Monday, May 20, 2019



The downtown skyline grew taller and burned
brighter in Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago. The only
problem: He didn’t make room for everyone.
in his obituary of Chicago’s greatest mayor, Mike Royko wrote that “if a man ever reflected a city, it was Richard J. Daley and Chicago.” That was true, but Daley, who died in 1976, was mayor of a Chicago very different from the one we live in today: Daley’s Chicago was an unsophisticated blue-collar town, with a broad middle class, powerful industries, and neighborhood loyalties stretching back generations.

If any man reflects the city Chicago has become since Daley’s death, it is Rahm Emanuel. A suburban striver who grew up in Wilmette, he moved to the city in adulthood with a fancy master’s degree from Northwestern, built a lucrative career in politics and business, competed in triathlons, and settled at a tony North Side address. Emanuel’s Chicago is a global business and cultural capital whose bifurcated economic structure is a microcosm of 21st-century Americaonly fitting for this most American of cities.

Since Emanuel became mayor, in 2011, Chicago has become more prosperous and more educatedachievements of which any civic leader would be proudbut those characteristics have become increasingly concentrated in the urban core. Imagine the city’s skyline as a bar graph of its demographics, the tallest buildings representing the most wealth, scaling downward to two-flats, bungalows, and vacant lots as it flatlines from its peak.
Emanuel did not create this Chicago, which has been developing since at least the 1990s, when the city began reversing a postindustrial trajectory that threatened to consign us to the same Rust Belt ash heap as Cleveland and Detroit. His mayoralty is, however, a product of it. In his first election, he ran up his biggest vote totals in the wealthy lakefront wards, which are populated by transplanted Midwestern professionals who share his conviction that the business of Chicago is business. The most significant decisions of his mayoralty have accelerated the city’s rise to global status. Emanuel is, arguably, one of the architects of the 21st century’s global economy. As an aide to President Bill Clinton, he helped sell the North American Free Trade Agreement to skeptical prolabor Democrats. Once he got his hands on the levers of power in an alpha world city, it only made sense that he would move to aggregate money and talent in its core. There are very few winners in globalization, and he wanted to make sure Chicago was one.
Like so many American cities, Chicago has been experiencing what urbanist Alan Ehrenhalt calls a “demographic inversion,” in which a once-derelict inner city attracts wealthy residents, while the poor are forced into outlying neighborhoods or suburbs. In the mid-2000s, Tom Tunney, the alderman of one of those wealthy lakefront wards, which Emanuel would carry with 74 percent of the vote in 2011, told me, “In 25 years, the entire city is going to look like this. It’s going to be Manhattanized. There’s nothing anyone can do about it. There’s too much demand for land in the city.”
“Then where will the poor people live?” I asked him.
“In the suburbs.”
Parts of Chicago have been Manhattanized. But other partsthe Second City’s second cityhave turned into Cleveland and Detroit, losing their industries, their business districts, their middle class. According to demographer Alden Loury, who works as the race, class, and communities editor for WBEZ, “The city is losing more of its lower-income folks and gaining more higher-income workers.” While the African American population is expected to drop to 665,000 by 2030half what it was in 1980whites are the fastest-growing ethnic group. The Loop and its adjacent neighborhoods are gaining population, while the South and West Sides are declining. For the first time, Lake View has surpassed Austin as the city’s most populous community area.
The African American population declined under Mayor Richard M. Daley, but he “tried to manage the fallout,” says Jawanza Malone, executive director of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization. “He saw himself as another Chicago guy who knew what was happening in the neighborhoods. Emanuel is not a Chicagoan. He doesn’t see himself as a Chicagoan. He brought in all these people from outside Chicago who didn’t understand the Chicago Way.”
Emanuel simultaneously nurtured the rise of a global metropolis and managed the decline of a Rust Belt city, both coexisting within Chicago’s borders. The exigencies of this dual task ultimately undermined his mayoralty. Emanuel left Chicago a more prosperous place, but at the cost of his own popularity. A police shootingthe murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonaldcreated the biggest crisis of his administration and may have done more than anything else to bring about his downfall, because many Chicagoans believed, rightly or wrongly, that he had covered up the video of the crime to preserve his 2015 reelection. As an urban planner, he succeeded; as a politician, he failed, because some Chicagoans came to believe he was indifferent to their struggles.

Rahm Emanuel has his super-fans. To tech entrepreneur Howard Tullman, he is the best mayor of a big city in the United Statesan irreplaceable civic ambassador who connected with international businesspeople and White House staffers as no mere ward politician could have done. If Richard M. Daley was a transitional figure between the industrial Chicago in which his family’s political dynasty was born and the cultural and financial capital it was destined to become, Emanuel put the final stamp on Chicago as a global city.
“I think that in these days it has a more direct impact on more people’s lives to be the mayor of one of these megacities than to be a governor or senator or member of Congress,” Tullman says. “I don’t think it ever used to be a global job. Now it’s important to attract talent. It’s important to get financing, investment, and connections.”
In 2013, Emanuel was instrumental in hiring Tullman to run 1871, the city’s new tech incubator, named for the year Chicago burned, only to rise again. It was actually the brainchild of then future governor J.B. Pritzker, but Emanuel made it his baby, seeing it as integral to transforming Chicago into a technological rival of Silicon Valleyan ambition of his that fueled even his lame-duck months, when he made a last-ditch pitch to bring Amazon’s second headquarters here after the company announced it was pulling out of New York City.
Emanuel loved bringing distinguished visitors to 1871’s offices on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart, where young entrepreneurs sit behind gunmetal-gray MacBook Pros in the wide-open bullpen, beavering away at Chicago’s next internet success story. On a wall of the auditorium are tiles with the 1871 logo signed by visitors such as Emanuel’s ex-boss Bill Clinton, YouTube cofounder Steve Chen, and Shark Tank investor Daymond John.

“Emanuel was there a lot,” says Tullman, who spoke with the mayor about 1871’s progress at least once a month before stepping down in 2017. (He now heads the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship at the Illinois Institute of Technology.) “He put the arm on companies to be supportive by giving, doing events, working with our startups. He was a great bully pulpit in the sense that he talked it up all the time. It was a funny thing. As it got bigger and bigger and more successful, it wasn’t clear whether he was doing us a favor or we were doing him a favor.”
SpotHero, a service that helps motorists find parking spaces, spent its early years inside 1871 and now has 165 employees in its own Loop office. Thyng, an augmented reality platform that has been used to create everything from ads for Rice Krispies to 3D medical images for physicians, found both investors and employees through 1871. Thyng’s founder, Ed LaHood, has been part of the Chicago tech scene since the early 1990s. Never in his career has the city nurtured new tech businesses the way it does now, he says: “Thirty years ago, if you wanted to start a startup in Chicago, you were on your own. 1871 really created a technology ecosystem in Chicago. Rahm has been a huge part of the tech sector’s growth. Not only in 1871, but wanting to bring tech industries to Chicago.”
During Emanuel’s tenure as mayor, the share of the city’s economy attributed to tech more than quadrupled, from 2 percent to 9 percent, according to 1871. The footprint of tech companies inside the Merchandise Mart increased from 100,000 square feet to 1.5 million. As LaHood notes, it wasn’t just 1871, even though companies founded there have now created more than 8,000 jobs. Salesforce, Facebook, Yelp, and Google all opened Chicago offices while Emanuel was mayor. When Google was planning to open a Midwestern headquarters in the Fulton Market district, Emanuel “was in almost constant communication with their executives,” says Andrea Zopp, a former deputy mayor who is now president and CEO of World Business Chicago. “I think if you talk to any CEO who’s moved here, they’ll tell you he’s relentless.”
The Rahm Butterfly Effect
For better or worse, Chicago (probably) wouldn’t have any of these things without Emanuel’s influence.

There’s another aspect of globalization that Emanuel turned to Chicago’s advantage: In the aftermath of late-20th-century deindustrialization, there could be only one Midwestern metropolis. Chicago was the winner, and it’s been sucking the economic vitality out of surrounding statesand the rest of Illinoisever since. At first, this took the form of brain drain, as college graduates from Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin flocked to the city. Now, under Emanuel, Chicago has been the No. 1 American city for corporate relocations for five years running. Headquarters that were once synonymous with their small Midwestern hometowns are following the talent here. Archer Daniels Midland moved its global HQ from Decatur to an office on West Wacker Drive. ConAgra moved from Omaha to the Merchandise Mart. And corporations that built office campuses in Chicago suburbs during the urban flight of the 1960s and 1970s are following the white-collar class back into the city: McDonald’s from Oak Brook, Motorola from Schaumburg. So powerful is the global city’s lure that Emanuel rarely granted tax breaks.
“The mayor’s philosophy about it is, ‘If I have to buy your way here, don’t come,’” says Zopp. “We have so many great assets. They’re coming because their people want to be here. It’s the trend toward urban growth.” Still, Emanuel’s approach was hands-on: He lured Ferrara Candy from Oakbrook Terrace to Chicago after striking up a conversation with a company employee on a flight. She told him many of her coworkers wanted to work downtown, and suggested he call the CEO. Emanuel did, and Ferrara’s 400-employee headquarters are now in the Old Post Office.
The thousands of employees working at relocated companies didn’t just want to live in the city; they wanted to live right by their jobs. Though neighborhood life is the essence of the Chicago experience, the Loop was designed as a place of business. Emanuel set out to change that, with a special emphasis on the desires of millennials, who are “uniquely city-dwelling compared to previous generations,” according to demographer Ed Zotti. Emanuel hired a hotshot transportation planner from D.C., Gabe Klein, who laid down bike lanes and established the bike-sharing service Divvy. “Increasingly, young people were looking for thattech companies in particular,” says Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance. “Rahm saw this eight years ago.”
Emanuel cleaned up the Chicago River and built kayak liveries along its branches. The $100 million Chicago Riverwalk expansion, with its restaurants and bars, brought the public down to the level of a body of water that became known as the city’s second shoreline. “[The Riverwalk] has helped define the Loop,” says Michael Edwards, president and CEO of Chicago Loop Alliance, and it is among the reasons Chicago has one of the fastest-growing downtowns of any big city in the United States, adding 5,000 residents to the Loop between 2010 and 2016. Those newcomers are moving into buildings such as Marquee at Block 37, which opened in 2016 and rents one-bedroom apartments for $2,400 a month. (That’s affordable housing in the Loop, where 82 percent of residents have college degrees and the median household income is $98,000.) So intense is the demand for downtown housing that Magellan Development is building on the river the 101-story, 396-unit Vista Tower, which will be the city’s second-tallest residential structure.
Five miles south of the Loop, at the corner of 49th Street and Indiana Avenue, Irene Robinson stands alone on the playground of Anthony Overton Elementary School. The playground has been empty since 2013, when Overton was one of 49 “underutilized” or “underperforming” schools closed by Emanuel’s handpicked school board. A map of Chicago stenciled on the asphalt pinpoints their locations: almost all in African American neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. “This was my second home,” Robinson says. “All my kids went to this school. My grandkids. I raised so many children here. Now it’s like a graveyard.”
When Robinson learned that Overton was closing, she thought her family’s world was coming to an end. She confronted the mayor at public meetings. She was arrested for protesting outside his City Hall office. The school was shuttered and sold to developers who plan to repurpose it as a business incubator. But six years on, Overton remains empty, boards covering its windows, graffiti climbing its walls, the words “Anthony Overton” visible only as ghost lettering above the front door. Robinson’s grandchildren were scattered to elementary schools throughout the South Side. Robinson, who for 15 years lived cater-cornered from the school, moved out of the neighborhood. One of Robinson’s daughters took her children to Iowa partly for a more stable educational environment.
Emanuel believes political capital is worthless unless spent on difficult decisions. In his first term, he spent a lot of capital on the school closings, and he never recovered it. Some of that was a result of the policies themselves, and some was a result of a perception that the prickly Emanuel was an autocrat and a bully who did not truly understand the city he governed.
Perhaps it made demographic and financial sense to close Overton. Since the school was built, in 1963, the surrounding Grand Boulevard community area has lost 75 percent of its residents, falling from a population of roughly 80,000 to 22,000. Public housing has been demolished (most of the Robert Taylor Homes were in Grand Boulevard). The blue-collar jobs that supported the black middle class have left Chicago. Families are trying to escape gangs and crime. Changing racial attitudes mean that blacks can now live in suburbs that once discouraged them from moving in, and Chicago’s Manhattanization means housing is often less expensive outside its borders. When Overton was slated for closing, its enrollment of 431 pupils was only half its capacity.
“We’ve lost thousands of kids,” says Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson, pointing out that enrollment has dropped to 361,000 from its all-time high of 500,000. “What people don’t understand is that when a school is underenrolled, it’s harder to attract teachers. We should not be making decisions on schools based on one factor, or politics, or optics.” Jackson believes CPS students are learning more than they were when Emanuel took over. Emanuel lengthened the school day and instituted full-day kindergarten. The district’s graduation rate increased from 57 percent to 78 percent during his tenure.
“The question of whether 50 school closings are ‘necessary’ is, in my view, a little bit beside the point,” says University of Chicago sociology professor Eve Ewing, author of Ghosts in the Schoolyard, a 2018 book about the school closings. “It was one possible policy solution in an array of many possible solutions, but the point is that the people most harmed had no meaningful opportunity to shape that policy decision.”

Chicago was the birthplace of community organizing, and Emanuel was seen as stiffing the neighborhoods where that tradition was born. Emanuel’s decisions to close schools and six mental health clinics were blamed for accelerating the decline and disarray of already struggling communities. In a poor neighborhood, a school is one of the few stable institutions.
“What Emanuel did goes beyond just ignoring parts of the city; it actively worked to destabilize those communities,” says Jawanza Malone. Even more people wanted to leave. And between 2014 and 2016, shootings increased among those who stayed, as young people from rival gangs were thrown together in new classrooms.
“It wasn’t about what was right for the children; it was about what was right for Rahm and his friends: the rich and elite people,” Robinson says.
“Neoliberal” is the term most often employed by Emanuel’s detractors to describe his outlook on governing. As used by left-wing critics of moderate Democrats, “neoliberal” refers to a post–New Deal philosophy of government that emphasizes free-market capitalism, deregulation of the financial sector, privatization of public services, and cuts in government spending.
Emanuel was, according to Ewing, “the precise archetype of a neoliberal mayor.” Fiscally, it might have made sense to put resources into the growing areas of town and withdraw them from the shrinking neighborhoods. And Emanuel was always a fiscally responsible mayor, unafraid to raise property taxes, hike water rates, or impose unpopular fees such as speed camera tickets to balance the city’s budget. Joe Moore was a critic of Daley’s shortsighted use of funds from the Skyway and parking meter leases in order to close budget gaps, but the alderman became an ally and admirer of Emanuel (which helps explain how Moore lost his reelection bid in February in independent-minded Rogers Park). “Rahm confronted the challenges,” Moore says. “He convinced the City Council to vote for significant property tax increases. He exhibited a willingness that Daley never exhibited to spend political capital.”
Emanuel was elected mayor in 2011 with strong support in the black community. By 2015, that support was eroding. Between 2011 and the first round of voting in 2015, his share of the vote dropped from 63 percent to 49 percent in the 27th Ward, which includes East Garfield Park, and from 60 percent to 45 percent in the 4th Ward, which covers part of Douglas. (Emanuel saw little or no drop-off in the downtown wards in which he had so assiduously invested.) That loss of support from black voters was the difference between an outright win and a humiliating runoff against no-name Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, which he may have won because African Americans were reluctant to vote for a Latino mayor.
“Why did such a loyal support group get the short end of the stick?” asks political consultant Don Rose. “I think his biggest failure was to deal with the Other Chicago.”
If a Taser had arrived at the corner of 41st Street and Pulaski Road one minute earlier, Rahm Emanuel might still be mayor.

“Someone with a Taser?” an officer is heard asking a police dispatcher on a recording of radio traffic on the night of October 20, 2014. “This guy’s walking away with a knife in his hand.”
A Taser was on its way, but Officer Jason Van Dyke beat it there and fired 16 shots into the guy with the knife in his hand, Laquan McDonald. A video of the shooting was released more than a year later and was at odds with the official police report, which stated that McDonald had lunged with his knife at officers. African Americans had already begun to sour on Emanuel’s policing because of the aggressive stop-and-frisk tactics of Garry McCarthy, the superintendent he recruited from Newark. Now many viewed the mayor with suspicion and mistrust.
After the McDonald video came out, Emanuel “lost the support of the majority of the black community,” says police reform activist William Calloway, who encouraged journalist Brandon Smith to sue the city for the video’s release. Although Emanuel says he did not see the video until it became public in November 2015, some suspected that he rushed a confidential settlement with the family through the City Council in order to preserve his reelection. By May 2016, his disapproval rating in the black community had risen to 70 percent.
Only then did Emanuel begin seriously directing resources to the South and West Sides. The city announced plans to build a police and fire academy in West Garfield Park; the Department of Fleet and Facility Management’s garage moved from the North Branch of the Chicago River (on the site that will become Lincoln Yards) to Englewood. The Neighborhood Opportunity Fund and Retail Thrive Zones program, established in 2016 and 2017, respectively, distributed rehab grants to small businesses in under-developed neighborhoods.
It was too little, too late; both Emanuel’s friends and enemies agree that the fallout from the Laquan McDonald shooting, including the perception that he covered it up, was likely his primary reason for not seeking a third term. “He was unelectable,” says Calloway, adding, “The police are the only public servants who are not seen as members of the community. You need a mayor who can erase that division.”
The pertinent question is whether Emanuel could have recovered from the McDonald scandal if he had retained more political capital in the black community. That community may be shrinking, but it’s still big enough to swing an election, and Emanuel may have found it impossible to contemplate another run without its support. None of his potential successors want to repeat that mistake: Nearly everyone who ran for mayor this time promised to invest in neighborhoods beyond downtown.

When Emanuel talked to Howard Tullman about 1871, “he always said he didn’t want a kid in the South Side or the West Side of the city looking at the skyscrapers downtown and not understanding in every way, shape, and form they could aspire to being part of that opportunity as well,” Tullman recalls. “The dream was that this enthusiasm, encouraging entrepreneurial activities, would eventually spread, and the benefit of technology and entrepreneurship would be distributed across the whole city.”

Tullman, at least, can see the beginnings of a more broadly shared prosperity as the Chicago that Emanuel’s administration has been building pushes out from downtown in every direction. On the Near West Side, Google is in Fulton Market. On the Near South Side, Related Midwest is building the 78, a $7 billion residential and commercial development that will fill the gap between downtown and Chinatown, near an area already booming with hotels and the addition of Wintrust Arena, the new home of DePaul basketball. Farpoint is redeveloping Bronzeville’s Michael Reese Hospital into housing and tech space. On the North Side, the industrial corridor along the North Branch of the Chicago River is set to become Lincoln Yards, a $6 billion housing and entertainment development.
“I think his latest legacy will be getting those deals financed or getting some support for those deals,” Tullman says. “Then the next real challenge is how do you do these other areas? Englewood. Bronzeville is getting healthy already. The city is as well positioned as any major city.”
Rahm Emanuel didn’t become mayor to be everybody’s best friend. He became mayor, as he puts it, to leave the city “better prepared for the future than the day I walked into the office.” Political consultant Don Rose acknowledges that Chicago “is probably in better financial condition” as a result of Emanuel’s tenure. Demographer Alden Loury believes that a lot of things that happened when he was mayor “are certainly positive for the city overall.” But Emanuel will not be fondly recalled as a civic father figure, like Old Man Daley, or even a civic little brother figure, like Richie.
“I don’t think the city ever loved him,” Rose says. “I don’t think even his supporters loved him. Even Richie, with his bumbling, and the Old Man had people who loved them. I don’t think the people who supported [Emanuel] warmed to his personality.”

Love Rahm Emanuel or not, the forces that produced him, and that he encouraged during his administration, will continue to transform Chicago. The next mayor will no doubt do more to redistribute the city’s resources to neighborhoods outside the borders of the global city on the lakefront, but she won’t be able to arrest their ultimate fates. We’ll still be living in Rahm’s Chicago.

New INC Magazine Blog Post by Kaplan Institute Exec Director Howard Tullman

Stop Complaining You Can't Find Talent, and Start Looking in the Right Places. Here's How
Successful employers must make a real commitment to expand their college recruiting efforts.

Executive director, Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, Illinois Institute of Technology

There's a sea change coming in college recruiting and, surprisingly enough, it's not one that is brought about by new technology. It's simply a result of the commonsense application by more and more employers of an old fisherman's rule: fish where the fish are. It saves time, wear and tear, and you get much better results. It's not a solution for everyone, but if you're tired of making the same old trips to the same old colleges and seeing the same young pale faces year after year, it might be just the right strategy for you.

I'm excited about this idea because it's going to be one of the things we'll be talking about during the talent panel that I'm joining on Tuesday morning in Chicago as part of Inc.'s Fast Growth Tour. The Kaplan Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship at Illinois Tech is one of the main sponsors of this event. For my two cents, I'm going to be focusing on the dramatic shifts which are now taking place in terms of where the smartest employers are starting to look for their new technical talent. It's not where you might expect and it's certainly not the way they've done business in the past.

I've spent a large part of the last year in my new role as Executive Director of Kaplan learning about and working with groups of highly motivated and well-trained student engineers, computer scientists and big data specialists who are getting ready to graduate and enter the workforce. An amazingly large percentage of these students are the first in their families to attend college and they're just as committed, hardworking and excited about the opportunities ahead of them as you might expect. And guess what? When they get their first critical (and life-changing job), they stick around. They're not job hoppers or kids with one foot out the door looking for their next gig. You get double bang for your buck--better recruitment and far stronger and longer retention.

The big difference (and their particular appeal apart from strong technical chops) is their diversity and for the tech students at IIT that's a key part of what's driving the new changes we're seeing on campus. Every employer I have talked to in the past 5 years (while I was running 1871) says they desperately want diverse technical talent and then they start whining that it's just so hard to find. I guess it's just a matter of knowing where you should be looking. And until these guys wake up, they're absolutely right to be complaining because they're not going to get any better or different results if they keep doing the same old stuff and looking in the same old places. They need to find a better place to fish.

The employers who are already ahead of the pack are making a serious and substantial change and a real commitment to refocusing their efforts and attention on those schools and universities whose students/graduates can help them meet their growing need for diverse talent across all the critical dimensions--gender, race, geography, etc.--and the institutions which can provide that essential help now. They have finally figured out that the talent they need to fill the jobs of the future isn't going to be found in the places they've looked in the past.

We're going to get further into this conversation during the panel and cover other issues as well around company culture and how to make sure that you spend some time "re-recruiting" your best existing employees so they'll stick around to share their experience and expertise and to give a helping hand to all the newbies. Hope to see you on the Fast Track in Chicago on Tuesday. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Loop North News : Let Me Spell It Out for You

Tullman: Let me spell it out for you
Today’s workers often don’t care if their presentations are free from spelling mistakes or improper grammar. But they shouldn’t assume that meaning is more important than wording. It’s not. Both are part of the vital process of building a corporate culture that sets high standards and gets the details right.

By Howard Tullman

19-May-19 – Certain stories and events, triumphs and disappointments, loves and losses stay with us for a lifetime. Because even as the details disappear, their messages and morals never lose their instructive impact and probative power.

And when we ourselves become educators or parents – just as the GEICO commercials suggest – we find to our amazement and amusement that we’re sedately mouthing old expressions and pithy pronouncements as if they were written on sacred stone tablets. This is one critical part of the age-old mystery of how our parents seemed so stupid when we were teens and became so much wiser as we aged.

We all have our own instances of these life lessons and, while they’re more powerful if we’ve lived through them ourselves, the fact is that sometimes even just a word or two – said in praise, haste, or anger – from a parent, coach, professor, or peer can be just as instructive and meaningful and stick with us for decades thereafter.

Other valuable lessons can come as readily from observation and education as from direct experience. People around us can be great behavioral examples or horrible warnings of exactly what not to do. One instance that I’ve never forgotten – and have explained to generations of employees – seemed trivial and maybe a little picky at the time, but the fundamental idea has stayed with me.

My high school daughter brought home a paper that she proudly noted was inscribed with an ‘A.’ She insisted that I read it immediately and so I tried to do just that. But there was a word misspelled in the first paragraph.

I soldiered on but soon tripped over two more spelling errors. I lost my train of thought and honestly much of my interest in continuing.

Ordinarily, we process meaning before details, but not when the intake process and our concentration are interrupted. I was, sadly, left to my own devices. Giving in to my worst lawyerly instincts, I grabbed a pen and circled the mistakes. And then I tried to finish the essay. But the thrill was gone, and I found myself wondering what kind of crappy teacher awards an ‘A’ for a paper full of spelling errors without even noting the mistakes?

My daughter wasn’t overly pleased with my persnickety approach and told me that, according to her teacher, “it was the thought that counts.”

I suddenly felt obliged, on behalf of all of us who believe that correct spelling and good grammar aren’t really editorial “choices,” to take issue with her teacher’s approach, which actually sounded more like an excuse for laziness on her part than any educational strategy or philosophy.

Proofreading – painstaking but important

Even the best writers – and I don’t claim to be one of them – and editors – ditto – make mistakes. Maybe you’ll find some in this column. But the point is we try to minimize them by proofreading. It’s one of those tasks that’s painstaking but important. You must pay attention and, of course, it helps to know how to spell. In the case of my daughter’s teacher, I wasn’t so sure she did either.

Keep in mind that these were the pre-spellcheck days, although I’m not sure that attempting to automate our shortcomings has really improved the situation too terribly much. Letting the machine do the heavy lifting and assume the blame for errors is just another excuse for our own lack of focus. Tightly focused attention is what ultimately facilitates real learning. When you concentrate on your work – regardless of how ordinary or repetitive the tasks may be – you enrich the effort and your actions take on new forms. You notice and attend to different things. Where the focus goes, energy flows.

The experience is very much like the first time that a beginning runner learns to manage and control her breathing and incorporates that behavior into her training. A new state of awareness is achieved and performance, as well as endurance, immediately improves. It’s a Zen-like state and all about the flow.

Massage and fondle the details

This awareness rarely happens by accident. It’s always a matter of application. I wanted my daughter to love writing as much as I did, and good writing is all about massaging and fondling the details – the individual words, the pace, and pauses – and then melding the ultimate accumulation of all those bits and pieces into a good story.

There’s a joy in the creative process and a satisfaction and pride in the result that is almost indescribable. But the best art in any form is always bound by constraints, and in writing, the precision and exactitude of the language are crucial.

The premise of the teacher’s suggestion was that the substance of the essay is more important than the form. Telling kids that the details don’t matter is as unhelpful and counterproductive to their education as anything I can imagine. Pretending that spelling and grammar are irrelevant in school and, more important, in the real world is flat-out foolish if not fraudulent. And it’s leading whole generations of kids down the wrong path.

This isn’t just a problem in high school. What’s scarier is that I see the same inattention in our colleges and in the workplace. Blaming the problems on technology such as autofill or autocorrect is no answer. And claiming that you don’t have the time to do things carefully and well is the worst excuse of all.

Apparently, most of the world is just too busy to worry about whether the proper word is hear/here, wear/where or their/there. We’re all consumed by busy-ness instead of taking care of business.

‘Good enough’ on a slippery, sloppy slope

Once you start to accept the idea that “almost right” is as good as it’s going to get, you are on a very slippery and sloppy slope. And that attitude is contagious. If “good enough” is the best you can expect from your people and becomes the standard, then pretty much anything goes. People figure there’s no reason to show up on time, pick up after themselves, do their homework or the research necessary to know what they’re talking about, carefully document their code and their transactions, or basically care that much about anything in the business. That would be asking way too much.

And slowly, your company’s culture crumbles. Values don’t break abruptly, they deteriorate unless you put a sharp stop to the process. And creating these values starts with sweating the small stuff because that’s the foundation of everything else that follows.

Do what must be done. When it must be done. As well as it can be done. Do it that way every day. For tasks large and small – important and seemingly insignificant as well.

You need to tell your people what’s expected of them in terms of day-in and day-out execution and then stick to your guns and demand compliance. Or you might as well pack it in. There’s never been a shortcut that was a good long-term investment in building a business. And, you’ll find that sticking to 100 percent of your principles and values is easier than sticking to 99 percent, because when you make the first exceptions and compromises, the cracks in the culture start to appear.

Now, this is not a simple black-and-white process, and sometimes the hardest thing to do is to reconcile your company’s conflicting goals and objectives. We want our people to move quickly, to make decisions on the front line, to exercise good judgment and initiative when necessary, and so on and so forth.

But we also expect them to be careful and thoughtful, to make sound decisions based on data and not emotions or outside pressures, and to always act first in the best interests of the customer.

The smartest thing that a confused newbie can do in a startup, where things are moving a mile a minute, is to ask someone for the right answer. The worst thing he or she can do is to guess – albeit guessing is quicker, easier, and less embarrassing – and then when things blow up, to blame the mistake on the desire to show initiative. Even if a particular guess turns out okay for the moment, adhering to the protocols and making the proper preparation is the right way to go in the long run.

Bottom line: everything starts with you. People pay far more attention to what you do than to what you say. They’ll all take their own behavioral cues from the ways you act and just how much attention you pay to the little things in the business that actually – cumulatively – matter the most.

Let me repeat: sweating the small stuff is worth the suffering. Cultures and values are fragile things – especially in startups – and they morph and are challenged daily. Life is easy when things are going well and much more difficult when the time comes for the toughest decisions and the buck stops with you.

If you don’t stick to your values in every instance when they’re tested – large and small – they aren’t really values. They’re hobbies.

By Howard Tullman | Loop North News |

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Dear Millennials: The Feeling Is Mutual

Dear Millennials: The Feeling Is Mutual

Joe Biden dares to take offense at those who specialize in being offended.

Opinion Columnist
·       May 17, 2019

Earlier this month, a video of Joe Biden saying he had “no empathy” for “the younger generation” that “tells me how tough things are” resurfaced on social media. The video was over a year old, but it elicited predictable howls from members of the dissed demographic. “Nothing says ‘perfect candidate to lead the most powerful nation in the world’ like ‘I have no empathy,’” wrote someone with the Twitter handle @anarchopriapism.

My own reactionary reaction was different. O.K., I thought, I could definitely vote for Joe — provided he has the mettle to stand his ground.

I’ve been saying for a while now that both parties could use a Sister Souljah moment, in which a candidate shows the intestinal fortitude to rebuke some obnoxious person or faction within his political base. Bill Clinton did it in 1992 after the recording artist Lisa Williamson asked, “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?” Clinton called it out as an example of reverse racism and still went on to win 83 percent of the African-American vote.

In this election cycle, no faction on the Democratic side more richly deserves rebuking than the one Biden singled out — which is not, of course, anywhere close to the entire millennial generation (roughly 80 million strong), or their younger siblings in Gen Z. But it is that part of these younger generations that specializes in histrionic self-pity and moral self-righteousness, usually communicated via social media with maximum snark.

Gawker spawn and HuffPo twerps: This especially means you.

It also means all those who recklessly participate in the search-and-destroy missions of the call-out culture. These are the Harvard students who demanded, and last week obtained, the dismissal of law professor Ronald Sullivan and his wife Stephanie Robinson as faculty deans at an undergrad dorm because Sullivan had the temerity to join Harvey Weinstein’s defense team. They are the Middlebury students who in 2017 violently assaulted professor Allison Stanger for the crime of moderating a talk with Charles Murray. They are the Yale students who in 2015 surrounded and hounded professor Nicholas Christakis because he would not agree to their demands that he denounce his wife for believing in free speech.

The signature move in each of these instances (and there are so many more) is to allege an invisible harm in order to inflict an actual one. In place of an eye for an eye, we have professional destruction for emotional upset. Careers and reputations built over decades come to ruin, or nearly so, on account of a personal mistake or a disfavored opinion.

All of these struggle sessions play to the sound of chortling twenty-somethings, who have figured out that, in today’s culture, the quickest way to acquire and exercise power is to take offense. This is easy to do, because the list of sins to which one may take offense grows with each passing year, from the culturally appropriated sombrero to the traditionally gendered pronoun.

It’s also easy because the grown-ups rarely push back and, in fact, are often happy to go along. Not one of the students who joined the mob at Middlebury was expelled. And say what you will of the students who demanded the ouster of Sullivan and Robinson, they would have gotten nowhere without the weaselly connivance of Harvard Dean Rakesh Khurana, who discovered unspecified problems with the “climate” of the dorm in order to justify his verdict.

Which brings me back to Biden. The rap against the former veep is that he’s old, frequently puts his foot in his mouth, and occasionally says nice things about Republicans. Another way of putting all that is that he’s mature, unstudied, and not just another partisan hater
Also, he refused to beg forgiveness last month for being a tad too touchy-kissy. Maybe he should keep his hands in his pockets, but at least it means he isn’t prepared to capitulate to the icy codes of personal decorum written by people who don’t know the difference between exuberant human warmth and unwarranted sexual advances.

To which one can only say: Keep it up, Joe! He’s already leading all of his Democratic primary rivals in every demographic group save millennials (obviously), where Bernie Sanders has a narrow lead. He could make a virtue of the defect by emphasizing his distance from everything that defines the worst aspects of millennial culture — the coddled minds and censorious manner and inability to understand the way the world works. Does it ever occur to some of our more militant millennials that the pitiless standards they apply to others will someday be applied pitilessly to them?

The sensible center of America — that is, the people who choose presidents in this country — wants to see Donald Trump lose next year, but not if it means empowering the junior totalitarians of the left. Now is Biden’s chance to make it clear he’s just the man to fulfill that hope.

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