Fear, Urgency and Doubt: An American Way, But Not the Dalai Lama Way

 I think I have shared the story about how I met the Dalai Lama at a bar. No? Well, I did, and I’ll tell it again.
He was going to an event in New York in 1997 (I think that was the date, it’s a bit of a haze) and I was sitting at a bar at the then chic W Hotel. I was there for fancy meetings, because I had a fancy job, and I was in a fancy suit. I was going to do fancy thought leadership workshop planning and my meeting in the morning was with Charlie Rose. Fancy, baby. But, HRHDL messed it up.
As we were sitting at the bar, and after many cops and monks and celebrities had stunned us with their weird presence (His Holy One in a Bar?) up walks the man himself. The entourage tried to herd him to the elevator, but he made a B-Line for the bar.
Did he want a drink? No, he wanted to say hi. And, he did. And, the Dalai Lama looked at us at the bar and asked, “Are you enjoying your drinks?” To all of us he asked this, and I was shocked by my internal answer: I could not taste my drink.
Why couldn’t I taste it? Did I have some form of tongue deficiency? Nope, much more simple – I could not feel my life, I was selling ideas I didn’t really understand and I did not know why I was doing it.
What were these ideas? They were the ideas of the mid to late 1990′s when there was a coming together of the Internet and early social community found in the concept of thought leadership. It was also a time where the most dangerously concepts were sold – that of “Messaging” and “F.U.D”. In other words, I was part, quite by surprise, to be part of a generation teaching a new language of connection through commerce, using the techniques of sales to employ easy ideas in short, almost scientifically developed sentences. The ideas I was selling were not ideas, they were processes for commerce connection, or more specifically for “Perception Management” that I believe set the stage for what is NOW driving both the left and right, environmental NGO’s and rightest policy makers into a horrible trap: one laid out carefully like the cable laid down for the Internet – it is the commerce of fear.
“Perception Management” is a process of winning “hearts and Minds” by the Military, and during the cold war were utilized by large PR firms, brought into corporations to train leaders how to 1.) motivate their team 2.) create “culture” in corporations 3.) more effectively sell products.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perception_management
But, let’s focus for now on messaging and FUD .
In the late 1990′s as we were flush with cash. Non Government Organizations (NGO’s) and corporations stared to partner on global issues. It was, I deeply believed at the time, an honest endeavor, meant to not only give mutual tax breaks, but to reflect our generation (the X generations) desire to give back – and to offset the glut that even the most successful admitted was around, especially in the Technology world. So, NGO’s and Corporations actually could agree on some things: that one needed money and the other could give it. That one wanted to make change in the world and the other had the funds to help.
Yet, what do you do when you GET a ton of money — and a TON of money not seen in generations? And, what do you do if that money is supposed to change the world (or keep the organization “Growing”)? And, what were these corporations saying to NGO’s and non-profits .things like “How will you communicate this investment by us to your stakeholders?” and “How will you make your Ask for more capital?” and even better, “What’s your message?” The money had grown, and the language had changed. 
Historically, NGO’s were developed to feed funds into a myriad of activities developed and managed by one organization  OR, to distribute funds to projects while also managing their own infrastructure. It’s HUGE work, and particularly important since for eight years the Bush administration had been hardly helpful in the areas of the environment or social justice or you name it – social issues that needed help executing programs. So, Right On! Bring on Bono and the Gap! It was awesome. I remember buying my first RED sweatshirt and thinking I’d really made difference, and it felt “clean”. Bono and Gap bonded together with the aim to move our money to those AIDS victims in Africa with funds immediately. Our consumption was transformed into cash flow…what a time, when some though open markets could sace lives…but, I digress…and that RED story is strife with woe (another post…or, do look it up…)
Though, what went into getting me to buy that sweatshirt? Not, Bono – per say, my thoughts on “Brands of Good” are later – nope this was
Messaging and FUD. Let’s break that down:
**Messaging is a communications tactic to make sure that what you are selling, and who your company is, is clear to your target audience. Ideally, it makes it so easy that they will buy what you are selling, or simply see you as superior to your competitor.
It’s that simple. Now, F.U.D.
** F.U.D = FEAR URGENCY AND DOUBT.  F.U.D is one of the most critical elements of sales we have for it ensures that every interaction a salesperson has employs or reminds the buyer that they should be afraid (to miss out, to drop out of the market, to loose their job, etc) while adding the urgency to buy (Buy now so you don’t fail sooner) and doubt (herein lies the art – how do you imbue or pull out the doubt of your buyer, so much so that you find they will do ANYTHING to make a deal with you?)…F.U.D is the power-tool of modern selling and capital attainment.
Ok, you have these two. But, we’re not stupid are we? We can see that these two tactics are deeply based on an end goal to “close you”.
So, why did the entire environmental movement, and much of the WORLD regardless of profit or non-profit status, buy into these techniques. How did we become Global salesmen?
This is a three part post. I look forward to sharing more with you, about these ideas, what I saw, and what I am seeing and the people I am meeting to fight against Messaging F.U.D or as my buddy J termed it, “mFUD”.
Sarah Kornfeld
Sarah E. Kornfeld is a writer and hybrid communications executive for those innovating in art/ social sharing/biosphere/and neuroscience initiatives. Her blog on trends and creative visions is widely read: what sarah sees . Born and raised in the theater, Sarah's worldview is shaped by creation in public spaces. She's deeply passionate about applied neuroscience and it's impact on policy and place, how art and international issues intersect, and her groovy seven year old son.

Sarah works with The George Greenstein Institute, The Institute for the Future, Bluemind/Liveblue and other organizations bridging the mind, planet and health issues. She was an original member of the producing team for Dancing in The Streets, which placed dance in public places around the world: Grand Central Station, The Brooklyn Bridge, Place de Concord/Paris, the Tiber River/Rome. She is finishing her first novel.

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