There’s a scene from the 1996 movie “Independence Day” where people gather on top of the U.S. Bank Building in Los Angles to welcome the aliens, carrying signs and going bananas over the really cool happening, until they are summarily zapped to smithereens by the indifferent extraterrestrials.
Reminds me of the recent solar eclipse, sans the complete annihilation of most living things.
You can understand the lemming-like, doltish conduct of the folks in “Independence Day” because they’re from La La Land, but here in real America – everywhere that’s not New York City or California – you’d expect more.
Such as rational behavior.
I mean, it was an eclipse, not the second coming.
The media, as usual, obsessed over a rather commonplace, mundane event, whipping the validation-starved populace into a lather with dire warnings and euphoric promises of spiritual enlightenment.
It seems as if the entire country was gaga over two ancient, celestial rocks, one cold and inert, the other on fire, passing by each other.
It happens two-to-five times a year, folks. This momentous, historic event has occurred billions and billions of times before. That’s more times than Madonna’s been kissed, more times than Ben Affleck’s made a bad movie, even more times than Chris Christie’s eaten a doughnut (but not by much).
In the hysteria, we were incessantly warned not to look at the sun.
‘IS THAT ALL THERE IS?’
I was driving during the big event and barely noticed it, while Peggy Lee plaintively sang in my head, “Is that all there is?”
So here’s a clue: Next time you want to see a darkened sky in the middle of the day, run outside during a thunderstorm.
You won’t need any protective eyewear to look up at the lightning bolts or stratus clouds, and you’ll have no trouble finding a good vantage spot.
And don’t forget your galoshes.
Such is America in the new millennium.
GOOD OLD DAYS
OK, it was an interesting event and fun to be part of, I’m sure, just like when I was a kid.
Back then, before the 24/7 news cycle, an eclipse was reported in the limited media we had available, and we would study the approaching spectacle in school.
But on the big day, it was just a bunch of kids in the schoolyard looking through cereal boxes.
Most grownups paid it little mind, and as soon as it was over, we went back to playing dodge ball and sucking on lead-based paint chips.
Ah, the good old days.
But nothing is that simple anymore. Living out here on the new frontier and trying to grapple with the ever-decreasing face-to-face, life-affirming access to fellow travelers on this amazing journey, any hint of common ground is like Dr Pepper to a hypoglycemic.
In this edition of the human race, the descendants of Homo erectus have stumbled in the starting blocks (bent and crumpled over insidious machines of menticide and rapidly reducing millennia of learning how to stand up straight).
We barely made it out of the Industrial Revolution and along comes the Information Age to smack us around for a while until we can learn to use information for something other than sharing embryotic, idiotic commonly held misbeliefs and misguided insights of profound stupidity.
Other than that, we’re doing fine.
The net result is that people have learned to deal primarily with external cause and effect, and spend little time on self-examination. So when a stupendously hyped external stimulus appears on the horizon, it’s all hosanna in the highest.
“Finally, some substance and meaning to my life!”
The only true growth in life comes from the inside – from the internal struggle for self-awareness, behavioral modification and acceptance. No arbitrary heavenly manifestation or any other external experience can substitute for genuine introspection and personal development.
Like I run into every day.
A woman in a recent sales training class came to me after the fifth week and said, “I’m really disappointed. I thought you were going to teach us how to sell.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do,” I responded.
“But all this psychological, self-analyzation stuff isn’t what I was looking for.”
“What is it you’re looking for?” I asked.
“You know,” she replied. “What to say to get people to do business with me.”
“Oh,” I answered. “You want the secret, magic words that automatically close sales. We don’t get to those until week 10.”
‘JUST TELL ME WHAT TO SAY’
Then there was the business owner who hired me to help improve sales for his company.
We spent a few sessions going over his organization and the systems and methods he used to run his sales team. He became very frustrated and finally burst out with, “Just tell me what to say!”
I sat there astonished. “What do you mean?” I asked.
“Just tell me what to say to my salespeople to get them to sell more,” he practically screamed.
NO MAGIC BULLET
Both of these people were under the felonious impression that there is an enchanted formula floating around out there that shamans could teach them, amid burning incense and gentle background chimes, I’m sure.
Unfortunately, there is no esoteric, clandestine covenant of mystic sales trainers able to overcome weaknesses within you or your company by sprinkling a little fairy dust and whispering in your ear.
Success comes from the inside, and the more you look outside, the harder it gets to unlock the inside.
But maybe you’ll get lucky and find the guy selling those magic beans. Maybe you’ll plant those beans and they’ll grow into a giant beanstalk that you can climb and find the goose that lays the golden eggs.
If you do, however, please take my advice: Don’t let your goose look directly into the sun.
Sales consultant and professional speaker Rich Plinke of Allentown is the author of “More Droppings from the Dragon: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Sales,” available at www.moredroppingsfromthedragon.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.