Archive for January, 2010

holding title on entitlement
January 25, 2010

When I’m angry or frustrated with someone or something, I can almost always chalk it up to an overblown sense of my own entitlement. I think it’s human nature. I think (well at least I hope) it happens to everyone. Next time you curse the weather or damn the traffic for messing up your carefully laid plans, check your sense of entitlement. I’m guessing it’s a bit on the high side.

There’s a chaotic battle of entitlement happening right here, in my still charming small town, as we collectively trip and stumble our way through an especially complicated development process.

Smart Centres has purchased a parcel of land on the edge of town with the intent of building a gigantic shopping mall. The promise of new jobs, better prices and more selection is hard to resist. Many, in fact, feel they are entitled to their own big box mall after years of shopping in neighbouring communities. The bloggers and facebookers in support of the project blast local retailers for price gouging and poor selection. Other supporters feel entitled to benefit from a project that will help their businesses, increase their traffic or their property value or whatever it is they feel they deserve.

Smart Centres also shows its own sense of entitlement (especially having been refused once before by the City of Salmon Arm). As owners of the property, they intend to develop it. Trouble is, there’s the small matter of the Official Community Plan Amendment they need (and indeed feel entitled to) from the City to move ahead.

For its part, the City Council has also shown its sense of entitlement. Entitled to follow its own processes. Entitled to take in or block out information. Entitled to listen or ignore. Entitled to get the job done- not an easy task by any measure.

Those opposed to the project (and I count myself among them), feel this development is wrong. For some, it’s the wrong size and wrong location. For others it’s the wrong developer and the wrong tenants. For others still, it’s the wrong politics, wrong ethics and wrong tactics. Sometimes it’s for all of these reasons. Sometimes it’s only for a few. But we too have a sense of entitlement. We feel entitled to transparency, information, clarity of process, a rational list of priorities. We feel entitled not just to our opinions, but to have our opinions heard. Even if they are critical.

Those in support feel they are entitled to call the opponents nay-saying, extreme, elite, environmental yahoos or other, often much worse, names. Opponents feel entitled to show supporters they may ignore a fact or two. I, for one, feel entitled to tell the world the whole thing frustrates me to no end and could have been avoided had the previous council not been so keen to bring more shopping to town.

But back to my point, when I’m frustrated with something, it’s usually my overblown sense of entitlement. Truth is, I’m not entitled to grand stand on this or any other topic anymore than a neighbour who loves to shop is entitled to cheap prices and great selection as if it were a human right. It’s not. It’s economics. And economics is based on unlimited wants and limited resources. That’s the truth of it. We can’t have everything. We just can’t. So then what, how do we decide? I do think we are all entitled to the basics. Clean water, fresh air, a roof over head and food on our plate. I also think we’re entitled to our opinions and our processes.

But we get in real conflict when we delude ourselves into thinking our opinions, our expectations or even our demands, matter more than someone else’s. If we’re all going to hold title on our entitlements, this particular proposal turned debate turned impasse isn’t going to end neatly or anytime soon. And i’ll keep my last bit of entitlement to add that I think it’s a shame to spend so much time on this when, clearly, many other, dare I say, more important matters, need our collective attention.

water cooler days
January 14, 2010

While 95% of the time, I am grateful to be my own boss, this week was a five percenter. Five percent of the time, I long for the water cooler days of yore. I used to work in an office populated with 50 or more of the most interesting, intriguing and infuriating people known to man. We laughed. A lot. And when we weren’t busy working or running to the nearest coffee shop (Guttenberg, as I recall, in Library Square in Vancouver) for a tall americano with room for cream, we bitched alot too. Like hamsters in a wheel, we were often lulled into a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes, we actually did accomplish things. Good things. Important things. Meaningful things. But that’s besides the point. What I miss the most is the mundane. The “hey did you see that bit on Letterman” or the “Kraft Dinner is better with ketchup” debates. I miss the days where a broken printer meant a quick call to extension 341 and magically, the coop student/computer science genius from SFU would show up and fix it as part of his higher learning. I miss the “i’ll transfer you to accounting” when suppliers phoned about an outstanding balance. I miss the deep philosophical conversation about paper vs. plastic while the boss was in a “management” meeting. I miss the pay cheque. I miss the coffee and the coffee filters and the coffee creamers that were always there when I needed them. These days, if something goes wrong, or the bill wasn’t paid, or the printer breaks, or the meeting goes long, it’s usually – no, actually, always, my fault and my responsibility.  It overwhelms. But that’s just for this week. Come Monday, I’ll remember the 95%. The “i can wear track pants if I want”, “i can say I was in a meeting, when I wasn’t”, “this job is so fun I’d do it for free (if I could)” moments that make up for the water cooler days. So if you’re thinking of self employment, give it some thought. And if you’re hating your slave to a pay cheque job, give it some thought too. If you’re gonna have the perfect work life, you’re gonna have some good days, some bad days and some “what I wouldn’t do to live in the other guys shoes” days. Because bitching about work is a priveledge, one that I shouldn’t and wouldn’t trade for the alternative.

when playing it safe means getting it wrong
January 6, 2010

Life is a bit short to spend too much time criticizing but every now and then, the temptation is oh so hard to resist. And, let’s face it, isn’t it easier to learn from someone else’s mistakes?

The Olympics are coming to CTV as slowly proclaimed by the voice of veteran canadian actor Donald Sutherland. These promos currently running on CTV feature Canadian athletes in slow motion with even slower music.  To their credit, the athletes themselves have been training day in, day out for years. Is it any wonder their on-air camera work is less than amazing. “Do you believe?” they ask  the viewer with their bambi-like stares into the camera.

I’ll tell you what I believe, I believe we have a problem. A national broadcaster that paid 90 MILLION DOLLARS for broadcast rights forgot to show for the warm up. Persuading us all, advertisers and viewers, to buy the ad space and watch the show. You tube “Believe in Vancouver 2010” to see some of the series. The gloom and melancholy overwhelm.

CTV played it safe. And it couldn’t have been more wrong. Veteran actor, athletes doing athletic stuff, inspirational music, slow motion. C’mon. Live a little. I think I’ll PVR the Olympic coverage on NBC in case anyone decides to have some fun.

If nothing else, maybe we can learn that amateur mistakes happen to the pros. Like spending so much on the goods, you can’t afford the shipping and handling. Having said so, I now recall that CTV did air Hinterland Who’s Who PSAs during last year’s Superbowl. So maybe I’m giving them too much credit in the first place.

But back to the basics. Many firms spend so much on advertising (space you pay for such as billboards, newspaper and magazine ads), they rob themselves of any chance of success. It’s never about how much space you buy as what you do with the space. The perfect post-it note can do a helluva lot more than the billboard, depending on who you are, what you want and from whom you want it.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the Canadian athletes who will soon head to Vancouver. I want them to win for them. But I’m also keeping my fingers crossed for CTV. I want them to do our games and our athletes proud. And I hope the advertisers who paid the tab kept at least enough money to buy themselves some decent creative. With Frank and Gordon, the Bell Spokesbeavers now retired, who knows what we can expect. I will say this – two beavers, on an escalator in a mall, talking on a cell phones is about as unsafe as you can get – and that is gold medal marketing.