Around the time of the first Presidential debates earlier this year, I heard several talking heads on television and radio separately but equally pronounce the coming vote as “the most important election in our lifetime.” When I heard those exact same words come from the mouths of several colleagues and neighbors in the days and weeks to follow, I knew the spin masters had done their job. What was once the “message of the day” had become accepted wisdom, at least among a certain receptive subset of the electorate.
What is it about politics and sports and business that leads everyone to hyperbolize about this election or that game or this upcoming quarterly earnings report as being “the most important ever?” Why can’t we act like adults and apply some perspective? Was I the only one who heaved a sigh of relief after that first debate upon realizing that while I was not enamored of either candidate, I was comfortable with the idea of either man as commander in chief? One of the great benefits of our political system and our economy is that their smooth running relies less on the folks at the top and much more on the folks underneath who actually do the work.
I suppose part of the hyperbole frenzy is fed by the popular media, which believes that hype is the only way to sell a newspaper or get a reader to crack open a magazine. Take Money magazine, for instance, which on the cover of its November issue promises to deliver “9 New Ways to Solve Your Toughest Money Hassles.” Wow! I thought there were only five or six new ways to solve my money woes! Of course, Money is an easy target. What it promises are the very actions and state of mind you must counsel your clients to avoid: the quick fix, the sure thing, the easy avenue to success. But what about your own success? What will you need to do now to ensure your success in an essentially unknowable future?