always asking for their tangible financial support.
If she continues to comment on absolutely everything, she will turn off people who might otherwise agree with her and be willing to assist. But no one, absolutely no one, wants candidates for President who comment on absolutely everything. That turns electors off and ensures that they will ultimately stop paying attention. Senator Warren might very well fall into this pit.
But there is still more. She has gained a national reputation with a populist message that would do William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) proud. In case your history is a bit rusty, consider this: in 1896 Bryan took over the Democratic party with his message of powerful populism. His speech before the Democratic National Convention in Chicago electrified not just the party, but the nation, and caused every Republican to quail, for fear that the peasants were at the gate, armed with pitchforks and vituperation.
The final two lines of Bryan’s speech were:
“Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”
The capitalist interests of the nation were terrified at what this young messiah could do to their vested interests. But a funny thing happens when the rhetoric of the people comes before the nation. The interest of capitalism in these circumstances do what is necessary to maintain their interests, and ensure mere demagoguery will not succeed.
What does this mean for Elizabeth Warren? Simply this: that throughout the history of the United States, populists have gone forth on crusades to bolster what they see are the perogatives of the people. But each time these populists have gone for the people, these self-same people not only fail in their objective, but are crushed.
And so Elizabeth Warren, who has proclaimed herself the people’s advocate, will likely wake up the day after the next election only to find that what seemed so promising in the matter of gaining her party’s nomination, and a place on the national ballot, came a cropper in the election box.
Thus Senator Warren needs to re-think her position and approach, or else she may find herself the latest victim of the Massachusetts Curse. For while her vision of America may well be sufficiently clear in Massachusetts, it is popular nowhere else.
An open letter to President Obama. We electors of these
United States have spoken. Here’s what we said…. and
what you must do.
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Dear Mr. President:
The people of the United States have spoken… with
a message that must have been gall and wormwood
for you. Because you see, sir, these elections —
endless, expensive, full of expletives undeleted
and charges of every kind and variety… were all
about just one person… and that person is YOU.
You must feel today as Abraham Lincoln felt
when once handed his lunch by the voters: It hurt too
much to laugh, he said, but he was too big to cry.
(By the way, another Illinois politician named Adlai Stevenson
used this memorable line, when he too got sucker punched
by the voters and was denied the White House,
twice. It seems Prairie politicians should keep
these words handy, to be used when their own
native wit fails.)
Unlike Stevenson, however, you remain in the
Oval Office for at least two more years. And, of
course, you want to stay there beyond that as well.
That’s why I’m sending this letter… so you will understand
why you went at your inauguration from a man
revered by millions who thought you could walk on
water, to a man whose head is now barely above
water, dog paddling like crazy to stay afloat. First,
for the good of America, second for your own “legacy”
you must hear and heed what we just said via the
ballot box… and you must seize this moment of
humiliation, embarrassment and profound chagrin
to turn these bitter fruits into fuel for greatness.
Let’s review how you got to this place and what you
must do about it.
1) Your presidency has been more Harvard than Chicago.
On the opening day of the Kennedy presidency, revered
New England poet Robert Frost told the new chief executive this
memorable truth: “Be more Irish than Harvard. Poetry and power is
the formula for another Augustan Age. Don’t be afraid of power.”
Good, shrewd, succinct, New England advice. Take it.
I am writing to you today right across from the
Harvard Law School and its Law Review. You worked
hard to get both… but to save your presidency (and
propitiate an angry nation) you must now be more IIlinois
and Chicago than Cambridge. Cambridge is a
magic place, a civilized place… a place which draws the best
and the brightest from all directions. But Cambridge is a
bad model to govern from because we here produce
elitists… and you need kick boxers and jujitsu masters.
Yes, you can turn a neat phrase… but the moment for neat
phrases is gone. You must, in brief and again, be
more Chicago than Harvard… and this essential
transformation must start at once. Your presidency, sir,
and the improvement of America depends upon it.
2) You tried to do too much, too soon… and ended
up “jack of all trades master of none.”
Sir, we all know people who make promises they
can’t keep. It all sounds so good when you hear them…
but when you promise, then leave project after project unfinished,
you merely engender the very cynicism about
politicians and government you say you abhor; you become
your own worst enemy.
What the country wanted from you was jobs. Put
Americans to work, sir, with real jobs and we can astonish
the world with our range of skills and a “can-do” attitude that
still defines us. Yes, we need health care. Yes, we
need better schools… and all the rest of those good
ideas we all want. But, first and foremost, we need jobs….
and when you selected other priorities you showed us
all that you just didn’t get it; that you were more Harvard
than Chicago. Because, sir, in Illinois (from whence I hail
myself) they get it: jobs, jobs, jobs. You didn’t like Richard
J. Daly very much, but he kept his ears open and
knew that a man without a job is a desperate man, a
hurting man, a man without hope.
You should have commandeered the Roosevelt Room
in the White House and turned it into your personal
command post… where the total focus was on jobs,
jobs, jobs. For you see,sir, we are now in a world war
for the protection of our way of life… and that way is
based on putting Americans to work in ways meaningful
Americans would have cheered you to the echo if
you established such a command post and had
overseen the execution of a Manhattan Project for
employment. If you stayed with it daily… and let
America see you at this work you would have had the
hopes and prayers… and unconquerable skills
of a great nation at your side, as well as the rightly
earned gratitude and reverence of millions.
Consider this: when the Great Fire of London took place
in 1666, King Charles II was advised to flee the city and
save his royal skin. But Charles Stuart, king for all that, made
a better choice: he went into the heart of burning London
and helped move the water buckets. He was burnt
and singed like his fellow Londoners. In the process
he was raised to a greater dignity… the dignity of a man.
Uunsurprisingly he was the most successful Stuart of
them all… because he engaged with his subjects, including
the mundane, prosaic, and dangerous.
3) Show us what you believe in.
Sir, you are a lawyer, superbly trained as such at that esteemed
institution across the street. But lawyers, with their “have gun, will
travel” approach to life are not a good model for the remainder
of your at-risk presidency. You need core beliefs. Your party
senses and Republicans charge that you are a man who believes
in little beyond your all-consuming drive for yourself. Very well.
You are ambitious and have, in British Prime Minister Benjamin
Disraeli’s notable phrase, climbed to the top of the “greasy
pole.” That’s the beginning of your career, not the end.
Now tell us that you believe, what you believe, and what
you will stake your presidency on. We hope it will be jobs
and the revitalization of America. Diminished, buffeted though
your president is, you can turn it all around by focusing all
on your hurting countrymen. Your great moments are yet
to come if you will commit, focus, live for them… and bring us safely
through this unabated storm.
We have spoken, sir, we electors of these United States. Our
message is not ambiguous. It needs no Harvard academician
to decipher, though they may say otherwise. It needs one man,
supremely placed for good, to use all his powers, all his
considerable gifts to enhance America. Your countrymen have
shown you and dramatically so just how strongly they feel
about the wrongful moves and misdirections of your first two
years. Listen to them for in this cacophony of restive voices lies
the majesty of the people. You have been disengaged from
them. Now reconnect and resurrect your presidency. Do this
and you will come to see the chastisement of today as
the best thing that could have happened to you… and America. Do
this and we will in due course bless you for rising up like the Phoenix
and winning back our trust, love, and admiration. All other courses
you pursue at your peril… and ours.
About The Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of
Worldprofit, Inc., www.worldprofit.com where
small and home-based businesses learn how to
profit online. Attend Dr. Lant’s live webcast
TODAY and receive 50,000 free guaranteed
visitors to the website of your choice! For details
on Dr. Lant’s 18 best-selling business books,
go to www.jeffreylant.com
IN MY OWN VOICE. READING FROM MY COLLECTED WORKS: YARNS OF GREAT SHIPS AND SMALL
When you are a boy in the Midwest of America, oceans are not your usual occupation.
So of course, these seas and oceans become a primary part of what you imagine. The first notable lake I recall is where the Lady of the Lake resides. She was the one, you may remember, who took Excalibur from the dying King Arthur, and then disappeared holding the sword upright, and them submerged… just the image for a daydreaming boy, who wanted to see that lake, see that lady, and have his chance to grab that sword and be the undoubted King of the realm. Right from the beginning, therefore, I was hooked on the water borne adventures which could come if only you believed enough, and never stopped looking through all the seas of all the lands.
The first boat of any substance I remember seeing was the U-505, a German submarine captured in WWII.
As I looked on that small craft, just 252 feet, I wonder where it had been, what they had done, and to whom had they done it.
In short, I recognized that this was not just a piece of ancient metal, but the repository of one sea story after another.
After a summer of working on the farm to bring in the harvest and knowing my father and uncle had worked out a scheme for my agrarian upbringing, I had to exercise my substantial imagination. And so I began my first novel, age 15, written on shelf paper, the amount needed rolled out. On this scroll of paper, each evening I would write the latest installment in the adventures of Hernan Cortez, conquistador.
To this day, I retain an acute interest in Cortez, and all the waters he sailed on, from Spain to Cuba, from Cuba to Vera Cruz.
From that day, without precisely knowing it, I began to collect stories of the great seas, courageous crews or otherwise (think HMS Bounty), and the trade they carried, which took nations like England and Spain and made them rich, and richer still, for to the richest truly went the spoils.
From that day to this, my acquisition of sea stories, of all water stories, has grown apace. To me, these are not sea stories, they are human stories, and in my mind, I can tell you the large ships and little boats which have come through my life.
I sat down the other day to write about all the ships I’d studied, which supplied me with good material, and hours of pleasant reading and studying. As I brainstormed, I saw an unending flotilla, indeed a fleet, of the ships and boats I love so much. They ran from Queen Cleopatra’s extravagant royal barge, burnished with startling gold and the purple sails beloved of Shakespeare, to the African Queen, one of the most magnificent ships there ever was, because the Queen was a noble vessel indeed, and acted accordingly, right through to her noble end.
I studied the greatest battleships on Earth, like the Bismarck, which might have changed the war, but for that one in a million shot that disabled the rudder and damned her to revolve in uncontrollable circles on the sea, and therefore, a sitting duck. There was the story of the Sultana, a riverboat designated to bring home Union war prisoners, the most needy and frail of all, after the fall of the Confederacy. What a horror it was to learn that of 2,427 passengers, far above her capacity, 1,800 were incinerated, their shrieks like the entry way to hell.
There was the Mayflower, which transformed religious immigrants into snobs, and the Victory, Lord Nelson’s flagship, in the Battle of Trafalgar, with its baffling kiss, requested by Nelson for Captain Hardy. And so the list goes on. Consider the Lusitania, which may or may not have been carrying weapons to the Allied forces. Either way, the rampant German submariners polished her off and brought the U.S.A. into the Great War.
There is now, and there always will be no shortage of stories of small ships and great. And to those who are drawn to such stories, we are happy in our work indeed.
Here you’ll find five yarns of ships, great and small with special readings by the author himself – Dr. Jeffrey Lant
It is the beginning of April. A lovely time of year here in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I am writing you. The sun is brilliant; leaves are bursting out all over. It is going to be 82 degrees out today; it was just 30 last week.
These rapid fire changes are, of course, the norm in New England. Temperatures may drop sharply yet again, but the odds are we are now on the necessary path to deliver spring for sure.
I ought to be outside. I’m 70 now, you know, and I’m supposed to be retired. Instead I found that word almost ludicrous in the extreme. There is no rest for the weary.
One reason why is the stack of auction catalogs which I cannot quite reach by leaning backwards in my desk chair. Every day now, the best that major auction companies (and some small ones too) can offer is just about a finger’s length away. They taunt, they point, they arrange themselves in a seductive pattern on the floor, they teeter in makeshift towers which are anything but stable, and fall frequently, giving me yet another look at the bounty inside… bounty that I want.
I thought I’d write this article for you, to show you what you must do if you plan on becoming a major collector, or even an episodic superficial one. There are steps you must take. There are actions and procedures you must learn. As always, you must restrain yourself; it’s part of what being a connoisseur is all about. Focus on the best. Never be or remain satisfied with anything other than quality.
For many years now, I have regarded April, when the first major auctions take place, as the true beginning of auction season. The auction schedule is clogged for this month, May, and June. The loveliest things in the world go on the block during this period, and must sell now before the summer descends, when the unrelenting heat crushes our desire to sit inside and make learned remarks about things we probably cannot afford.
The first thing you need to know about auctions in this season or any other, is that homework is required. Collections are built through assiduous effort, constant viewing and reviewing of objects and offers, constant communication with your stable of experts, and frequent attaboys to keep your spirits up and, as they said in the Revolutionary War, to keep your powder dry.
Upon receipt, review your catalogs at once.
True connoisseurs, that is to say people who play the game better than anyone else, want information early, thorough, and precise. Thus, when a new catalog arrives (that could well be every single day), you must sit down and glance and skim every page. When you get good at this game, this review will only take 10 minutes or so.
As you skim, mark each page that contains something of potential interest. The best thing to do is when you have a little bit more time, create bookmarks by cutting up scrap paper and keep a jar full of them so you’re prepared when the catalogs arrive.
This preliminary review gives you a sense of what may become important over the next days and weeks before the auctions. The goal is not to make a decision now, it is simply to give you a bird’s eye view of everything that is coming up at the auction houses you follow.
Thanks to contemporary universal communications, you may have auctions you’re interested in in Stockholm, Vienna, Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, New York, and other major cities, whereas in the olden days, before the internet and computers, you probably couldn’t follow more than one auction house in one city at a time. These days it is perfectly common to follow both major auction houses (Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Dorotheum), and some localized regional houses.
Let’s be honest with each other: this is not easy to do. It takes sustained focus, and a willingness to do what is necessary so that you will not be intimidated when you look for goods in Sweden or Madrid. The worldwide communications revolution has quite clearly fundamentally altered communications, and they have made it possible to learn about, study, and acquire the lots of your highest interest. Craziness extra.
Once you have accomplished your preliminary review, consult your bank book. As I so well know, being a connoisseur with a desire to achieve a splendid collection of international importance selected from the widest variety of goods, you must follow up your preliminary review with a more thorough secondary review.
It is a wise idea to organize this review by date. Remember, when you’re dealing with many auction houses worldwide, your life will be like a popcorn machine, with new sales popping up all the time. Thus, organize your catalogs in chronological order. Don’t just mark the objects you’re interested in, mark the objects you need help with.
I can recall one instance, for example, when I was purchasing Swedish silver sugar bowls from the 18th Century and before. Some of the best silver of this kind was produced in Stockholm, which was then a major political force in Europe. The silver bowls produced in Sweden, however, did not feature elaborate family coats of arms, or other heraldic markings. I was curious, because the objects would have been so much more dramatic, at least in my opinion, with these engraved devices. But it was not the custom to engrave silver as they did in every other major European power. Chacun à son goût.
So… review all your catalogs… mark the items you are interested in… and be clear on the sales date for each catalog you’re interested in. Here is where strategy comes into play. You may see, as I often do, a lovely item on page 1, that is not quite as lovely as an item on page 6, that is not quite as lovely as an item on page 52. Connoisseurs have a constant dilemma. Should you nail down the first item in an auction, even though that may constitute all your available resources, or should you pass on the first item to get to the second, doing the exact same thing to get to the third item. This is a conundrum, a puzzle, an ongoing test of your strategic abilities.
Very few of us have unlimited resources. We must, like I have done throughout the years, work harder, research more thoroughly, and enter the auction arena with nerves of steel. In the auction game, things change with lightning speed. Items which you think you couldn’t afford all of a sudden are selling for fifty percent of what you thought they would. You have to be ready to make the appropriate move, and you must never regret it if your strategy doesn’t work out. Learn from your failures.
By the same token, when you get something that you didn’t expect to get, and you get it below the low estimate, do a happy dance around your desk and whoop it up. Napoleon Bonaparte used to say “Give me the lucky man.” The more you play this game, the luckier you will get.
This brings me to the spring silver sales now underway. I have been spending the last few days in my usual state of anguish and anxiety. All three major European auction houses are having silver sales of the exact things that I crave and cherish. Two of the companies have their silver sales on the same day… different companies, even different continents… same day. This has happened to me on other occasions, where I have one company on hold on one phone and one company on hold on the other. Complete control and clarity are essential in this situation.
Mark the lots that you most want. Do this in all the sales catalogs you have. Do not give way to over-enthusiasm, to an “I must have” attitude. No matter how rare the item you want, there will always be a rarer item coming down the pike.
When I was a graduate student at Harvard, I lived like most graduate students. That is to say, I was a man of empty pockets and unyielding dreams. If some wise acre had told me forty years ago that I would be playing this game with some of the biggest international players, I would not just have disbelieved, I would have scoffed. Such things may happen in fairy tales, but not to graduate students without a schilling in their pocket. But my dream indeed has come true.
Just this morning, I purchased an early 19th Century Venetian seascape by Giacomo Guardi (1764-1835). It is a lovely picture hitherto down on its luck, needing TLC and lots of it. Luckily, it found me, and it now has a chance of life again, and grandeur. This afternoon I’ve been working on my silver collection. Each of these numerous items is an asset. As I have said for so many years, all assets in play. Do not just sit on an asset and look at its thrilling aspects. See it not just as a stationary thing, but as an asset to leverage more. To be a connoisseur is to be not just a finder of beauteous objects, but an economic wizard, seizing a thing, twisting and turning that thing, until you have another thing, and the process takes place all over again for the rest of your life.
Musical note from Grace Jones “Art Groupie” (1981)
I’ve turned to my friend Grace Jones for a comment or two on this matter. Grace is never less than totally frank, which makes so many people squirm, knowing that they may be the next one in her sights.
“Don’t ask me any questions,
My personal life is a bore,
Admire me in glory,
An Art Groupie. That’s all.”
“I’ll never write my memoirs,
There’s nothing in my book,
The only way you see me an Art Groupie,
And so am I.
“MY SALAD DAYS”… A SILVER BOWL, TIFFANY & CO., CIRCA 1940. IMPORTANT AMERICANA ADDED TO THE LANT COLLECTION.
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
I was in London on one of my many formative voyages, sitting in the balcony mesmerized by The Royal Shakespeare Company’s rendition of Shakespeare’s play “Anthony and Cleopatra” (1623). There was a chatty little fellow sitting right in front of me who couldn’t have been any older than 12, and his mother was on a marathon shushing expedition, trying to get her annoying darling boy to hush.
Then Cleopatra started her famous speech to Julius Caesar at the end of Act I:
“My salad days, / When I was green in judgment, cold in blood…”
Without dropping a beat, the kiddo asked his mother in a stage whisper, “Does this mean she was Caesar’s salad?” And of course, not only did the audience lose it, but the cast lost it too, and for a moment we gave way to hearty laughter… no doubt the young man was happy with his results. It certainly left a happy impression on me, for this incident took place over 40 years ago and is as clear to me today as the evening I too joined in the infectious mirth. Only in England.
My mother was not a notable cook; quite the opposite. But she knew the importance of green leafy vegetables, and a host of other healthy ingredients from which she created salads that were hearty and nutritious… and which she hoped would obliterate the memory of her main courses, which were entirely forgettable, and quite possibly dangerous.
I can see the salad bowl now. It was used every night, and only rarely at mid-day. It was wood, and came with a pair of wooden tongs. It followed us on our peregrinations from Illinois to California, and over the years to many other places. There are few serving dishes which have the impact that these did.
That is why, when I became aware of this important American silver salad bowl, I gave it a good long look, which included returning to this item many times. I found it on the internet, on the 1stdibs website, which is a cornucopia of interesting things. Once such a sight catches my eye, I feel constitutionally obligated to read all the entries. 1stdibs is so large, that laudable activity is impossible. There is just too much to look at and take in.
I found myself thinking about this dazzling object, and kept saying to myself “You don’t collect American silver, you don’t collect things this late”. But I remembered what one well known collector had told me some time ago… “Never be a prisoner to your collection. Don’t just collect one kind of thing from one period, show that you are above such petty constraints. And if the object in question is quality, even though it is in a period you know nothing about, buy it, and learn. Remember, every object is a teacher. Never forget that you are a connoisseur above all else.”
Thus emboldened, I crept back to look at “my” salad bowl, as I already thought it. It was lovely. Designed by Olaf Wilford, from Tiffany & Co. New York circa 1940, it had the strong bold design of a master. This was no mere salad bowl; it was like all good art a statement by an accomplished master about his vision for the object in question.
A designer like Wilford (1894-1980) aims to seize your brain by showing you how even a common object can be turned into art, and seize your eye. Curiously, the bowl was not designed first, as one logically might suppose. No, the first objects to be designed were actually the pair of parcel-gilt silver salad servers, serving spoon and fork. They were designed in 1937 as part of a limited edition.
These were followed in 1940 by the silver salad bowl. This striking object, in the Art Deco fashion, was featured in Tiffany’s display at the House of Jewels Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair, 1939-40. Although these items were not created to be a set, they look so good together they soon became one de facto.
The bowl itself, with its tomato or pumpkin vine design (not oranges, as was mistakenly written in the original description of the item), was well liked. Thus, Tiffany decided to make a limited number of bowls and serving instruments, and did so until the early 1950’s. Thus right from the start this was a popular pattern, and it was illustrated in Jewel Stern’s “Modernism in American Silver” p. 177 fig. 8.15 and 8.16.
A closer look at the bowl and serving instruments.
The plain hemispherical bowl applied with five vertical panels, stylized tomatoes and foliage, with a conforming salad serving fork and spoon, chased on the reverse, with foliage marked on base of bowl and numbered 22888, servers marked on reverse all with star mark. Here are its dimensions: diameter 9 ½ in, 24 cm; 15 oz 4 dwt, 095g.
These three objects had the undeniable “Wow Factor”, which is hardly surprising since they were designed by a master and offered to the public by Tiffany & Co., a brand name we are all familiar with.
A few words about Tiffany & Co.
Tiffany was founded September 18th, 1837 by Charles Lewis Tiffany and John B. Young. The reason Tiffany has been so successful over time is the quality, originality, bold display, and cunning designs which cause you literally to stop and stare the way Audrey Hepburn did in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961). Even if you’re broke like Holly Golightly, Hepburn’s character, just standing in the window can transport you to a place you want to be, and with the money you’ll need to achieve your goal.
Tiffany is all about dreams, social success, and one-upsmanship. Anyone who looks at a diamond or any of the high grade Tiffany products cannot fail to be excited by them. Tiffany supplies the goods, and your imagination – and deep pockets – does the rest.
From time to time, Tiffany has deviated from its core principles, and paid the price. It is easy to see how low grade executives in Tiffany’s board room might argue strenuously about the common sense of expanding the gold Tiffany’s name to sell lesser merchandise. However, time after time, Tiffany’s has discovered that it isn’t just the name that’s so important, it’s what that name offers, and stands for.
In this connection, I read with the greatest interest and awe of some of the projects that Tiffany’s has been involved with over the years. I can mention only a few of a very great number.
For example, Tiffany & Co. was the first U.S. firm to win an award for excellence in silverware at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867. Tiffany designed the logo for the New York Yankees in 1909. In 1887, Tiffany bought the French Crown Jewels. In 1942 Tiffany created a new design for the Congressional Medal of Honor. In 1968, First Lady Ladybird Johnson commissioned Tiffany’s to make a new set of White House china on the theme of American wildflowers, her particular interest. If the subject is quality, Tiffany & Co. is the answer.
“A pretty girl is like a melody that haunts you night and day”
As part of the 1919 “Ziegfeld Follies”, there was a famous tune by Irving Berlin, “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody”. It describes the tormented process every collector goes through when they see something they want and must have despite all logical reasons, like: not now, you don’t have any money, you don’t need it, another one will be coming along in a minute. All such concerns are rendered meaningless when the connoisseur connects with the object of his affections, and cannot think of anything else.
“Just like the strain of a haunting refrain,
I have personally experienced this fateful and inconvenient summons, which overturns all of my good intentions for frugality, for saving, for going slow, for being patient, and for never going beyond your capacity. But you know as well as I do that it is the experience of going beyond, of taking the risk, of seizing the object (or the person) and making it yours, totally, unquestionably yours, that thrills you. Connoisseurs can never be attracted to the pedestrian. We crave the different, the unusual, the unique, and we go through much suffering to ensure we get them.
That is why after I had read and reread the description of these marvelous objects, I had to do what was necessary to get them, planning wisdom be damned. Your happiest moments in collecting will be those that deliver a new level of excitement.
“You can’t escape she’s in your memory.
So I took the plunge and acquired this item for The Lant Collection.
People ask me will I use this item… will I use any of the many silver serving dishes I’ve acquired? The answer is always a resounding “I do.” And if you think that your salad tastes the same in wood as it does in sterling silver, you need to adjust your palette… for it is impossible to live with and use a beautiful object without yourself being uplifted by the experience. This is the importance of my collection… and when you see it, you are not just experiencing the item or how it looks, but what it can do to improve your life.
“She will leave you and then come back again
This lovely three-part set proves this again, for it is never just an implement, it is a way to deliver perfection… and that must always be the overriding goal.
N.B. I take this opportunity to thank Michael Johnson of Eiseman’s Jewels in Dallas, Texas. One of the great things about collecting is the tremendous people you meet along the way, people who know more than you do and are happy to share it. Michael Johnson is such a person. He generously made time to discuss these lovely items and provide me with photographs.
Of course he wanted to make the sale; and he did. But more importantly, we both made a new friend and a new source of valuable information. Thank you, Michael.
The ‘Atlas Shrugged’ author made selfishness heroic and caring about others weakness.
Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society….To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil.— Gore Vidal, 1961
Only rarely in U.S. history do writers transform us to become a more caring or less caring nation. In the 1850s, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was a strong force in making the United States a more humane nation, one that would abolish slavery of African Americans. A century later, Ayn Rand (1905-1982) helped make the United States into one of the most uncaring nations in the industrialized world, a neo-Dickensian society where healthcare is only for those who can afford it, and where young people are coerced into huge student-loan debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.
Rand’s impact has been widespread and deep. At the iceberg’s visible tip is the influence she’s had over major political figures who have shaped American society. In the 1950s, Ayn Rand read aloud drafts of what was later to become Atlas Shrugged to her “Collective,” Rand’s ironic nickname for her inner circle of young individualists, which included Alan Greenspan, who would serve as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board from 1987 to 2006.
In 1966, Ronald Reagan wrote in a personal letter, “Am an admirer of Ayn Rand.” Today, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) credits Rand for inspiring him to go into politics, and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) calls Atlas Shrugged his “foundation book.” Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) says Ayn Rand had a major influence on him, and his son Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is an even bigger fan. A short list of other Rand fans includes Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; Christopher Cox, chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission in George W. Bush’s second administration; and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.
But Rand’s impact on U.S. society and culture goes even deeper.
The Seduction of Nathan Blumenthal
Ayn Rand’s books such as The Virtue of Selfishness and her philosophy that celebrates self-interest and disdains altruism may well be, as Vidal assessed, “nearly perfect in its immorality.” But is Vidal right about evil? Charles Manson, who himself did not kill anyone, is the personification of evil for many of us because of his psychological success at exploiting the vulnerabilities of young people and seducing them to murder. What should we call Ayn Rand’s psychological ability to exploit the vulnerabilities of millions of young people so as to influence them not to care about anyone besides themselves?
While Greenspan (tagged “A.G.” by Rand) was the most famous name that would emerge from Rand’s Collective, the second most well-known name to emerge from the Collective was Nathaniel Branden, psychotherapist, author and “self-esteem” advocate. Before he was Nathaniel Branden, he was Nathan Blumenthal, a 14-year-old who read Rand’s The Fountainhead again and again. He later would say, “I felt hypnotized.” He describes how Rand gave him a sense that he could be powerful, that he could be a hero. He wrote one letter to his idol Rand, then a second. To his amazement, she telephoned him, and at age 20, Nathan received an invitation to Ayn Rand’s home. Shortly after, Nathan Blumenthal announced to the world that he was incorporating Rand in his new name: Nathaniel Branden. And in 1955, with Rand approaching her 50th birthday and Branden his 25th, and both in dissatisfying marriages, Ayn bedded Nathaniel.
What followed sounds straight out of Hollywood, but Rand was straight out of Hollywood, having worked for Cecil B. DeMille. Rand convened a meeting with Nathaniel, his wife Barbara (also a Collective member), and Rand’s own husband Frank. To Branden’s astonishment, Rand convinced both spouses that a time-structured affair—she and Branden were to have one afternoon and one evening a week together—was “reasonable.” Within the Collective, Rand is purported to have never lost an argument. On his trysts at Rand’s New York City apartment, Branden would sometimes shake hands with Frank before he exited. Later, all discovered that Rand’s sweet but passive husband would leave for a bar, where he began his self-destructive affair with alcohol.
By 1964, the 34-year-old Nathaniel Branden had grown tired of the now 59-year-old Ayn Rand. Still sexually dissatisfied in his marriage to Barbara and afraid to end his affair with Rand, Branden began sleeping with a married 24-year-old model, Patrecia Scott. Rand, now “the woman scorned,” called Branden to appear before the Collective, whose nickname had by now lost its irony for both Barbara and Branden. Rand’s justice was swift. She humiliated Branden and then put a curse on him: “If you have one ounce of morality left in you, an ounce of psychological health—you’ll be impotent for the next 20 years! And if you achieve potency sooner, you’ll know it’s a sign of still worse moral degradation!”
Rand completed the evening with two welt-producing slaps across Branden’s face. Finally, in a move that Stalin and Hitler would have admired, Rand also expelled poor Barbara from the Collective, declaring her treasonous because Barbara, preoccupied by her own extramarital affair, had neglected to fill Rand in soon enough on Branden’s extra-extra-marital betrayal. (If anyone doubts Alan Greenspan’s political savvy, keep in mind that he somehow stayed in Rand’s good graces even though he, fixed up by Branden with Patrecia’s twin sister, had double-dated with the outlaws.)
After being banished by Rand, Nathaniel Branden was worried that he might be assassinated by other members of the Collective, so he moved from New York to Los Angeles, where Rand fans were less fanatical. Branden established a lucrative psychotherapy practice and authored approximately 20 books, 10 of them with either “Self” or “Self-Esteem” in the title. Rand and Branden never reconciled, but he remained an admirer of her philosophy of self-interest until his recent death in December 2014.
Ayn Rand’s personal life was consistent with her philosophy of not giving a shit about anybody but herself. Rand was an ardent two-pack-a-day smoker, and when questioned about the dangers of smoking, she loved to light up with a defiant flourish and then scold her young questioners on the “unscientific and irrational nature of the statistical evidence.” After an x-ray showed that she had lung cancer, Rand quit smoking and had surgery for her cancer. Collective members explained to her that many people still smoked because they respected her and her assessment of the evidence; and that since she no longer smoked, she ought to tell them. They told her that she needn’t mention her lung cancer, that she could simply say she had reconsidered the evidence. Rand refused.
How Rand’s Philosophy Seduced Young Minds
When I was a kid, my reading included comic books and Rand’s The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. There wasn’t much difference between the comic books and Rand’s novels in terms of the simplicity of the heroes. What was different was that unlike Superman or Batman, Rand made selfishness heroic, and she made caring about others weakness.
Rand said, “Capitalism and altruism are incompatible….The choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequences of freedom, justice, progress and man’s happiness on earth—or the primordial morality of altruism, with its consequences of slavery, brute force, stagnant terror and sacrificial furnaces.” For many young people, hearing that it is “moral” to care only about oneself can be intoxicating, and some get addicted to this idea for life.
I have known several people, professionally and socially, whose lives have been changed by those close to them who became infatuated with Ayn Rand. A common theme is something like this: “My ex-husband wasn’t a bad guy until he started reading Ayn Rand. Then he became a completely selfish jerk who destroyed our family, and our children no longer even talk to him.”
To wow her young admirers, Rand would often tell a story of how a smart-aleck book salesman had once challenged her to explain her philosophy while standing on one leg. She replied: “Metaphysics—objective reality. Epistemology—reason. Ethics—self-interest. Politics—capitalism.” How did that philosophy capture young minds?
Metaphysics—objective reality. Rand offered a narcotic for confused young people: complete certainty and a relief from their anxiety. Rand believed that an “objective reality” existed, and she knew exactly what that objective reality was. It included skyscrapers, industries, railroads, and ideas—at least her ideas. Rand’s objective reality did not include anxiety or sadness. Nor did it include much humor, at least the kind where one pokes fun at oneself. Rand assured her Collective that objective reality did not include Beethoven’s, Rembrandt’s, and Shakespeare’s realities—they were too gloomy and too tragic, basically buzzkillers. Rand preferred Mickey Spillane and, towards the end of her life, “Charlie’s Angels.”
Epistemology—reason. Rand’s kind of reason was a “cool-tool” to control the universe. Rand demonized Plato, and her youthful Collective members were taught to despise him. If Rand really believed that the Socratic Method described by Plato of discovering accurate definitions and clear thinking did not qualify as “reason,” why then did she regularly attempt it with her Collective? Also oddly, while Rand mocked dark moods and despair, her “reasoning” directed that Collective members should admire Dostoyevsky, whose novels are filled with dark moods and despair. A demagogue, in addition to hypnotic glibness, must also be intellectually inconsistent, sometimes boldly so. This eliminates challenges to authority by weeding out clear-thinking young people from the flock.
Ethics—self-interest. For Rand, all altruists were manipulators. What could be more seductive to kids who discerned the motives of martyr parents, Christian missionaries and U.S. foreign aiders? Her champions, Nathaniel Branden still among them, feel that Rand’s view of “self-interest” has been horribly misrepresented. For them, self-interest is her hero architect Howard Roark turning down a commission because he couldn’t do it exactly his way. Some of Rand’s novel heroes did have integrity, however, for Rand there is no struggle to discover the distinction between true integrity and childish vanity. Rand’s integrity was her vanity, and it consisted of getting as much money and control as possible, copulating with whomever she wanted regardless of who would get hurt, and her always being right. To equate one’s selfishness, vanity, and egotism with one’s integrity liberates young people from the struggle to distinguish integrity from selfishness, vanity, and egotism.
Politics—capitalism. While Rand often disparaged Soviet totalitarian collectivism, she had little to say about corporate totalitarian collectivism, as she conveniently neglected the reality that giant U.S. corporations, like the Soviet Union, do not exactly celebrate individualism, freedom, or courage. Rand was clever and hypocritical enough to know that you don’t get rich in the United States talking about compliance and conformity within corporate America. Rather, Rand gave lectures titled: “America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business.” So, young careerist corporatists could embrace Rand’s self-styled “radical capitalism” and feel radical — radical without risk.
In recent years, we have entered a phase where it is apparently okay for major political figures to publicly embrace Rand despite her contempt for Christianity. In contrast, during Ayn Rand’s life, her philosophy that celebrated self-interest was a private pleasure for the 1 percent but she was a public embarrassment for them. They used her books to congratulate themselves on the morality of their selfishness, but they publicly steered clear of Rand because of her views on religion and God. Rand, for example, had stated on national television, “I am against God. I don’t approve of religion. It is a sign of a psychological weakness. I regard it as an evil.”
Actually, again inconsistent, Rand did have a God. It was herself. She said:
I am done with the monster of “we,” the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame. And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: “I.”
While Harriet Beecher Stowe shamed Americans about the United States’ dehumanization of African Americans and slavery, Ayn Rand removed Americans’ guilt for being selfish and uncaring about anyone except themselves. Not only did Rand make it “moral” for the wealthy not to pay their fair share of taxes, she “liberated” millions of other Americans from caring about the suffering of others, even the suffering of their own children.
The good news is that I’ve seen ex-Rand fans grasp the damage that Rand’s philosophy has done to their lives and to then exorcize it from their psyche. Can the United States as a nation do the same thing?
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