11 December 2015

Middle Income v. Middle Class

So, I've been thinking about this contradistinction quite a bit as of late, that is to say, what is middle class in America? Indeed, are we "middle class" if we're not uber wealthy?  When I started LuxeMont (justluxe.com) just out of law school ten years back or so, it was about an aspirational/lifestyle "eyeballs" play where we'd drive millions of readers each month to our various web properties with the hope of engaging demographics along the likes/lines of those whose incomes were well within the "very wealthy" and "wealthy" and the "wannabe wealthy" silos. And, of course, we'd load up 3 ads per page and publish a boatload of pages filled with loverly, luxe and lasting content.

Original landing page JustLuxe.com
Middle-income for a family of 3 in the U.S. (according to Pew/Bloomberg) is $53k approximately. As an entrepreneur post grad school I've emptied my pockets three times to start businesses, and have known a few lean years at this level; and as an exec consultant in the legal space (when I needed a day job to pay the bills), I've known much better years ... and not once have I ever felt that I wasn't "middle class." Okay, maybe upper-middle class during those good years? But still, in the big city, with loads of expenses, lower six-figures ain't goin' far. (see additional belly aching below.)

But, income is soooo overrated. It's not the end-all, be-all, say in Kansas City or Lynchburg or Waco or Detroit.  In these cities, the middle-income level will buy a quaint home quite nicely with the right debt ratios and reserves and stable job and decent income.  You're golden as they say, and quality of life seems to be infinitely better.  Perhaps that's for another discussion another day.

In Los Angeles or New York or San Francisco, a triple-salary of $150k will most likely not be adequate to the task of buying you a nice home, most likely in the $1M to $2M range (without an extraordinarily large down to adjust for the borrower's ratios).  Which, btdubs Dear Reader, in some trendy neighborhoods in these major DMAs, a million-dollar home will only get you a smallish apartment or constrictive townhouse.

No, we are definitely in some sort of real estate bubble, IMHO. And, there will be downstream corrections in various regions of this great country of ours. Here in L.A., we just got our first $500Million home listing (or soonish). Check out this Bloomberg report.

But, if this marks uber-wealth, does middle-income necessarily mean "middle class"? If one buys into the notion of eating out several times a week at trendy restaurants, traveling several times a year, and driving two leased German cars, then one could be living an upper-income lifestyle, but with a poorhouse destination.  It's more than income, it's a mindset, n'est pas?  The above Pew/Bloomberg report and survey was quite interesting and highly dispositive regarding our discussion.  I'd take a nice, safe, quaint mid-city (say 250,000 residents or less) way of life in a southern clime any day over an expensive, sketchy, big-city (over a few million population) stressed out life where both parents have to work and life is all hustle and bustle and kids have to be in private school, and there's no end in sight ... whew! Sorry, got carried away there for a second.  I may have to check in with Dave Ramsey.

What do you think?  As always, would love to hear your thoughts.

12 October 2015

Gaffes and the Golden Rue (and other rules)

Photo source: Wikipedia

The Golden (olden) Rule runs something like this: “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” In the world of communications professionals, replete with PR firms on retainer, Chief Marketing Officers’s (CMO) on antidepressants because their average tenure is 2.5 years, and communications directors on-call, ready to take over for the stressed-out CMO, the Golden Rue (that’s no misspelling) goes like this: Sooner or later, we all regret our very own gaffe-riddled words — and may have to eat them — so let’s not enjoy the Schadenfreude sandwich when our competitors screw-up their own maladroit syntax. Or, something to that effect (I’m still working on it).

This week the polymath CEO Elon Musk (Space-X, Tesla, etc.) is having to make amends for speaking his mind, as is his natural wont, during an interview with a German business publication last month where he revealed his plain spoken thoughts on Apple’s getting into the electric car business:

“They have hired people we’ve fired. We always jokingly call Apple the “Telsa Graveyard.” If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.”

Elon Musk is oft-great for a quote, whether talking with Stephen Colbert about terraforming Mars with thermonuclear devices, or discussing “what-keeps-him-up-at-night” puzzlers like those pesky, inchoate A.I. robotic armies potentially threatening mankind with an extinction level event (this is not an exaggeration; Google has the patent on this). But, when talking about competitor Apple, the sui generis Musk showed himself human and proved up the adage that it’s best to keep the competitive hyperbole to a minimum. Salty language is great when company-facing, motivating the troops and whatnot; but when client-facing, speaking to the public (and by definition to the other side because any CMO worth their salt has a skunkworks competitive intelligence team running 24/7), the preferred ratio for the perfect bravado cocktail is 2 jiggers more graciousness, 1 jigger less hyperbole.

Being gaffe-prone doesn’t necessarily speak ill of CxO’s; just acknowledges the amount of face-time/prime-time a dynamic company will have by definition, especially in the age of Bloomberg West, all manners of Dreamforce’s, SouthBy’s, DLDnyc’s, and other cool venues where your hipster CxO can malaprop with the best of them.

If you’re in the C-Suite and actively engaged with the public, investors, the media, and creating content (both video and print), chances are you’ll come to rue and regret your (their) own gaffe at some point, so live by the Golden Rue which basically advocates not piling on, to be gracious to the other guy, and to “measure twice, cut once” as any good carpenter knows, especially when giving interviews, speaking publicly, or writing a piece, response (or remonstrance) on Pulse, Medium, or microblasting on social media du jour.

Having to walk back public comments can be a tricky task (trisky?). Herculean even. Some gaffes can end a career, viz., Amy Pascal, whose private gaffes were leaked vis-à-vis the Sony hack. Some gaffes are par for the course, especially if that course is public policy, e.g., Veep Joe Biden, George W., et. al., whose every word is public, parsed, and a potential whoopsie daisy. And, some gaffes are ill-advised word choices just because they sound gawdawful, as we were reminded by Christopher Hitchens about the D.C. politico who should have used the word miserly instead of the word which sounded an awful like the N-word. Whether you’re advising business executives or policy wonks, sometimes “just because” is good enough, Dear Reader, and occasionally career-saving great advice for your client.

Usually, though, a quick apology, and occasionally a mea maxima culpa, along with a heartfelt and concomitant corrective, and you’re well along your way helping navigate the communication waters for your organization. Nonetheless, both the rule and the rue (golden-hued didactic directives) suggest the giving and receiving of a full measure of grace and understanding when it comes to the ubiquitous gaffe. Especially, if we learn from the Golden Rue.

25 September 2015

Chanel, Uber, the Pope himself and St. Patrick's Cathedral Facelift

Wasn't terrifically thrilled with the Pope's coming to America (where's Eddie Murphy when you need him?) and lecturing Congress on all things Pope-centric.  But, I'll give him that he means well and his visit is good for the young folks in the Catholic church to get some revival going, Lord willing. Now, I'm praying and predicting that his pontiffness will realize the 1,000 year error of their ways and allow the priesthood to once again marry (please, God). Imagine a millennia of blue balls. Man, sake's alive!

Above is a wonderfully insightful weekly vid-recap from the amazingly prescient folks at L2. Many of you know that I launched a high-end aspirational website years ago called LuxeMont (JustLuxe.com) just a few years out of law school.  The idea of JustLuxe.com was to ultimately act as a placeholder for some luxury holding company to come along and fill it with the wares of their many companies (think Richemont or LVMH, et. al.).  I've since started 2 or 3 companies and pray and wish my brothers well in their/our endeavor to transition JustLuxe.com into someone else's capable hands.

So, L2 ... highly recommended to you, which is why I've slapped ole Prof. Scott Galloway's visage atop FatScribe.  These guys are entertaining, quite fun, and full of pith (and vinegar).

Have a great weekend all.

22 September 2015

Nice guys not always meant to be President

Was invited by one of my besty fave clients to a little soiree and fund raiser just down the road from where Joe Biden was also pressing the flesh.  After a day/week of conservative policy wonks running around SoCal fighting for the same meetings and limited resources, the focus and locus now shifts to New Hampshire and climes eastward and other deep pockets.

I will say, I've met several presidential candidates and sitting Supreme Court Justices and Attorneys General and Governors and loads of policy types in between over the years, during and since law school, and few are as nice and down-to-earth as Mike Huckabee and his wife. True delight to make his acquaintance, and as usual, many friends in common.

Like I said, nice guys and excellent pols and eloquent conservatives are not always meant to be president of these united states.  Which is too bad, but part of the facts of life inside the Beltway.  Joe Biden is another nice guy, a lefty nice guy who plays hardball. Let's hope he's another nice guy who isn't meant to be president.  ;)

29 March 2015

Spot the "something from the back of your mind"

"My gawd, Don Draper! Wouldja look at that!!"
I love the 1950's.  

I mean would you look at those specs and shades, and all of those cool de rigueur hats and thin ties and other 50's iconography.  The iconic eyewear brand Oliver Peoples (parent company Luxotica) has fitted me going back 25 years back when I bought my first pair -- and still rock -- straight out of undergrad.  Of course, Warby Parker has some very cool retro specs as well.

This picture (supra) is actually from the 1960's, which was something Matt Weiner noticed about developing and shooting Mad Men, viz., that the iconic "50's style" was really more or less a carryover into the 1960s that just killed it in pop culture repositories of influence from 2008, all of those fashion magazines and mens and ladies fashion lines that love a good atavistic lift whenever they can borrow from a recycled era (not to mention the copycat shows like the excellent The Hour, guilty pleasure Pan Am, and the ridiculous The Playboy Club, as well as revival of award winning How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying -- not coincidentally originally starring on both stage and film Robert Morse who is just an absolute favorite actor).  And, I was, admittedly, not so much a fashion victim, but rather a recipient of compliments because my sense of elan had caught up with "fashion" and had become more acceptable to prêt-à-porter, which is a nicer way of saying I'll wear it off-the-peg my good man.  No, I was definitely fanboy No. 1 when the the show Mad Men first made its debut on AMC, almost because it was so non-PC with all of the cigarette smoking and men-will-be-men memes, Joan Harris hourglass figure, and afternoon cocktails because it's 5 o'clock somewhere (I am such a conservative, Dear Reader! Apologies to my more lib inclined friends if/when I offend on such rants). 

FatScribe avatar with pipe created at AMC.  Give it a try!
As a writer one focuses on transitions as they tend to drive conflict -- and all great stories have conflict.  It's in with the new (hottie trophy wife) and out with the old (ball and chain who put you through medical school).  You want conflict? Add a new, young wife to the mix of teenage kids who visit their now plumpish, late-40's mom.  It's a bit worn, but you get the bromide-cum-conflict.  Which is what I particularly like about this Mad Men show with show horse (and clothes horse) John Hamm holding up fairly well over the long haul of the series 7+ year run. Always those transitions, from one iconic moment fading and mixing in like an afternoon cocktail into the rich sepia tones of the next one, like a nice pair of Foster Grants (was that 60's eyewear?) transitioning from sunglasses to inside lenses. 

Let's play a quick game, you and I, Dear Reader.  Can you spot the public personalities in this photo snapped from a significant public event?  And, can you name that event? I spotted this when I was visiting www.ImogeneAndWillie.com the other day, and I hit on a deadlink of theirs when what should appear, mirabile visu?  This great image above from a bygone era. (update, that link is no longer there, but still visit Imogene + Willie for great UI/UX/CX and hipster and honest clothing.

Anyway, back to my quick and quirky quiz: Whom do you see peering up into the space age (I'm feedin' ya hints here, Harvey!)?  If you see the king and queen of Belgium, then damn et tres bon!  If you spot the man figuratively and literally "in second spot"  in the stands and to LBJ, then "hot dang! (said with LBJ Texan drawl), you've spotted Hubert Humphrey, our 38th VP ... and "good on ya, son!"  I even see a John Hamm lookalike there in the 3rd row wearing his aviators.  Btw, it was LBJ who oversaw Apollo and gave his imprimatur on NASA who then named their headquarters Lydon B. Johnson Space Center due to his influence over the decade-long Space Race.

Yes, in the back of my mind, everything was better in the 1950s, but of course it wasn't.  It was just that our problems were different, less manifold perhaps, more drenched in discussion of duty over "me-me-me" rights ... heated and principled discussions and demonstrations of yesteryear rather than vapid occupy rioting of today.  And, maybe, just maybe, there was some innocence back then that had yet to be sullied by keeping up with so many duckdashians or binge watching addicting House of HoneybooCards or Meerkating Jimmy Fallon as he walks around a set at 9am before he's done his show makeup.

Still in my 40's but feeling every bit the Minver Cheevy scratching my head and thinking.