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Mark Stevens Weighs in on Redskins Controversy

In the latest news from CommPRO.biz, which provides the daily scoop for media and communications professionals, MSCO CEO Mark Stevens gives his opinion on the recent trademark ruling regarding the Washington Redskins team name.

In the article, Mark goes against the consensus by saying that Dan Snyder needs to go on the offensive and stop playing defense regarding the topic, citing the myriad of other quasi offensive team sports names. There’s a slippery slope that we don’t want to start down, or at least try to slow as goes the argument.

What do you think? Should the name change or should Snyder stick to his guns like Mark says? Read the article here and weigh in with your opinion in the comments.

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Mark in today's New York Times Frequent Flier column

Check out Mark Stevens in today’s New York Times Frequent Flier column:
You Can’t Judge a Seatmate by His Foot-Stomping
Published: November 2, 2009

“I LOVE flying. Maybe that’s because I go into it with the expectation that
I’m going to be delayed. Once I get through security, I go to the bar, ask
for a wine, order some death-defying foods and then do some work, until my
flight arrives.”

Read the complete article here!

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Martin Luther King

From birth, we are all told the things we cannot or should not do.

Interesting, but these warnings, of sort, often come before and with greater vehemence, then the advice on what we can and should aspire to.

Let’s take one we’ve all grown up with: “Don’t do anything you’ll come to regret.”

When you think about it, that really means “don’t do anything at all.” It is, intentional or not, paralyzing. Whenever we take a chance in life, we run the risk of failing. Of losing face, money, stature, customers, popularity. Those who can’t face that kind of risk, live in the safe zone. They took that childhood caveat about the things we cannot or should not do and allowed it to dictate the terms of their lives.

They may never have the thrill of achievement, but they are safe, or so they think. I’ll return to that illusion in a moment. But first, let’s do a 180 and contemplate Martin Luther King.

We all know he had a dream and that he succeeded in turning the dream into reality. He did not achieve all that he hoped for but he was truly transformative. What gets lost about his story, is that he carried a nation on his back to bring his dream to life.

Young people who did not live in the era of King do not realize how far outside of the safety zone he ventured. They don’t understand–and you can’t glean this from textbooks or news archives alone–how he did it with German shepherds biting at his feet, water hoses driving into his body, redneck mobs taunting and beating his marchers. .

Even more so, King knew that in pursuit of his dream, he was walking headlong into an assassin’s bullet. It was an ugly time in America, with hatred and violence pouring into the streets. For most, it was a time to stay inside and lock the doors.

King would have none of that. Safety was not his holy grail.

In my lifetime, I have witnessed and had the rewards of knowing and working with famous and exceptional people. But Martin Luther King was the bravest and the one who accomplished the most magnificent feat.

King knew that there is nothing more powerful than a human being armed with a dream and willing to do something he or she may pay a staggering price for. And he knew that safety is a figment of the imagination.

Whenever we are tempted to play it safe, to avoid risk, to be driven by consensus, all we really do is expose ourselves to a far graver threat than loss of face, money, stature, popularity and even life.

We fail to accomplish anything of importance.

Mark Stevens

CEO

Images courtesy: 1, 2.

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Too Much Happiness

We are all in search of rewards and awards. Money, fame, power, honor, recognition.

Some admit it more readily than others. Some find the need to camouflage it.

But the quest is universal.

All that changes are the goals. And whatever they are — money, fame, power, honor, recognition– they contribute directly to our personal happiness.

Some admit it more readily than others. Some find the need to camouflage it. But its impact on happiness is universal.

We wake in the morning and we greet the day, prowling for the goals. When we lose to others, we pretend to be happy for them but the truth is, we wish we were in their place. A ‘good loser” is really just a talented actor.

I have been watching the US open tennis this week, seeing the fire in the eyes of the champions, Nadal, Federer, the Williams sisters. On the court, in the heat of the matches, they want it all– the money, fame, power, honor, recognition–

And when they see the up and comers driving themselves to beat the odds and win, the champions double down and find a way to prevail, denying the challengers.

They cannot win enough trophies. They cannot collect enough checks. They cannot accumulate enough adulation. This is all part of human nature. It is what drives human achievement. It is what raises the bar. All who are out of the spotlight, are just as much in “the search” as those who command the headlines.

It all seems inevitable: the quest, the lust to have it all, the impact on personal happiness.

And then a wonderful anomaly strikes out of left field. This summer, Canadian author Alice Munro, was about to have the honor of having her new book, Too Much Happiness, nominated for the prestigious Giller Prize for literature.

Given that Munro has won the award twice before, this would be a crowning achievement placing her in that Pantheon of greatness every writer, athlete, businessperson, scientist would, admit it or not, revel in and use to stroke their personal joy.

But Munro broke convention, defied human behavior, did what virtually none of us would do, and asked that her book be withdrawn from consideration for The Prize.

Why? Precisely because she has won twice before and wants young writers, other writers, to have the opportunity to win.

I know that I don’t have the generosity to act this way. And I have actually never seen it before. And I believe there is a powerful lesson here. I just don’t know what it is yet. I don’t know how to incorporate it into my life. I don’t know how or if to defy “the quest.”

Perhaps the answer lies in the title of the book, denied The Prize by its author.

Perhaps it is Alice Munro who has Too Much Happiness.

Perhaps she is teaching us something.

Mark Stevens

CEO

Images courtesy: 1, 2.

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The Thing About Beauty

In the enchanting Robert Redford film, A River Runs Through It, a minister father advises one of his young sons to take back a homework report he wrote and “cut it in half.”

When the boy, eager to have his studies behind him so he can take to the Montana spring and fly fish, returns the report to his dad, he is instructed to “cut it in half again.”

The loving father, who brings a sense of discipline and frugality to his child, is in the process of teaching him the wisdom and the power of Less Is More.

So much of what we do and see in 21st century life is based on the belief that More Is More. More words. More money. More homes. More people reporting to you at work. More to-dos on your calendar.

Today, I met with an editor, a smart and engaging young woman, who visited me to discuss my new book, Rich Is A Religion, to be published this October. She asked if we could make it longer. To which I responded, I have nothing left to write on the subject. All that I want to say on the subject, I have written in the manuscript now in her possession.

I know from experience that the publishers’ sales teams like a beefy book with lots of pages. I challenge that believing that people don’t weigh books, they want ideas, entertainment or both and if that comes in a 100, 200 or 400 pages, they don’t care. Particularly for the kinds of books I write, it’s the takeaway that counts.

An enlightened and open-minded graduate of Columbia University, the editor agreed and instead of wasting time talking about tonnage, we engaged in an interesting and rewarding discussion about content and philosophy. Her ideas were wonderful and the book will be better for it.

We agreed that in this case and in many others where the instinct is to pile on, Less Is More.

In A River Runs Through It, one of the minister’s sons , played by a young Brad Pitt, is, in half of his personality, a human metaphor for the power of less. He fly fishes with a simple elegance of wrist movement. He dances in a way that his feet barely touch the floor. He radiates a charm that overwhelms everyone he comes in contact with, just a smile and a bright-eyed confidence that is as silent as his lure skimming the surface of the river.

In the end, which is tragic because part of him lives by More Is More, the narrator, playing Pitt’s brother in the film, says he was more than handsome and charming and talented.

He was beautiful.

So often in life, we want to smother beauty by adding and accumulating and expanding and enlarging and directing and controlling and twisting the thing of beauty – the idea, the invention, the person – into what it is not and was never meant to be.

Before you touch it, before you vow to change it, before you decide to take over and apply “the rules,” stare at it for awhile. It may be perfect as it is.

And if it is, tell it so.

Mark Stevens
CEO

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