business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Fairly late on July 4th, power came back on to my neighborhood - some 105 hours after it shut off. Truckloads of debris disappeared, home repairs started, and just like that, normalcy returned.

But it really didn't.

When I wrote my last column, I was in the midst of recovering from an amazing storm that devastated my suburban Washington, DC, neighborhood. And I’m hoping that both the gratitude and anger that I'm feeling these days, along with many of my neighbors, will offer a life lesson.

Here’s the gratitude: so many of you sent me e-mails offering sympathy and comfort that it was overwhelming and showed the power of a blog like MNB. However, the message that really hit home came from one long-time industry friend who said he watched coverage of the storm as we watch most things on television: with detachment, as if it were fiction. But knowing someone in the middle of it changed his feeling. Suddenly he worried. That touched me and I’m hoping that I keep that in mind next time I see a natural disaster or other event on television. It isn’t fiction. It’s real people, real families.

So I thank you all for the kind wishes.

As for the anger ... well, it has nothing to do with the utilities that failed or the damages we suffered. That stuff happens. Life goes on.

During my extended clean up, I had some wonderful encounters. I worked side by side with highway department employees to clear branches. Hotel workers were kind and helpful, as were supermarket employees helping us get needed supplies. And there was my wonderful neighbor, whose family worked with mine to help clear both our homes of damage despite 100-degree heat.

But despite all that - or maybe because of it - I find myself getting angry about the fact that so many people seem to fail to notice the good in each other.

On July 4, the Washington Post ran a front page story about how the US is more divided than ever. I've read stories like this before, but this one made me really angry ... because I felt no division from all those people working with and around me. When I heard utility crews from Georgia and Oklahoma interviewed on the radio, no one said they regretted coming to a state that voted opposite them in the last election. In fact, one man said he was proud to help us because he knows we will repay the favor.

Not once did anyone ask my position on the budget, health care, Afghanistan, gay marriage, military spending, etc. All we did was work together. (Okay, I protested once: when my neighbor came out of his house drinking a cola that is not made by the company for whom I do significant work. This neighbor works for the Baltimore Ravens and I told him that he turned me into a major Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan.)

All we did was focus on the task at hand. I wish more people would do that.

Our political leaders seem to think that division is what we want because it’s what gets them elected. I’m no Pollyanna and I know there are serious and broad disagreements about issues and politicians. Yet in the middle of a crisis, none of that mattered. It made me think that we are better than what we are getting and I’m hoping the MNB family will agree.

Here’s my thought: we’re in the middle of another ridiculous election campaign where everything gets discussed and nothing gets done. We’ll see constant ads about how bad the “other” guy is, but little talking about what anyone is going to do better. Those ads run because negativity works, unless we tell them no more. I say it’s time.

So here’s my proposal: whenever you see a political ad, Tweet or anything that is negative and nothing more - fire off a quick e-mail to the candidate supported by the ad and tell them “we deserve better - MNB 2012.” It’s not quite a Network moment (rent that film if you don’t get the reference) but it could work.

Just imagine what would happen if a bunch of us started doing that; reminding our “leaders” that we demand better. Working in the dark I got to see the better angels of our nature and I enjoyed it. And what’s the point of a blog if you can’t spread a message like that?

Next week I’m back to business lessons. I promise.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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