Alternative facts and the reality distortion field

“I dream of a world where the truth is what shapes people’s politics, rather than politics shaping what people think is true.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

Waking up to a life of purpose, passion and love requires the ability to separate the truth from the lies and to discern the underlying essence of deep meaning from a false narrative merely perpetuated by ego. The moment we begin to cling too strongly to a story, particularly a story shaped (marred?) by our personal attachment, is the moment we risk veering down the rathole.

Steve Jobs was famous for what was both affectionately and derisively known as his “reality distortion field.” The RDF was a term first coined by one of Jobs’ colleagues to describe the Apple leader’s uncanny ability to, as Wikipedia describes it, “convince himself and others to believe almost anything through a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence.” Whether highly calculated or borne out of subconscious habit, the effect was to manipulate his teams to accomplish things they did not think possible. Of course the RDF can be a force for good or evil.

Today we see another leader trying to push an agenda of “alternative facts” and to create his own RDF. People of integrity and substance are rightly seeing through the veil of deceit and calling bullshit.

Of course, more common, but just as pernicious, are the lies, distortions and manipulations we foist upon ourselves and those with whom we are in relationship.

We may try to impose an alternative reality upon a loved one out of fear or simply to advance our own selfish agenda; unaware of how that ultimately serves neither of us.

We may fail to confront the authenticity of our own pain, thinking we can go around it, rather than through it. Spoiler alert: we can’t.

We may tell ourselves we are unworthy of love, when nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s important to recognize the distinction among facts, perceptions, beliefs and interpretations. They are all valid and they each serve their own unique purpose. And context matters.

Yet neither our own personal growth nor the good that needs to be done in the world is served through a failure to confront reality, the perpetuation of delusion or the encouragement of false narratives. Depending upon the circumstances, ignoring this can create minor annoyance or have outcomes of great consequence. As Voltaire once opined: “those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we can do this to ourselves as well.

The best time to stop the nonsense was before it even started.

The second best time is right here, right now.


Our fight with reality

I hate that Donald Trump is set to become the next President of the United States, but indeed he won the election.

I regret the many times my actions have hurt other people, in ways big and small, but that is what happened.

Our simple and beautiful humanity dictates that we will make mistakes despite our quest for perfection.

Lots of bad things are going to happen to us–and around us–regardless of our desire that things would (or should) be otherwise.

Like it or not, one day death will knock upon our door.

We can’t go back and change the past. And we are, in fact, rarely able to dictate nearly as much of the future as we believe.

Yet many of us wake up everyday ready to take on an unchangeable set of circumstances, girded to re-litigate the past, hell bent on controlling the uncontrollable.

The one thing we know for sure about fighting reality is that it is exhausting. And when we endeavor to control or manipulate other people to conform to our desired reality we are almost certain to make things worse.

My college academic advisor had a plaque on his office wall that read: “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it only annoys the pig.”




The scorpion, the frog and the Donald

Perhaps you know the fable…

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream. The scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, “how do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion says, “because if I do, I will die too.”

The frog is satisfied and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog.

The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink. Now knowing that they both will drown, he musters up enough strength to gasp “but why?”

The scorpion replies: “It’s in my nature.”

When new information is revealed, shock and indignation are totally appropriate. But when someone does some slightly different version of what they always do, why would we be surprised?

Instead, we should dig deep on how and why we allowed that level of unconciousness to arise.


The nature of bullies

Bullying seems to be a growth industry.

While bullying is hardly new, the 24 hour news cycle seems to thrive on elevating bullies to star status. Various forms of social media makes it ever more easy to attack others from afar behind the seeming safety of a smart phone. Shockingly, it’s possible we may soon elect a bully-in-chief.

We know a few things about bullies.

Bullies appear strong, when at their core they are quite weak.

Bullies project confidence and control, when their behavior is in fact rooted in profoundly deep insecurity.

Bullies never assume accountability,

Bullies can’t work alone. They require someone to victimize, a target.

Bullies, left unchecked, can destroy lives and imperil cultures–big and small.

More times than not, when we confront bullies to their face, they cower. Yet often, once they are at a safe distance from their intended victims, the bullying starts anew.

Bullying will never go completely away. In fact it may well be part of the human condition. But there a few antidotes to bullying.

Whenever you can, take your ball and go home. First time, every time.

Speak out, challenge, refuse to tolerate bullying behavior wherever you encounter it.

Promote openheartedness as a counter-acting agent.

And, whatever you do, never put a bully in a position of responsibility.




Shut up and play the hits!

Maybe you’ve been to the famous comedian’s show where by far the biggest laughs come from the bits you’ve already seen him do on Fallon. And Kimmel. And YouTube. And his five year old Netflix special.

Maybe you’ve excitedly gone to hear that marketing guru at a big industry conference and grown weary and uninterested when she begins by talking about her just released book, you know, the one you haven’t read. But you instantly light up again when she starts to riff on the ideas from a decade old tome that formed the basis of her TED talk that you’ve watched a half dozen times.

Maybe you’ve attended a concert by an iconic rock band and became impatient with the lead singer’s extended stage patter. And then as soon as they start to play the new stuff–or maybe some deep track from a classic album you’ve always skipped past–you know that’s your signal to head to the rest room or go grab a beer.

For any kind of artist–and we’re all artists now–it’s a whole lot easier to go for the well-tested laugh line, crank up the guaranteed crowd pleaser or simply default to the thing that made you popular (or at least accepted) in the first place. As it turns out, most of us like safety and there is safety in the familiar.

Organizations and brands aren’t a whole lot different. Most non-profits turn again and again to golf tournaments and galas to raise money. In the CPG  world, the core strategy is to churn out seemingly endless iterations of best sellers. And just about every retailer goes back to the well over and over again with minor tweaks to long-standing merchandising and marketing practices.

Yet the evidence is clear. Eventually we grow tired of the greatest hits. What worked well for so long, no longer does. And with more and more art and content and ideas and disruption being produced literally by the second–accessible to nearly everybody at any time, anywhere–what once seemed remarkable is anything but.

Is there an audience who only wants regurgitated versions of what you or your organization has always done, who can’t possibly accept new material, who has no interest in being challenged? Perhaps.

Is that the audience that’s going to get you where you need to be?


A version of this post originally appeared at  This blog is still in semi-stealth mode. New content will begin the week of September 12th.