Keeping your eye on the ball this New Year

There’s an awful lot of deliberate misdirection in our society at present.  What’s more, an awful lot of people are allowing themselves to be taken in by it.  In the New Year just ahead, when we traditionally take stock of our lives and make resolutions to improve at least some aspects, it’s not a bad idea to see where we may have fallen prey to misdirection in and about ourselves.

Let’s examine a few examples of misdirection and how it’s being used.

  • The Democratic Party and its left-wing and progressive allies are making all sorts of noise about Russian interference in our recent Presidential election.  This is occupying the time and attention of a large part of our society – all without a single concrete fact, admissible as evidence in a court of law, that proves Russian interference actually took place.  It’s all insinuation, allegation and obfuscation.  They also make a fuss about Hillary Clinton having won the ‘popular vote’, despite the fact that never in the history of the United States has our president ever been elected by popular vote.  All this fuss is designed to take people’s minds off the fact that Donald Trump won the election fair and square, according to the provisions of the US constitution.  It’s designed to de-legitimize his presidency in the minds of the American people . . . and, for some of them, particularly left-wingers and progressives, it’s working.
  • Businesses are accustomed to launching pre-emptive counter-attacks on each other, to safeguard their own ‘turf’ and reduce the risk that competitors might try to ‘muscle in’ on it. is a prime example.  One commentator says that Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) is ‘building moats‘ (bold, underlined text is my emphasis):

Let’s say that a well-respected brand like Netflix decided it wanted to move into other kinds of content besides movies and television. Like, say, ebooks. Suddenly the Kindle Store, and Amazon’s vice-like grip on the ebook industry, is under threat. Or what if personal food delivery apps like Seamless decide to expand their product offerings? Then it may start eating into Amazon’s e-retail offerings. And if the Washington Post app and Amazon Prime’s video offerings can sell a few more Kindle Fires, then he’ll have a more direct line between the customer and the Amazon ecosystem of products. By encroaching into the spaces of other industries, Bezos keeps those other industries from finding cracks in the walk with which to encroach on his main cash cows. And once he has firm moats around his main profit castles, he can start increasing the price on those castles, capitalizing on competitor-free profit margins … Seen this way, Bezos is more concerned with future competitors who are nipping at the edge of his margins than traditional retail companies trying to move into his space. He’s cornered the e-retail market, now he’s simply scorching the earth around it.

  • In abusive relationships, one of the main techniques of the abuser is to keep the abused partner focused on some things – negatives – to the exclusion of others – positives.  The abuser will criticize the abusee’s appearance, or education, or capabilities;  emphasize mistakes or shortcomings over positive attributes;  and generally try to keep the focus on how poorly the abusee is performing, rather than on how badly the abuser is treating him or her.  It’s a classic tactic, and it works surprisingly often.  I’ve worked a great deal with people in such relationships.  When the abused can be made to see that he or she really isn’t that bad, but they’ve been made to focus on specific negatives rather than the overall picture, and therefore become blind to the reality of the abuse they’re suffering, the transformation is often dramatic.
  • When trying to improve our lives, it’s amazing how often, in the words of the proverb, we “can’t see the forest for the trees“.  That means we focus on individual, specific problems, rather than look at the overall picture of where we are.  Unless we do the latter, we’ll never be able to identify trends and patterns, ask ourselves why they’re there, and deal with them.  (Often, modern society does little or nothing to help us see the ‘big picture’.  News and social media will often focus on the latest fad or fashion – diet, clothing, technical gizmos like the latest model of smartphone, etc. – instead of something really helpful.)  Again, as a counselor, I’ve had to help many people break out of this stultifying mold, take a good, hard look at themselves – where they are now versus where they want to be – and begin planning to break free of the things that are holding them back.  (See, for example, my series of articles on personal strategic planning.)

You might be wondering where I’m going with these examples.  They relate directly to the biggest single problem most of us have.  We can very easily allow ourselves to be misdirected – or, for that matter, misdirect ourselves.  We fail to see the ‘forest’ of our overall lives for the ‘trees’ of the people, problems and circumstances that make it up.  Because we never consider the overall reality, we fail to plan (or act) to improve it by dealing with the things that weaken it and reinforcing the things that strengthen it.

New Year’s resolutions are notorious for being honored more in the breach than in the observance.  Most of us make them lightly, without thinking, and discard them within weeks or even days because we achieve little or no success.  Nevertheless, they aren’t a bad idea.  It’s a good thing, now and again, to take stock of where we are, decide to change at least one major negative in our lives, and do something about it or them.  Why not try that this New Year weekend?

Start by looking at the ‘forest’ overall, and identify the ‘trees’ that make it less than it could be.  Think about all the things in your life with which you’re not happy.  Ask yourself whether they’re truly important, or just little ‘niggles’.  Prioritize them.  Losing weight may be desirable from the perspective of appearing more attractive, but getting your finances in order may be a lot more important in the short term!  Pick just one or two problems or negatives that really do need short-term, serious attention, and work out a plan to tackle them.  (Again, see my articles on personal strategic planning if you need help with that process.)

I’m doing precisely that at present.  One resolution I’ve already discussed here – planning to write four books during the coming year.  Another is health- and lifestyle-related.  I’m working on an action plan for it right now.  I’ll need the help and encouragement of my wife and friends to achieve it, but I know I’ll have that unsparingly.  They’re a huge blessing in that regard, for which I’m devoutly grateful.

Try to make a meaningful, serious New Year’s resolution or two this weekend, and act on it/them.  You might be surprised at what you can achieve, if you plan – and work – to succeed.



  1. I'd note that there is a further misdirection occurring.

    1) By making it about "Russian hacking", Hillary, Obama, & the DNC hope to divert attention from the dirty tricks, immoral actions, and illegalities being discussed in the emails. If they hadn't been doing those actions, there wouldn't have been emails to have been hacked and released. And I'll note that they have never said that the emails (and therefore what was discussed and what was done by them) were faked. I'll also note further that the emails were, in part, discussing how to pervert and tilt the election, both the primaries & general. Apparently, it's OK when they do it. Or as Machiavelli said, "The ends justify the means."

    2) If Hillary hadn't broken U.S. law and used a private, unprotected email server, the Russian hackers might arguably not have been able to break in (was it deliberately unprotected? interesting question). Using a vetted, hardened email server would have made it a lot harder, although you still have the human element of allowing a uncleared maid (and others?) get & transmit classified material.

    3) By making it "Russian hacking", Obama hopes to delegimitize Trump's election. Once Trump is in office: 1) if he drops the sanctions, or otherwise minimizes them, the talking point will be, "Of course he wouldn't investigate himself" or 2) if he doesn't drop the sanctions, then the talking point is, "Oh, so you [Trump] agree that the Russian hacking helped you get elected. Should we have a run-off election, or otherwise 'review' this election?"
    That's on the domestic side. On the foreign policy side, he leaves Trump in a foreign policy mess with the Russians (and others).

    I'm sure Obama was preening himself over this bit of demagoguery.

  2. Best of luck with your resolutions, Peter, and Bravo Zulu for recognizing the importance of loved ones to their success or failure. You only mentioned them in relation to the second resolution, but I know that you know they're vital to any plan's success.
    I've always resisting making New Year's resolutions, but I usually tie any such intended change to some date I'll remember–birthday, anniversary, etc.–just so I'll have an easy marker for how long I've been succeeding. It's a morale boost to me.
    I have a personal-health goal I began working toward on an important (to me) date in December, & it's nice to look at my success so far & be able to say "I've done that in only x days! Better keep going, it's working!"
    –Tennessee Budd

  3. RE: the New Year's Resolution thing – ran across an interesting book, suggested by a blogger whose name & blog I can't recall: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams (If Adams' name doesn't ring a bell, he created and authors the Dilbert comic strip).

    We, traditionally, "set goals" for ourselves: lose X pounds, save Y money, spend Z more hours with family, etc. Goals are convenient, lending themselves to nice, neat lists; reach a goal, check it off the list, move to the next goal.

    There's much more to his philosophy than this, but Adams points out that goals are binary – you reach them or you don't – and generally discouraging because a myriad of things interfere with accomplishing goals. In other words, "life."

    Adams doesn't use goals, he implements a system. As an example, if one sets a goal of losing 20 pounds by X date and loses only 19.8 one has failed at attaining that particular goal. Adopt a system. however, that is designed to produce weight reduction over time and incorporates exercise of varying types and intensities, plus learning new food preparation skills, etc. and varying degreees of success in multiple areas constitutes "positive progress" which, all by itself, becomes encouraging.

    Interesting concept, and I'm still mentally wrangling with it.

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