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Why We Channel President Reagan

Image of President Reagan via Wikipedia

When the drill went off and bits went flying I panicked.

Madonna singing "Borderline" through my iPhone earplugs didn't distract me. Clearly I was going to die on this day.

The dentist's assistant stood over me solicitously. She saw me gagging on the bite plate. How embarrassing.

The sound of the drill scared me. Bits got stuck in my throat. Water flew in and around. The little hose didn't suck it all up. Maybe it's a simple cavity filling to you but to me it felt like the end.

I steeled myself. "Cut it out." "Be a big girl." Didn't work. The dentist had to pause about 50 times to calm me down and get me to cooperate. I felt like a baby. But it was horrible.

I looked up at the ceiling as if to find an answer. Saw only a circular grate with holes poked in it. Oh good we are safe from fire today. I could visualize my tombstone.

Finally the first tooth was done and the dentist paused for a minute. I could not help but grouse politely. Dr. S. laughed and said:

"Thank me, because I am saving your teeth today."

I have gone to this dentist for a number of years and for whatever reason, he just really cares about only that one thing: saving teeth.

Dr. S. tells me over and over to floss. Not lecturing, but kindly. I really believe he wants to see those teeth healthy and strong. Somewhere in his head is a sparkly vision, and he will encourage you in any way possible to achieve it.

In that sense my dentist is a lot like President Reagan (may he rest in peace). Give me a minute and I will explain the analogy.

President Reagan had a passion for America. Not America as it was. But the vision of what it could be once again.

Similarly, my dentist has a vision of healthy teeth, well-cared for, brushed and flossed every day. All over the office there are images of dental wellness. It's not crazy or anything, but it is a system of belief that he holds to no matter how many diseased teeth and gums he sees.

President Reagan saw America in some bad times. But as far as I can recall, he was not about dividing the country in order to rebuild it. Rather, President Reagan held up a torch that represented the best of what we were. And when he saw the vision, we saw it with him.

Just the same way, my dentist doesn't say negative things about how I brush or floss. He just shows me the light, so to speak.

The Reagan brand was unshakably positive. It was a brand you could buy into no matter who you were. Just identifying with that vision made you feel like more than you were.

Similarly my dentist just reminds me to floss. And when I do I have that vision that he conveys to me, of a sparkling healthy mouth that will never decay, not ever. I feel good about myself when I listen.

This positive feeling is the flavor that is missing in politics today, and in the current election. Everyone seems to hate everyone else.

Of course there is always something to criticize. But if you ask me all the candidates deserve at least some respect. Even if you don't agree with who they are or what they've done, at least they have done something, which is more than many of us can say.

The candidate who can portray a positive future vision of America, and who can back that vision up with a platform that people understand - that will be the candidate who wins the passion of the people. But the candidate who wastes time pointing fingers and putting down the efforts of the other side only turns people off in the end.

I work for the government (all opinions my own of course) and know how hard it is to get anything done in Washington. Just writing about it is exhausting. But if you are a candidate, you have to get beyond the angry nasty stuff, and the hatred, and go a level higher. Unite people rather than divide them. Show them the future and then take them there.

Otherwise they are like me, sitting in the dentist's chair, wondering when the drilling will end and blaming the dentist for trying to save their teeth.

Have a good weekend everyone, and good luck!

Internal Branding: Promise Less

Photo by OakleyOriginals via Flickr

In "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" an Australian who has discovered the health benefits of juicing crisscrosses the U.S. to evangelize.

He stops at a diner and talks to two fellow middle-aged men and a teen. They are eating as they talk.

One of the other men says that health food is irrelevant to him. Adding more years to his already lousy life - and losing out on good food - is just not that appetizing.

Was he unhappy because of his personal life or his job? Who knows if one can even separate them.

Once a few years ago I met my aunt for lunch. She is a psychologist and had treated some people suffering from post-traumatic work stress disorder. she told me: People vastly underestimate how a bad work environment affects one's personal life and ability to function.

Based on what I see, hear and read, workplace cultures are a lot like families and farms: They need active and ongoing intervention to fix and maintain.

Internal branding is thus much more difficult than external branding:

1. People tend to think of it superficially - literally as logos or taglines or email signatures. So it is a challenge to get them to see that these things are just the tip of the iceberg.

2. People tend to act badly toward one another at work. That is just a fact. And too often these bullies are not only feared, but also promoted.

3. People tend not to take workplace culture seriously until there is a crisis.

When Adam, at Eve's prompting, ate from the Tree of Knowledge, God punished both of them. Adam's foretold suffering involved work specifically:

"By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread." (See Genesis 3:17-19)

Gradually God is lifting this sentence and humanity is becoming enlightened: Work success need not mean killing ourselves or each other. Just the opposite.

In the meantime though it seems foolish to set employee expectations very high.

Branding equals making a promise and then keeping it, even when it's hard.

So say what you mean, and then stick to it.

Good luck!