I have been practicing something new for the last few months. It takes real concentration and deliberate commitment that is not so easy.
Heres the story. In October, I had lunch with my girlfriend Nicole Avant, an old friend of now President (then candidate) Barack Obama and Michelle, and his key fundraiser in California. (You will read her conversation with her godfather, Quincy Jones, in next months issue.) I told Nicole I was frustrated at Obamas consistent refusal to answer his critics, to let them have it when false accusations and inaccurate remarks were hurled at him. I thought his strategy was misplaced, that greater damage would be done to the campaign and to his reputation by unexplained silence that made him look, well, weak.
Nicole smiled slyly. Then she shared a lesson she had learned from him. Obamas method of weathering criticism is this: Never react. Always respond.
I could not get this advice out of my mind. For weeks after, I replayed the words: Never react. Always respond. It seemed so clear, so simple, so right. If you react to someones actions, words, accusations, bad behavior, disrespect or even outright lies, chances are your reaction will be quick, angry, accusatory, threatening, badly verbalized, disrespectfuleverything the perpetrator had hoped. It became apparent to me that, by definition, a response to an attack, in any of its forms, is everything anyone would want. It IS more carefully thought out; it IS bound to be more eloquent; it IS, by nature, nonthreatening; and it IS, surely, always more effective.
And it has changed my life. Whether in personal situations, business relationships or social circumstances, I now refrain from reacting. I take some time (five minutes or a day) to think things through. I ponder alternative solutions and come up with suggestions. And only then, comfortable that I have put the attack into perspective and come up with both an effective and a personally gratifying answer, do I respond.
Boy, does this workevery single time. And the results have been consistent: respect, thoughtfulness, a rethinking of the original argument and a coming to terms with the situation. And truly, it doesnt matter if the solution is to your satisfaction. When you respond, you somehow neuter the others power.
In choosing the stories for this issue, confrontations occurred. None were of angerjust a slew of opinions as to choices, caliber of work, combinations that would make a better issue, costs to the bottom line, promises to writers and photographers. So when Rip Georges, our extraordinary Creative Director and my partner in LA, came to me with his choice of the fashion photo for the full-page ad that would run industry wide touting our March issuea woman with a lobster on her headI put to the test my newfound determination.
Instead of throwing up my hands in disbelief and canceling the choice, I walked away, taking the photograph with me. Then, quietly, I considered the great eye of our Fashion Director, Lori Goldstein, and the work of Sølve Sundsbø, one of the best and most important fashion photographers in the world. I looked at the clothing on the model and considered the prices of the pieceswanting to be sensitive to the economics of fashion in todays world while showing our readers how spectacular, visionary and fanciful it can be.
The next morning, I looked at the photograph with a new eye and was blown away. I thought you would see the beauty and recognize the courage of the shot, be impressed with the ingenuity of the idea and remember it for a long time. I thought it would make you smile.
I could be wrong. Let me know. But please, try to respond, not react. And let me know how that worked for you.
YOU GOTTA GO Like they say, Pretty is as pretty does, and whats more lovely than do-gooding? The Humane Society is throwing its celeb-studded Genesis Awards on March 28 at the Beverly Hilton, feting Hollywood folks for their commitment to creatures great and small. Past recipients of the organizations Wyler Award include Paul McCartney and Hayden Panettiere, and this year Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi are honored jointly for their push in the passage of Californias Prop. 2, which ensures a compassionate life for livestock raised for food. If animals are your pet cause, this is the red-carpet event to attend, says president and CEO Wayne Pacelle. Tickets, $350$1,500 for single tickets; $3,500 and up for tables. 818-501-2275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.