New Rules

Shana tova (Happy New Year). It is the beginning of the ten-day period called the High Holy Days. It is said that on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the book is written, and on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the book is sealed.

That means we have this time to make amends and reflect on how we want to live our lives. If we reflect well, we will be written into the Book of Life for a good year. If only it were so simple in business. We could just look back on the past year, make up for all the times we screwed up, promise to be nicer to our employees, clients and colleagues, and know that this year, everything will be different. New year. New rules.

It reminds me of a Steve Goodman song that goes like this:

If your life was on videotape
Everything would be all right
When your head hurts the morning after, you could roll it back to late last night
You could replay all of the good parts and cut out what you don't like
Wouldn't we be in good shape, if our life was on videotape.

Unfortunately, nobody uses videotape any more. Everything we do or say is on file somewhere in cyberspace, digitized and spread around instantly for anyone to see. In the digital world, nothing is off the record and it is much harder to take it back. Unless you are a politician and you have people who specialize in pretending something never happened and explaining what you really meant to say.

The point is that in business and in life, we need to be more thoughtful, more civil and more responsible with our words and our actions. We need to speak and act with integrity and respect toward others. We need to understand that everything we do impacts others and make sure that we remind ourselves of that every day.

All of us can benefit by taking some time to renew, to recharge, to reflect. To make amends for our blunders. To make a promise to do better. We can, we must, we will.

May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous year.

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Don't get fooled again.

One year ago my friend Seth got sick. He was healthy one day and deathly sick the next, but in spite of his terrible pain he refused to see a doctor. Seth had no health insurance.

By the time his brother convinced him to go to the emergency room it was too late. They rushed him into surgery but there was nothing they could do. He never made it out of the hospital. This is America. No one should die because they can't afford health insurance, but every day, thousands of people lose their coverage and thousands more go bankrupt trying to pay their health care bills. Fewer companies provide employee health benefits and more people gamble that they won't get sick.

As the debate about how to fix a broken system rages on in Congress and across the country, powerful lobbies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars scaring people into believing that health care reform is something to fear. That is just a lie. Making health care more affordable and making health insurance available to every American is not scary. It is something every American should want. It is patriotic to support it. To not support it is morally indefensible.

There are no villains in this story. Insurance companies and doctors and hospitals and the government are not intrinsically bad people or businesses. Most of them want to find a way to do the right thing, to communicate civilly, to collaborate in a positive way to solve a huge problem. They may be suspicious of someone else's motives or protective of their own interests, but ultimately everyone wants to be part of the solution.

As communicators, that is our opening. That is where we can play a positive role by encouraging constructive dialogue and keeping the debate transparent and civil.

Don't get fooled again. Now is the time to put people before profits. The time to fix our broken health care system is now.

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