Art worked in our department, he was an expat from a South American country. He did have degrees from the US, so he was exposed to the general culture. He did not, however, own a TV. To the rest of us in the department, this was unusual. He did not know the shows, he wasn’t exposed to the programs we would sometimes comment during conversations around the coffee machine. After the first person found this out, news spread out about this very odd trait. As an advertiser, you would find it hard to reach him with what we called mass media then. That was almost 20 years ago. Everything was business. There was little opportunity to engage him in light conversation topics. He was singularly focused on allocating his time to the things that mattered to him. He did not let himself be persuaded, captured.

Media, today, is highly fragmented, and at the same time pervasive. Successful advertising has become a technology-enabled scientific discipline. You and I, no matter how little media we may think we consume, are being aggressively courted by algorithms designed to get our attention. Finding us, and capturing us, has become harder. The science to fight us has become higher order, more complex. It’s a fight between old-time forced persuasion and real, increasing value offer and delivery.

I look at my kids. Once they outgrew the Cartoon Network, they essentially stopped watching TV. I look at myself. I haven’t “cut the wire” because of a combination of inertia and to maintain a lifeline to an older, simpler world that does not really exist anymore. It was Toyota or Datsun. It was Crest or Colgate. It was Lee or Levi’s. Nostalgia can become a prison.

I think we are freer now. Fragmented and highly pervasive media has given us fragmented and highly pervasive choice. Arithmetic choice has become geometric, and it’s on its way to becoming exponential. Through technology, we have decentralized prosperity, and access to prosperity, by granularizing the potential to be of value to someone else, like never in human history, through on-demand economy models that pair up individuals in specific minimal-cost transactions that permit perfect allocation of resources. If you believe this and subscribe to this mindset, you have a higher chance of continuing to be less controlled by the inertia and nostalgia prison. You have this higher chance because you’ve realized as an intelligent, free individual, that you can take control of your own destiny, that you can make yourself ultimately unconquerable by pure persuasion. You also have the free market, personal agency, and the essentially free dissemination of knowledge and information to thank.

Art’s self-imposed freedom from mass influence, the kind that makes life limited, focused him on allocating his time and resources to the things that mattered the most to him. He was ahead of his time in some ways. It made him, and can make you, a better critical thinker, in complete control of your decisions, individually driven.

Our View from the Top – May 14, 2019