Tag Archives: Mitt Romney

Halloween Ghouls, Goblins and Goofs

Sage advice to help you decide who or what you want to be this Halloween.

It is “Trick or Treat” time again. And for all of us who are not members of Congress, where every day seems like trick or treat, we have to decide what we are going to wear as a costume for our Halloween night out.

IMG950118Of course, if you were in Key West with me, your decision would be easy. During the Halloween “Fantasy Fest” (think of Mardi Gras gone bad) happening now in Key West, the most popular dress-up-and-go-out Halloween outfit is your birthday suit. The problem is that for many, their birthday suit sags in all the wrong places. Of course, that makes it even scarier when you see it. You almost don’t dare look.

If you are not into the costume thing but still want to have some ghoulish fun you could go to a Halloween party and about half-way through, start greeting and hugging everyone but admit you’re not feeling too well and describe Ebola-like symptoms.

If you are still undecided about your Halloween attire, take into account that popular regalia for adults (and we’re all adults here, aren’t we?) is to dress up like their favorite celebrity or political leader, so here are some suggestions that might help you out.

Barack Obama – Be the “ghost of leadership lost.” You could run around making aggressive and threatening noises. Then when people snicker and ignore you, you could just go on to the next house.

Joe Biden – Go out as an organ grinder’s monkey. You would have this cute little jacket (but no pants). You could jump up and down at the end of your leash, chattering away, but in a way that no one can understand what you’re saying.

Ray Rice – Simple but effective costume – just wear a wife-beater shirt.

Chris Christie – A no-brainer here: Dress as the “Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man” from Ghostbusters. Just make sure you don’t have to go through a tunnel on the way to the party.michele-bachmann-corndog

Michele Bachmann – Go to the party and offer an alternative to those who think Sarah Palin is too cerebral and rational. To complete the look, walk around nibbling on a foot-long corn dog on a stick.

Mitt Romney – Just dress up as a plastic mannequin with painted black hair (just like that Ronco infomercial). You can enhance the effect by spouting off-hand comments that make you appear to be a non-caring, out-of-touch elitist rich guy.

Adrian Peterson — Just wander around the party with a tree-switch threatening to discipline revelers (preferably those under age 8) who make too much noise.

Hillary Clinton – There are sooooo many options here: You could go as the erstwhile stalking girlfriend who just won’t go away, despite the fact you have moved on. Another option might be to dress as a scratched record (for my younger readers that would be like a damaged CD) that keeps playing the same song over and over and over again (“Why don’t you do right? … like some other men do.”) Do you think going as the “Wicked Witch of DC” would be too obvious?

Sarah Palin – Dress up as a carved-out empty pumpkin-head with a dim candle lighting up your face. By the way did you see Sarah’s Tweet letting us know that she was “praying for the people of Ebola”?

Ted Cruz (senator from Texas)Go out and present yourself as a cross-dressing male Sarah Palin.

rick-perry-gun-photoRick Perry – There are three costumes you could wear: A dumb cowboy who carries a gun and wears horned-rimmed glasses. A guy who is opposed to same sex marriage because he says that gets boring. And … Oh, I forget the third one.

Fox News and MSNBC – Go up to anyone at the party and as you talk distort, mislead and twist everything you see and hear.

CNN – Spend the entire night at the party running around yelling at the top of your voice BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS!

Mike Huckabee – Dress up as a fat, guitar-playing Jesus and claim that you are the second coming.

Now, I know there are a lot of other costumes you could wear for your Halloween party, but these are just a few suggestions to get you thinking. I would love to hear some of your thoughts and ideas.

Have a scary and fun time. I know we will in Key West!

Focus on the Fracas or Forget it

The trip to business or personal success is rough enough, but it is impossible to get there if you don’t stay focused all the way to the end of the path to achieve it.

Be it a desire to build a personal career, business, empire or even winning an election, failure to stay focused on the ultimate objective leads only to failure. Those with the ability to remain focused on achieving the ultimate objective – despite any and all distractions, challenges, temptations and frustrations – are in the best position to achieve success. Focus does not assure success, but failure to focus assures failure.

This is a given that everyone understands. But there is also a facet to the art  of staying focused on success that many fail to understand or recognize. StayingFocused

There are two essential approaches to the focus on success: One is to remain clearly resolute as to the overall objective. But even more important than an unwavering dedication is the need to remain fixated on the actions needed to reach the goal. It is the failure to recognize the subtle need to remain focused to the very end on both that, in the end, causes the most disappointment.

The Presidential Election Offers a Useful Education

A good example of this subtle, dual nature of focus – or lack thereof – is the recent presidential election. Despite all the talk of demographic changes to the body politic, the only reason that Mitt Romney lost the election was because he and his campaign lost focus on the path to victory – just as victory was within their grasp. The Obama campaign made no such grievous error. They not only remained single-minded, but doubled-downed on its focus.

In 2009, Obama had been gifted with an economy in desperate straits. Although the economy by 2012 had stabilized, it remained mired in a languid state. The most charitable adjective that one could use to describe the pace of economic growth was “meager.” Barely 2 million of the 9 million jobs lost in the crash of 2008 had been recovered; 15 million people remained unemployed. Hundreds of thousands of homes had gone into foreclosure and all of the rest had lost significant value. The annual federal deficit and national debt had virtually doubled triggering the first ever downgrade of the US Government credit rating. The term “leadership in government” had become synonymous with gridlock and stalemate. It could hardly have been a more inauspicious time for a president to seek re-election.

Mitt Romney – by appearance and experience – looked to be the perfect candidate to take advantage of horrendously bleak economic news and waning voter confidence and win the election. Romney, after all, offered up a stellar record as a calculating, effective and efficient organizer and business leader. He made his fame and fortune on the basis of being a “turn-around” expert; and if anything needed to be turned around, it was the sour American economy. In poll after poll, when the question was asked, “Who is best qualified to deal with the economy?” Romney was consistently rated significantly higher than Obama. And yet, Romney not only lost, but also lost badly.

The Irony of Poor Judgment

How was Romney able to so adroitly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? It all comes down to that double-edge of focus. Romney was focused on what he wanted to achieve, but lost focus on how to achieve it; and that was the death knell to his dream of becoming president.

There were numerous issues and crises – both domestic and foreign – that came into play during the election, but none of them rose to the level of concern the American voter had for the pallid state of the economy. If Romney had remained focused to the very end on economic issues and his experience in business – to the exclusion of virtually all others – we would be watching Chief Justice John Roberts issue the presidential oath to Mitt next Monday, not Barack.

Instead, Romney allowed his focus to wander from the economy to immigration, women’s reproductive rights, health-care, Iranian nuclear bomb efforts, love for Israel, voter rights, Syria and the attack in Benghazi. These are all important – if not critical – issues, but none of them, in and of themselves, were a determining factor in the election; that was reserved for the economy.

At the same time, the Obama campaign ignored the Obama record (except for killing Osama and “saving the auto industry), and instead focused early, often and always on attempting to transform Romney’s strength – as a successful businessman – into his most glaring weakness. From day one – while Romney was talking about “self-deporting” illegal immigrants and de-funding Planned Parenthood – the Obama campaign relentlessly focused on characterizing Romney as a stiff, cold, calculating, uncaring business maven entirely preoccupied on his wealth, the wealth of his friends and paying as little in taxes as possible. And, it worked. (With no small amount of help from some of the gaffes Romney committed himself.)

A Election Victory is a Terrible Thing to Waste

In a way, it was a shame – and such a waste of opportunity – for Romney to spend over six years of his life focused on becoming president and to come so close, only to forever be seen and be voted upon as a loser. But the truth is that Romney has no one to blame but himself, because the closer he came to the achieving the objective, the mittmore he lost focus on what it took to win.

Clearly, Romney was laser-focused on doing and saying (whether he believed it or not) what was needed to receive the Republican nomination; but once the nomination was in hand, his focus, his critical political gaze, seemed to drift. Rather than becoming the aggressor by keeping the economy front and center – and hammering at Obama’s failures – Romney allowed himself to be drawn away from focus on the economy, deficits and debt, to become mired in the muck of peripheral issues that may have been titillating but not telling in the outcome of the election.

Romney’s one “bright shining moment” during the campaign was the first presidential debate. Do you remember the topic of that first debate? Surprise, surprise – it was the economy. It was in this debate that Obama seemed lost in mumbling and mumbo-jumbo, while Romney seemed intensely focused and in command. There was universal agreement that Romney didn’t just win the debate, but that he demolished Obama. Many of the polls showed Romney surging into the lead, but for a moment. Instead of coming out of that debate with a renewed focus on the economy, Romney jumped into the quicksand of Benghazi and everything was downhill from there.

The Lesson to Learn

Romney is not the first, nor will he be the last individual or business to learn the lesson of focus the hard way. Too many times individuals and businesses arriving at the very cusp of achieving a long-sought achievement or goal, drift away from the sharp-edged focus that had driven them to the point of success. As success comes into sight and seems virtually assured, there seems to be a strange phenomenon that comes into play that lessens focus and distracts attention in other directions. As an individual or business comes close enough to taste the long-focused, long-sought objective, there is a temptation to revel in success not yet achieved.

A company that had been driven by a sharp-edged focus to achieve specific domestic objectives begins – as the goal comes into sight – to divert time, resources, interest and activity toward international expansion causing focus to become diluted and divided. The risk is that what has been long sought is not quite achieved; which in turn lessens the potential to achieve the new objective. Individuals who act as though they’ve already made it when they haven’t may never make it.

The lesson for individuals and businesses to learn is embedded in the iconic words of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” You just can’t want something; you have to focus on what you want till you get it. Failure to remain focused on the objective – especially as it comes in sight – can lead to more painful disappointment than if the objective had never been in sight.

And the Moral of the Story …

Everyone understands and accepts that clear, unwavering focus is crucial to achieving any success. Focus is the beacon that lights the path and paves the road to success. If there is not clear, continuing focus on what is to be achieved and how it will be achieved, until it is achieved, then it won’t be. In the beginning it is easy for focus to be relentless, because there is nothing to do but to concentrate all effort on the objective. What many fail to understand and appreciate is that as the goal comes into sight and shifts from a desire to a probable reality, there is a tendency to lose focus and be diverted to other efforts. This is a critical mistake, because it is more agonizing to fail to achieve what we had worked so hard to achieve, just when it was in our grasp. Just ask Mitt Romney.

The “Gifts” of Leadership

Sometimes the best way a leader can learn how to do the right things is to observe the wrong things done by leaders who failed to do the right things.

It may not be fair to treat Romney like a dog and tie him to the top of the car as we drive off on our road trip to the future, but there is a lot to be learned about leadership from the way he conducted his campaign and his reaction to the loss.

By any objective measure, there is no way that Romney should have lost his bid to become president. Obama had entered the White House in a field of blossoming hope and change, but by election time 2012, the bloom was clearly off the rose. Those who had put the most faith in Obama – the middle class and the poor – had lost the most on his watch. For many, the enthusiasm of hope had changed to the apathy of despair. As the election process began, the confidence level of people and their belief that the country was moving in the right direction were at their lowest level in 46 years.

And on the other side of the coin (waaay on the other side) the richest 1 percent in the country had been given license by the Supreme Court to spend as much as their little hearts and big wallets desired to defeat Obama. It was not of his doing, but after four years of suffering through the most depressing economic conditions in the lives of virtually every living American, all Obama could claim credit for was emergency room treatment to stop the bleeding; the patient was stable but barely showing progress. No president had ever been re-elected with the combination of low approval ratings and high unemployment numbers that dismally defined Obama’s performance.

And that is not the half of it. Under Obama the government was running up deficit spending totals exceeding $1 trillion per year and the national debt had bloated to 100 percent of the total of the nation’s goods and services produced; the highest level since the Great Depression. All the while, the country was careering pell-mell toward a financial cliff of punitive tax increases for all Americans and draconian cuts in government spending; which everyone predicted would send the country into another economic death spiral. (In fairness to Obama, the Republicans were of no help when it came to resolving these problems. Early on in the Obama presidency the Republicans announced their first – and basically only – priority was to do all and anything they could to make sure he would be a one-term president.)

To top it off, Mitt Romney was, by his experience, temperament and background, the perfect candidate to tackle and solve the challenges – especially economic – facing the nation. Not only did Romney look like a central casting candidate for president, he had grown up in a politically active and successful business family, attended the right schools and had served as Republican governor in a contentious Democrat controlled state. He had – virtually singlehandedly – turned a potential debacle at the Utah Winter Olympics into a personal, professional, and political triumph. And there was even more: Romney served up an impressive PowerPoint presentation as an entrepreneur and CEO who had started and grown a company that returned hundreds of millions in profits to himself and his investors.

Surely the problems and failings of Obama, the dissatisfaction of the electorate and the experiences of Romney would coalesce into a perfect electoral storm that would sweep Romney into the Oval Office.

But that did not happen. The election was for Romney to lose – and he did.

Unfathomably, Romney was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Given all that had happened or failed to happen during Obama’s first term, it is hard to believe that the people would see Romney as a worse alternative to Obama, but they did.

What can explain this seeming incongruity between the state of affairs in the country and Romney’s loss?

For all of Romney’s experience, talent, potential, money and the opportunity to win what should have been an easy victory, he was only successful at convincing the majority of people that he was not a leader who could be trusted to care about or do what is best for them.

When it comes to real leadership, success is not based on power, position or promises, but on the ability of the would-be leader to build and receive the trust of those they seek to lead. Romney misunderstood the one critical requirement for anyone who wanted to be president; the election was not about who would be the best CEO of the nation, but who would be the best leader for the people. Romney had experience and standout success in business, but he failed to understood that while the title of CEO may bestow power, when it comes to leadership, the title itself does not confer the trust of the followers; that must be earned. Trust in the connotation of leadership means that the followers have confidence in the intentions, desires and actions of the leader to care about and support their ultimate welfare.

In the presidential campaign of 2012 the pollsters consistently identified four issues the voters indicated they were most concerned about: the economy, taxes, debt and deficits, and jobs. On any and all of these issues, Romney had a bridge to the White House, but it turned out to be a bridge to nowhere. What the pundits – and especially Romney – paid little heed to was that in every poll, Obama was always rated well ahead of Romney when it came the question: Who do you trust the most? What the experts – and Romney – did not see coming was that in the end, people would put aside their concerns for the economy, taxes, national debt and even jobs to vote for the individual they trusted most to be concerned about them.

During the course of the campaign, Romney’s demeanor, words and actions created, and then reinforced, the suspicion of people that while he may have been a great CEO, he was not a leader that people could trust to care about them. And by the petty way that Romney has reacted to his loss by suggesting that it was not his fault, but was due to the bribery of Obama who offered “gifts” to the electorate, it shows that he still does not get it.

If You Seek Success as a Leader, Learn the Lesson Romney Failed to Learn:

No matter how experienced, talented or the nature of your title – unless you genuinely believe and act in ways that show your care about the welfare of those you want to lead, you will fail.

As Romney learned (or should have), when it comes to successful leadership, trust trumps all. Trust gives a leader the power to set the objective, make decisions that may be questioned but always followed and even change direction when needed. Without trust, none of this is possible. To be successful as a leader you must first and foremost make sure your leadership can be trusted. People will follow a trusted leader to hell, but when the people lack trust in the leader they will tell him to go there.

And the Moral of the Story …

There are many who believe that power and position translates into leadership. For example, companies like to identify the highest-ranking managers as the “leadership group.” They do this because of the belief that if you have power, you are ipso facto a leader. But in truth, it is leadership that creates power and position—not the other way around. And leadership is bestowed by trust, not power and position.

If you believe that leadership is determined more by power and position than trust, then ask yourself: How much power and position did Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Lech Walesa have? These leaders had only one thing – the trust of those they wanted to lead – and this trust gave them power to do great things.

We may never lead the world, but if we want to lead the way in our world, we will first understand the power of trust granted by those we want to lead. We will recognize that no matter what title has been given or power bestowed, we will only be successful as a leader when our beliefs, words and actions demonstrate to those we seek to lead that we can be trusted to care about them, more than we care about power and position.

You can come up with all the sophisticated analysis of the results or complain about the “gifts” granted to “buy” votes, but all of that is irrelevant. Mitt Romney, the well- connected, experienced, successful CEO, failed to understand the most fundamental element of leadership – trust – and for that, lost the election he should have won.