Rob Dyrdek is a former pro skateboarder also known for hosting hit TV shows including Rob & Big, Ridiculousness, and Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory. He founded business incubator Dyrdek Machine and hosts the “Build With Rob” podcast. During our conversation, Rob talked about his journey from being a skateboarder to building his businesses.
In your early 20s, you gained fame as a professional skateboarder and were able to travel the world. Despite your success, why wasn’t skateboarding giving you the purpose and fulfillment you were seeking?
It wasn’t as much about the sport itself not giving me fulfillment, but I began to grow out of it because my true passion was creating and bringing ideas to life, and I had maxed out what was possible within skateboarding itself.
I looked at myself as a brand at a really early age, and turned pro when I was 16. I was around when we created the Alien Workshop, and that was the company I turned pro for. T
You’re part skater, part TV personality, and part entrepreneur. How were you able to turn your success as a skateboarder into a series of TV shows and into multiple businesses and partnerships?
At 14, I skated for a local skate shop whose founders started all of these companies. So even as I was turning pro, tracking all my own finances, and considering myself a brand at that early age, I was still watching companies get created.
I built my first company when I moved to California, when I was 18. My skateboarding career led to launching DC Shoes. And then the DC Shoes video led to a skit for a skate video, and that evolved into a television show on MTV.
That whole time I was constantly creating and building different businesses through the MTV platform, while being a pro skateboarder and creating new television shows. For me, this idea of business has always been the through line, and how do I maximize the opportunity that’s presented to me.
You’ve brought your family and friends with you, much like we saw in HBO’s Entourage series. How has involving your best friend and cousins in your projects deepened your relationship with them, and what have you taught them that has helped improve their careers?
For any business and anything that you create, meaningful relationships are at the core of it being fun. I’ve always been really clear on that. During my diligence period, right before I pull the trigger to decide whether I’m going to create a project with someone, it really boils down to: Do I want to be connected to them for life?
I am passionate. I am driven. I am focused. I am clear. But more than anything, I want to enjoy everything that I do. And any time I get through a process with someone where I can see we’re rubbing each other the wrong way or our energies aren’t connecting, then I just won’t do it. With so many businesses and projects happening simultaneously, how do you manage your time and decide what projects to invest or divest in?
I look at life as this series of interconnected systems that all need to be aligned, integrated, and expanding in the same direction – and that direction is towards your ideal life. But it’s a balanced life, by design. It’s choosing the right projects, and how you actually live in those projects.
My entire existence, from the way I create companies to the way I shoot television, is fully systematized and automated. I have an 80-page document called The Rhythm of Existence that is the operating system for my life. At the end of the day, your energy is basically everything that you have, and that excitement about life and absolutely enjoying everything you’re doing is really what I’m hoping to achieve.
What’s your best piece of career advice? I think the best piece of career advice is that you’re not building a career, you’re building a life. It’s finding the balance between who you are as a person – your passions, your physical strength, your happiness, what fulfills you – and the way that you earn a living, that feeds that purpose and who you are, and then how you want to live.
I think a lot of times, people don’t look at themselves as multidimensional beings that require all of these different aspects in order to be happy and balanced. They think their career is going to be the answer for the life that they want. But your career will never be the answer. It will be a part of the answer, and if it’s integrated into who you are and how you live, then you will truly be balanced and happy.
El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, said in a recent interview that he hopes introducing bitcoin into its economy will be the catalyst for its shift from a Third World country to becoming an industrialized, advanced nation.
Bukule defended the small Central American nation’s decision to adopt the cryptocurrency as legal tender in his discussion with the “What Bitcoin Did”podcast host, Peter McCormack, after critics warned the move could collapse the country’s economy.
Here are his 9 best quotes from the interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity:
1. “I think bitcoin as legal tender, even though nobody has done it before, it was a no-brainer.” – on being the first country to make the move.
2. “Bitcoin is an open and free system. So, they don’t have to trust us. They have to trust the system, and we trust the system.” – on anyone skeptical about the use of cryptocurrency as legal tender.
3. “My dream would be that El Salvador will transit its way from the Third World to the First World. It’s probably not going to be done in a couple of years but, you know, probably at least we can set up the path.” –on the potential impact of introducing bitcoin to El Salvador’s economy.
4. “I don’t think they want to understand. Because all of their preconceptions, their theses, their work, their books, their prices will be meaningless, because they were wrong. I don’t think they’re against bitcoin. I think they’re more trying to defend their personal stories.” – on classical economists rejecting bitcoin and its prospects.
5. “Having the World Bank advisors or technical support would have been nice, but we really don’t need it. The talent that is here, working, is way more than enough.” – on the World Bank rejecting El Salvador’s request for support in making bitcoin a legal tender.
6. “This is just exercising our sovereign right to adopt legal tenders. Like we adopted the US dollar in the year 2001. What’s the difference? The only difference probably is the reason why we’re doing this. In 2001, it was probably done for the benefit of the banks. And this decision is done for the benefit of the people.” – on why the country isn’t going to get into a fight with the World Bank.
7. “We’re going to prove ourselves that we can work fast. We have a lot of support and a lot of talent from people that just love this project, and they’re working their asses off, just because they love it.” – on whether El Salvador will be ready when its bitcoin law comes into effect in September.
8. “It’s not going to be only good for the monetary system, or for the currency, or for remittances and for economic inclusion, and for banking services like lending. It’s not only going to be good for the bitcoiners in tourism and investing in jobs, but also for energy and income to do social projects like schools or roads and bridges that without this law, they wouldn’t have that.” – on the expected benefits of incorporating bitcoin and its technology into the economy.
9. “The bitcoin system is so perfect that I think it’s gonna be the future. It is the present already in a lot of things, but it’s gonna be way bigger in the future.” – on the potential for a wave of government adoption of bitcoin.
Inside B2B Influence is a show that goes behind the scenes of B2B marketing and showcases conversations with insiders from the world of influencer marketing. We connect with influential practitioners at B2B brands of all kinds and sizes to answer the rising number of questions about working with influencers in a business context.
In this first episode of the second season of Inside B2B Influence, I was able to catch up with the incredibly popular, talented and beloved Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, Ann Handley. I’ve known Ann for well over 10 years and she’s been a great friend, client and source of inspiration to me about more meaningful content marketing.
Ann talks with me about a variety of topics ranging from the nature of influence in B2B, demand for B2B influencers during the pandemic and our mutually favorite “dogfluencer”, August – the most dashing Cavalier King Charles Spaniel you may ever meet.
Highlights of this episode of Inside B2B Influence with Ann Handley include:
Does everybody have influence? Yes and no
How the change to digital first B2B marketing has affected demand for influencers
The importance of a relationship driven approach
Trends in B2B influencer content collaboration
Growing emphasis on executive thought leadership and influence
Worst practices influencer engagement
How to integrate influencers with your newsletter
What B2B marketers should do to improve their influencer marketing
Some of Ann’s favorite B2B industry influencers
Listen to episode 14 (Confluence: The B2B Content and Influence Connection) of the Inside B2B Influence podcast here:
You wrote the best selling book, Everybody Writes. Do you think everybody has influence?
Ann: That’s such an interesting question because at first pass it’s like, well of course. But then on the other hand it’s kind of an existential question, isn’t it? I really had to think about that for a second. I mean, yes, I do think that everybody has influence, but not everybody has credibility, right? Yes, we all have influence, but not in all topics. Like for example, I really like sushi, but that doesn’t mean that I’m a fish influencer. Is that a thing fishfluencer? I think we all have our spheres of expertise and we are influential within those spheres of expertise. But I don’t think that people are influencers across all things.
Everybody has influence, but not everybody has credibility. @annhandley
I also think that, especially in B2B, that the notion of influencers is even more narrowly defined than it is in, in B2C. Because the expertise that I have in marketing is, you know, it’s content, it’s writing. It’s very specific. I don’t think you would come to me if you were looking for somebody to talk about analytics. Like you would go to Chris Penn for that. He’s an influencer in marketing analytics. So I think, especially in B2B, that that it is absolutely true that the credibility I have as an influencer is very specific and narrow. And I think that’s true of any, any B2B influencer.
The pandemic accelerated digital transformation in B2B impacting all aspects of doing business including marketing. What impact has an emphasis on digital first in B2B marketing had on the demand for influencers like yourself?
Ann: I have definitely seen more of those opportunities come my way because I think, just to your point, all of the traditional B2B tactics of field marketing and in person trade shows and other moments to experience the brands face to face, all of that went away in the past 15 months or so since the pandemic. So what takes its place? That’s been what’s fueling a lot of that digital transformation happening at B2B companies.
Influencer marketing is very much part of that because, how do you build that sort of trust with your audience if you don’t have the ability to meet them in person, to sit down, to have a conversation with them? So I think influencers have become a proxy and a conduit for that.
We’re going to see more companies start to embrace the opportunity to form relationships with influencers versus straight up transactional. @annhandley
What’s interesting and what I see straight up from an influencer standpoint, is that more of those companies seek to have those relationships with me. They’re seeking to build those relationships with me in much less of a transactional way. You and I have talked about this Lee, I remember saying to you that this is like the future of B2B influencer marketing. We’re going to see more companies start to embrace the opportunity to form relationships with influencers versus, you know, straight up transactional – make it less of an advertising / transactional play. Like here, I’ll pay you X amount of dollars if you share my thing, you know? That’s more of a B2C model.
I think in B2B what we’re seeing, and this has been fueled by the pandemic, is that we are seeing those relationships start to happen between brands and influencers like me where they’re reaching out to me proactively and saying, “Hey, we don’t have a thing right now, but we want to work with you. Can we sort of get to know each other?”
And so I think we’re seeing an increasing impetus toward an approach that I feel, has more sustainability long-term and it’s the way that I like to work personally. So yeah, I think we’re seeing a whole lot more of that.
What are some of the content collaboration opportunities between B2B brands and influencers that you’re seeing more of in 2021?
Ann: There are yeah. I want to caveat this by saying that I’m speaking from my personal experience versus, you know, I haven’t necessarily polled B2B marketers. So you probably have a better perspective on this too and whether what I’m talking about is actually reflected in the broader B2B community.
What I see is more brands looking to have a longterm relationship. Not just, come speak at our webinar, but, can we actually think about this over like a fiscal year? What can we do together in Q1 and Q2 and Q3, so that it becomes much more of a, not quite ambassador, but at least more of a brand alignment, right? So that I’m saying, “I believe in what you do” and and you’re saying that you trust me as well.
More long-term engagements and less transactional is honestly the foundation of a successful B2B influencer marketing program. @annhandley
I think longer-term engagement with a trust foundation to it is definitely something that I’m seeing. I’m also seeing these situations where even if it is about providing a quote for this, or for example, I’ll put something in my newsletter that’s sort of sponsored but for me, it’s not anything that you can buy. It’s something where I read the paper and I believe in it. I have a relationship with the company and so therefore I will share it with my audience. So yes, it’s sponsored, but it’s like, it’s sponsored with my whole self. I guess I’m a little bit goofy, but you know what I mean, with integrity, I should say.
That is a situation where it’ll be over several months, so it’s not just like a one and done. But can you help us promote this and here’s what’s in it for you and here’s what we want to give to you and your audience, that kind of thing. I guess to sum up, much more long-term engagements and less transactional, which I think is honestly the foundation of a successful B2B influencer marketing program anyway. But you probably have more perspective on that than I do.
It’s been really interesting what’s happened not just in terms of content creation and the thought leadership through partnerships between executives and external influencers, but also the relationships that are being facilitated.
Ann: Yeah, that’s really interesting. I think it makes total sense, right? Because in the past 15 months of the pandemic, I think that the brands who have really demonstrated that we’re all in this together, have actually had to show up in a real human genuine way and to be there for their audiences. I think that’s in part what’s driving the kind of collaboration that you’re talking about.
Brands realize that to trust somebody, you’ve got to know them. And how can you trust a B2B brand unless you sort of see the faces of the people behind the brand? @annhandley
Because I do think brands realize that to trust somebody, you’ve got to know them. And how can you trust a B2B brand unless you sort of see the faces of the people behind the brand? I think that cascades throughout B2B marketing as well as influencer marketing. I think that’s clearly one area where we are seeing where that comes to life,
Along with best practices there are also bad practices. I’m curious if there are any bad behaviors in terms of how people reach out or engage with you?
Ann: I think there’s been a few situations where I just, I tend not to engage basically. That’s a situation where a big agency will reach out and it’s clear that I’m one of many. Like I’m like part of a stable of influencers that they’re looking to. And they ask me to respond and fill out this Google form about the size of my audience. I’m not going to do any of that. That’s not what I want and that’s not who I am. It’s not what my brand is all about. That’s just not what I’m going to do.
It doesn’t matter to me how much money is on the table, because damage to my brand, reputation and my credibility far outweighs anything else. @annhandley
So it doesn’t matter to me how much money is on the table, because damage to my brand, reputation and my credibility far outweighs anything else. That’s a situation where I just wouldn’t engage. I can’t even say that it’s a bad practice but it’s de-motivating. When those come in we just sort of delete it immediately.
Or they come at it from a tactic standpoint. I get this a lot. For example, my email newsletter. I’ve talked a lot about it the past couple of years, it’s grown pretty significantly and it has really healthy, open rates. The list is just over 50,000 now. So it’s a good, robust list. I get a lot of people who say, will you share this in your newsletter? And I don’t know them. I don’t have a relationship with you. So if the onus is on me to do the legwork and figure out who you are, what your solution is all about or what your piece of content is all about, then I’m not going to do it.
Also, that’s not the role of the newsletter. If you know me, and if you’re on the list, then you know that, right? So, if you want to get something in my newsletter, then that’s not the first step. The first step is engaging me on social, get to know me. All the things that, you know, you do to start a relationship. All the best practices around that. Not. “Will you share this in your newsletter?” That’s all the stuff that just ends up being deleted immediately.
What are some ways you can imagine someone incorporating influencer content in a newsletter?
Ann: If you’re a marketer and you’re publishing your own newsletter and you want to work with influencers, trying to figure out a way to highlight them in that environment could be something simple, like highlighting some of their content or highlighting them as an individual. Or it could be something more like inviting them to be like a guest editor depending on the relationship.
I think there’s lots of opportunity there to influence the influencer as part of your brand and not just thinking that your relationship with the influencer is only in the social space. Because I think an email newsletter is just such a rich opportunity to communicate directly with your audience. The degree to which you can invite influencers into that relationship is going to solidify your relationship with the influencer as well.
Who are some of your favorite influencers, you know, that would, you know, that operate in the B2B world in some way, whether it’s marketing or tech or somewhere else?
Ann:Avinash Kaushik at Google. I don’t even know if he would consider himself an influencer, but he is. I think mostly because his brain functions so differently. I’m on his newsletter list. I love to read his perspective and his point of view, and follow him on social for the same reasons.
Chris Penn is somebody else who you know, again, has a very different approach. But if you took Chris Penn’s brain and took my brain and sort of put them together, you’d get like this whole body marketer, you know? I think I come at it very much from the art and high touch perspective and he comes at it very much from a science and analytics standpoint. I appreciate his message so much because he helps me elevate in what I do just by paying attention to what he’s doing.
I love what April Dunford talks about around positioning. I think she offers some really valuable advice and I always love seeing what she has to say and hearing her point of view on things.
You certainly. I think you, and I know it’s like your show so I probably shouldn’t, but like the work you’ve done around influencer marketing, I think you absolutely are helping to push the industry forward in terms of like how to do it right. And, and how to create programs that actually do sustain themselves long-term and deliver value for your organization.
Thanks Ann! You are a great source of inspiration to B2B marketers all over the world and a wonderful human being!
You can also watch the full video interview with Ann Handley here:
Be sure to stay tuned to TopRank Marketing’s B2B Marketing Blog for our next episode of Inside B2B Influence where we’ll be answering the B2B marketing industry’s most pressing questions about the role of influence in business marketing.
You can also download The State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report featuring insights from a survey of hundreds of B2B marketers plus case studies and contributions from marketing executives at brands including Adobe, LinkedIn, IBM, Dell, SAP and many more.
Logitech’s tools and accessories played a major role in the global shift to remote work last year.
Bracken Darrell, president and CEO of Logitech, told Insider about the process of moving and supporting employees during the transition.
Darrell also shared why he feels it’s important to address racism and bias, and climate change moving forward.
This article is part of a series about CEOs and their vision for the future called “What’s Next.”
Logitech is one of the largest consumer electronics companies and saw huge success in 2020 with the increased demand for computer tools and accessories to help with the global shift to remote work.
Before joining Logitech in 2012 as president of the company, Darrell led Whirlpool, Procter & Gamble, and General Electric. He added CEO of Logitech to his title in January 2013.
Darrell spoke to Insider about how he ushered Logitech into remote work in 2020 and the company’s return-to-the-office plans for the coming months as the number of administered COVID-19 vaccinations increases. He also spoke on his initiatives around sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
This interview is lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Insider: How did you and your teams handle office closures at the beginning of the pandemic? And what types of support were offered to employees to help the transition to working from home? Darrell: I’d say in the first stage, like everybody else, we tried to give people enough space where we pulled back a lot on the workload because we just didn’t know what was going to happen. We really tried to reduce the workload, and we thought ‘There’s going to be a big learning curve.’
The second thing we started to do was, and this was more informal and probably happened over time, we tried to make fun and laugh about the surprises that happened on video. I have a 19-year-old cat and he began to appear regularly on video. And people’s kids were on video-we just tried to make light of that.
Then we realized, as time went on, people didn’t really have the equipment they needed. So we created a program where… you could go out and buy or order whatever you needed. I think it was $500 and we raised it [over time].
And then we started to see the mental health thing really kick in and people were just stressed. They were stressed and feeling overworked because they were working longer hours. So, we started doing no meetings on Fridays. And then we added one day a month where we gave everybody the day off and we’ve done that ever since. We call them “Logi-Mondays.”
We just keep adding stuff that we think makes sense.
We have one big advantage which is it’s been really rewarding for people that work here because our products played such an important role during the pandemic for students and educators, patients and doctors.
Insider: Are you planning on going back to the office anytime soon? Darrell: I think we’ll reopen. If I go around the world, we have offices that are already open and have never closed even. But in terms of most of our offices in the US and Europe, we will start to open up in July and then slowly, I’ll be in there too.
We’ll open up like everybody else will, I think we’ll probably have two or three days a week in the office and two or three days a week working remotely, and then we’ll see.
Insider: Is this something Logitech is planning on doing permanently? Allowing employees to build their own schedules of in-office work and at-home work? Darrell: I was reading Sundar Pichai’s note at Google and thinking that’s pretty much what I think everybody’s doing. Most companies are basically saying, ‘Okay, here’s the framework.’ You know we got some people who are going to work remotely all the time and we’ve always had people who did that-salespeople, some coders, other people. We have another group that is going to be that ‘have to be in the office to do their jobs’-some hardware engineers just don’t have a choice. And then the vast majority are going to be two or three days in and two or three days out.
I think we’ll try to kind of herd everybody into the same two or three days so it feels like a normal office when you’re in. You can bump into people or ideate with people.
But we’re going to wait and see how it goes. I think we’re going to be very flexible.
Insider: Educating the next generation is important, but how does Logitech plan on educating its current employees? Darrell: I think if you talk to the average employee at Logitech, you get a slightly orthogonal answer to that which is we do have training programs and we try to help people grow. We try to give people freedom-the freedom to do new things and do things a different way.
And it shows up in our internal surveys, we really stand out in that regard, so we’re less about trying to teach people new skills and more about letting people learn new things on their own by giving them new responsibilities or letting them take on responsibilities that are around them. It might sound a little nebulous, but it’s one of the things I’m most proud of in our culture.
Insider: Switching gears a bit. In the weeks after the summer protests broke out, you did a post on LinkedIn sharing how Logitech would address racism and bias. Why was it important for you as the leader of the company to say something? Darrell: This story is a little longer than you signed up for but I feel like I need to tell it to answer your question.
I grew up in the south with very progressive parents. My mom was as anti-racist as you could be in the time when I was growing up. She was amazing. So we really grew up feeling like we were some of the good guys-my brothers and sister, and I, we were really on the right side of all this and not only this but just generally with LGBTQ [as well].
When George Floyd was killed, it took me a couple of days… I found myself at my kitchen table where I worked every day, just thinking about South Africa and what people were doing then and I don’t know why I started thinking about South Africa. You know, they were sitting there in the middle of apartheid and why didn’t those people speak up? And then I really realized that we’re sitting in American apartheid and I haven’t spoken out. That was incredibly powerful, more for me because I have a platform. I write on LinkedIn and people read it, I have lots of followers.
It was like getting hit in the head with a frying pan, but the pain never went away and it shouldn’t so I immediately started calling friends and apologizing. I just didn’t realize what I’d done, and then it actually changed the direction of my life. I was like ‘Wow.’ I know who I thought I was, but if I’m not doing something… That was the beginning of my very aggressive path to where we are now as an individual and as a company.
Insider: In that same letter, you talked about supporting communities and minoritized groups. What do those actions look like now? Darrell: We’ve really recentered our whole purpose against these two things which is one we’re already doing and this one we thought we were doing, but we weren’t.
One of them is the environment and the other one is diversity, equity, and inclusion. DEI became a central part of our purpose which was to enable all people to pursue their passions. So that’s been our purpose, but [now,] all people.
Part of the Juneteenth letter is really an explanation of how we’re taking an end-to-end approach from our suppliers’ suppliers, through our suppliers. We have as part of our diversity program through our own company-up and down the company-pay, promotion, everything, all the way through to customer experience and who we target and how we enable it.
That’s where we’ve been and it’s obviously a long-term thing. I want to be held accountable personally and as a company. And I want people to track exactly what we’ve committed and we’ll come back on a regular basis.
And if I’m not doing it and we’re not getting it done [rapidly], I should be fired.
We’re the same on the environment. We’re way ahead on the environment compared to where we are in the US, and we’re making up a lot of ground right now.
Dror Moreh is the Oscar-nominated director of the 2012 documentary “The Gatekeepers,” in which he spoke with six former heads of Israel’s secret security service Shin Bet. Remarkably, all these lifelong warriors agreed that Israel’s long-term security hinges on its efforts to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Moreh’s new film, “The Human Factor,” takes you through decades of the Israel/Palestine peace process, as told through extensive interviews with the US negotiators.
Insider columnist Anthony Fisher spoke via Zoom with Moreh, from the filmmaker’s home in Berlin.
Moreh says that the end of the day, leaders of nations are just human beings, and the human touch is what keeps peace negotiations alive.
He also says right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas (the Islamist extremist group that controls the Gaza Strip) are more similiar than they’d care to admit, and he’s less optimistic about the hope for Mideast peace than he’s ever been. Moreh thinks “coexistence” – rather than “peace” – might be the best-case scenario.
This interview has been edited for style, clarity, and length.
Whenever there’s a conversation to be had about Israeli-Palestinian politics and the conflict, I always tell people to see “The Gatekeepers.”
And it’s fairly incredible timing that your new film – about the long-dormant peace process – is coming out right now.
Thank you. I wish the film wasn’t so relevant, but you cannot really control those issues.
In “The Human Factor,” one of the US diplomats said his Arab counterparts made it clear that they don’t view the future the same way as the US or Israel. To them, it’s about fixing an injustice, and only then negotiating about the future, rather than “moving on” from the past and focusing on the future.
It feels like this gulf is an eternal stumbling block in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy.
When I heard that sentence, I understood something fundamental which I didn’t really realize up until then. It’s just a fundamentally different way of approaching the future.
Having said that, I think the whole region, including the Israelis, are approaching this with the traumas of the past. Israelis – and I’m an Israeli – think about the Holocaust as something that is very fundamental in the approach to everything they see. Our leaders also use that.
Palestinians and Arabs see the past, judge the past, and say we cannot speak about the future. They want to address the Palestinian Naqba, the establishment of the state of Israel, and that Israel now occupies what they see as historical Palestine.
Everybody loves … James Baker?
Early in “The Human Factor,” there’s a segment about former Secretary of State James Baker, who was perhaps the quintessential Reagan/Bush White House Republican.
It’s almost unthinkable in our current political climate, but he was a fairly successful diplomat because he supported Israel, while also vocally criticizing the Israeli government. He would not just rubber-stamp every Israeli demand. And he was insistent that the Israelis meet the Palestinians on a level playing field, at least for the negotiations.
Across the board with all of the negotiators that worked with James Baker, they’ll say if he had stayed on as US secretary of state, there would definitely be at least one peace agreement signed. [Baker left government when President George HW Bush lost reelection in 1992.]
That’s because he was an effective mediator. Baker knew how to use the tools of diplomacy and the status of America as the global superpower to force people who were reluctant to move forward, and to bring them together to create something which was not there before. All of that changed when he left office.
When President Clinton took office, he appointed Warren Christopher as secretary of state. He had a completely different approach. He was much more hands off.
My problem with American involvement in the peace process is in how America deals with a prime minister of Israel who is reluctant to move forward towards peace. With a prime minister who’s for peace you just have to support him and give him assurances that the United States will back him up.
With [current Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, I think America has much more leverage over Israel than it uses. If America decides that bringing peace between Israel and its neighbors is a core American interest, the way that America approaches it should be different when you’re dealing with a prime minister like Netanyahu, who’s not for peace.
“Netanyahu owes his career to Hamas”
There’s a scene in “The Human Factor” where one of the diplomats tells you that former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin warned of a coming Israeli civil war over the peace process.
A few years later, Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing extremist. Can you talk a little bit about that moment?
Rabin, even before he took the first steps toward peace, said to [US Middle East envoy] Dennis Ross, “When I reach the point where I give the Palestinians what I need to give them, there’s probably going to be a civil war. And I need my boys in the army’s support.”
It was amazing how clearly he saw what was going to happen, he almost predicted it. And even in spite of that, he went for peace. That’s the personification of leadership to me.
Rabin, who was defense minister during the the first intifada, saw the uprising of Palestinian youngsters going to the street, not afraid of bullets, not afraid of guns and saying, “We are here. We want independence. We want to control our lives.”
And Rabin started out as defense minister saying, “break their arms, break their legs.” But by the time he became prime minister he said, “This is an existential threat to Israel, and I have to solve it while there is this window of opportunity, while America is the only global superpower, and the world has changed.”
Even though he saw the risks, Rabin said, “I have to go for peace.”
After him, the only leader was Ariel Sharon, who [in the mid-2000s] decided on disengagement with the Palestinians. The rest were merely small petty politicians.
Sharon had a reputation of being a tough-as-nails warrior for Israel’s interest. He was even accused of war crimes. And then as prime minister, he was for total disengagement. He even left the right-wing Likud party to form his own Kadima party and unilaterally pulled the Israeli military and settlement presence out of Gaza.
At the time, the majority of Israeli society was firmly behind Sharon and still believed in a two-state solution. It feels like after 12 years of Netanyahu, that public sentiment for peace is no longer there. Would you agree?
Totally. Netanyahu basically killed the two state solution. I don’t see any hope any more for a two state solution. The biggest shift for Israeli society is the constant movement to the right by Netanyahu.
When he came to power in 2009, Netanyahu said, “I’m going to crush Hamas.” There have been four conflicts with Hamas since then. Basically, Netanyahu and Hamas are keen brothers. They work for the same goals.
If we go back to Rabin, the first suicide attack was by Baruch Goldstein, [the Jewish extremist] who committed the massacre in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Hamas was not doing suicide bombing before then, because there was support among the Palestinian people for the peace process. After the massacre, Hamas started suicide bombing.
So in a way, Netanyahu owes his career to Hamas. He became prime minister the first time after the huge wave of suicide attacks in the beginning of February 1996, which crushed [then-Prime Minister Shimon] Peres and brought Netanyahu into power.
By the way, a week and a half ago, Netanyahu was on the way out, there was a very big chance that Yair Lapid would establish a unity government. And then Hamas sent those missiles to Jerusalem and all hell broke loose. And now Netanyahu’s still there and nobody’s speaking about a unity government.
The nail-biting negotiations over a handshake
In “The Human Factor,” there’s a remarkable scene detailing the intense negotiations that went into the handshake between Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat.
Rabin insisted that Arafat not carry a gun, not wear his military-style uniform, and that there’d be no kissing. It’s kind of a light moment in the movie because it seems so silly. There’s so many lives at stake and this is what they’re quibbling over.
And yet, it was a great story because it illustrated the difficulty of the diplomats’ jobs. It showed how these things that seem so trivial and ancillary to the true crisis could be, in fact, deal breakers.
The biggest revelation is the importance of “the human factor.” You see these moments where a historic peace agreement is signed between two leaders. But at the end of the day, it’s about two human beings coming together and learning to know each other.
If you look at the Clinton White House photographer’s pictures right before the historic Rabin/Arafat handshake, you see the expression on Rabin’s face. He looks at Arafat and Bill Clinton in the middle, and his face says, “What am I doing here? Who is this guy? What the hell is going on?”
Then a year and a half later, Rabin and Arafat meet. And there’s the beautiful scene in the film where they have to decide whether the Palestinians will have a police station in the Oslo II Accord.
Arafat says, “Whatever is acceptable to the prime minister.” And Rabin says they will have a police station. You see their two faces, and you see the change between the handshake and this moment later. That’s the whole story in a little capsule.
You just talked about Netanyahu and Hamas having a sort of symbiotic relationship. Going back to “The Gatekeepers,” there’s a section where the Israeli right turns against the Oslo Accords – which established the Palestinian Authority as a legitimate government entity that recognized Israel’s right to exist.
There were young kids and their fathers in the street chanting, “With blood and fire we will throw Rabin out.”
And in short order Rabin was assassinated, Netanyahu was elected for the first time, the peace process fell apart, and Hamas got exactly what it wanted.
Yeah. It’s a strange combination. I see a lot of parallels between Hamas and the extreme religious right-wing in Israel.
Both of them think the land of Israel [or] the land of Palestine is Holy Land. And nobody’s allowed to give that up. When you see the texts of the extreme right-wingers in Israel, and the texts of Hamas, they’re very similar. In that sense, they work with each other very well.
I wish there were an island where we could put them both together, and let the moderates live peacefully. It would be much better.
But regrettably in the peace process, and also today, the extremists from both sides are the ones that dictate the day.
Rabin’s whole concept in 1993 when he signed the Declaration of Principles [which led to the Oslo Accords] was very vague. It was to be a process, like the first Camp David meetings [in 1978] with Egyptian and Israeli negotiators. You build a process on relations and trust, and then you move to the really hardcore negotiations.
But the more time passed, the more cynical people got, and the less people trusted the process because those extreme factions came and basically killed it altogether. And the height of that was the assassination of Rabin by an extreme right-wing Israeli religious fanatic.
“No strategy, just tactics”
In “The Gatekeepers,” one of the former Shin Bet chiefs said that no matter whether the prime minister was Menachem Begin of Golda Meir or Shimon Peres – there was no political strategy to achieve long-term security, just tactics to tamp down on security threats.
Rabin certainly tried to challenge the status quo politically, as did Sharon – albeit in a much different way. Do you see support from the Israeli people now to change the status quo – which is basically permanent occupation? Is there any desire in Israel to resume the peace process?
Look, I can speak for myself. I cannot speak for all Israelis. There’s a variety of opinions. My point of view is that the status quo is what keeps the moment.
Rabin said this will kill Israeli society – this occupation, and containing people who do not want to be occupied and want their freedom. It will be corrosive to Israeli society. Sharon, when he became prime minister, said the same thing. They were leaders trying to move something in order to resolve the problem. We don’t have that now.
When you see what Sharon did with the disengagement from Gaza, and the amount of effort to do that and all the resistance from the Israeli right and extremists, it looked like a mission impossible.
And here we are speaking about Gaza – we are not speaking about Judea and Samaria (the occupied West Bank), the biblical ancestral lands of the Jewish people, the place where our forefathers walked and all kinds of stupid [arguments from the right].
When the prime minister has to decide to go for something like that, which he knows will tear Israeli society apart, you need to be very brave to do that. But the Israeli people get promises [for those exchanges] that they’ll get to live in peace.
After the Oslo Accords, there was the eruption of suicide attacks, the collapse of the [second] Camp David negotiations, the second intifada – and also the disengagement from Gaza, which allowed Hamas to take over Gaza and fire missiles constantly into Israel.
That’s the reason most of the Israeli public doesn’t really trust that there is a partner on the other side that can maintain security.
I totally agree with what [former US Middle East diplomat] Aaron David Miller said in “The Human Factor,” which was, “Let’s take the word ‘peace’ out of the vocabulary, and let’s try to build coexistence. That is what we can aim for, at least for the next few decades.
Not peace, but “coexistence”
Part of why I tell everyone with an an interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to watch “The Gatekeepers” is because it’s so stunning to listen to these men who devoted their entire lives really to the security of Israel all come to similar conclusions.
One of them said, “You can’t make peace by military means.” Another said that even if your adversary “answers rudely,” you should still continue to pursue the conversation. And another said, “Israel wins every battle, but we may lose the war.” They all come to the conclusion that the only long-term solution for Israeli security is a disengagement with the Palestinians, which would mean a two state solution.
Israelis have a sarcastic phrase they’ll use for naive peaceniks: “You’re a beautiful soul.”
But here are the hardest of the hardcore Israeli security guys, and they’re saying we’ve bombed and maimed and killed in the name of Israel and the only way this country will survive in the long-term is through disengagement with the Palestinians.
Is there any chance this advice lands in the ears of the Israeli youth, where there’s some hope for a future in which coexistence is pursued?
I have to tell you, Anthony, that I lost hope. That’s the bitter truth.
I mean, look at the Gaza conflict. How many times have we bombed Gaza? How many times have we gone into a war? And, as we discussed, it’s all tactics, not strategy. It’s about sustaining and maintaining today and continuing to live in seemingly peaceful conditions until the next thing. So, no, I don’t think that this message can now land on Israeli ears.
We’ve been with the same politician as prime minister (Netanyahu) for 12 years. His impact on the [political] reality is huge. He’s negotiating and working with Hamas and downgrading and humiliating the Palestinian Authority. Benjamin Netanyahu is much better working with Hamas than with someone who says they’re for peace.
I hope there will be another leader soon. But I don’t believe we’ll see that kind of new leader from the Israeli political arena soon. It will take a few years before something can evolve in that sense.
But say you have a successor to Netanyahu and a successor to Abu Mazen, you still have Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas. So wherever you look, it’s not very optimistic.
Almost all the former army chiefs of staff, all the heads of Shin Bet, all the heads of the Mossad, and all the heads of army intelligence, are for negotiation and for a two-state solution.
But you have a charismatic politician (Netanyahu) who is basically a good salesman. I mean, look at Trump. Look at what Trump did to your country. It’s unbelievable. You think that democracy is very stable and very strong, but when you have a demagogue who knows how to [manipulate] the media very well, this is where we are.
One thing I’m hoping people get out of this movie is the importance of the human factor. I’m currently doing a huge project about American politics encountering genocide, part of a series for American audiences, and for all over the world. And the importance of the human factor inside the decision-making room is stunning.
Author Malcolm Gladwell has written six popular books, including “Talking to Strangers,” “David and Goliath,” “Outliers,” “Blink,” and “The Tipping Point.” He was a staff writer at The New Yorker for many years and is now the host of the Revisionist History podcast. During our conversation, Gladwell explored the themes from his new book, “The Bomber Mafia.“
Even though you never set out to become a writer, what made you decide to pursue this career path?
I always follow not the path of least resistance, but the path of most fun. I kind of stumbled into writing. I just found it incredibly pleasurable and effortlessly fun, and I found that I looked forward to waking up every morning to go to work. And so I thought, “Well, why would I ever do anything else, then? I’ve solved the problem.”
Why were you so captivated by the story of the Bomber Mafia and what made you decide to write a book on this topic?
I went to Tokyo a year and a half ago and stumbled across this little museum dedicated to the fire-bombing of Tokyo by the US Air Force in 1945. I was so moved, upset, and blown away that I wanted to tell the story behind this one night in March of 1945, when the US Air Force essentially burned a big chunk of Tokyo to the ground. A hundred thousand people died.
So I began digging into the history and I told a little piece of the story in my podcast, Revisionist History. But when I was finished, I realized that I hadn’t even scratched the surface and that there was a much richer story to tell. And that’s how I ended up deciding to write the book.
Back in 2013, when I interviewed you for your book “David and Goliath,” you said, “You learn more from the difficult times than from the good times.” How was the Bomber Mafia’s failure a lasting contribution to society, even though it led to mass death?
The Bomber Mafia were a group of airmen in the 1930s, stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. They were trying to reform war, and they believed that you could fight wars entirely from the air. They also thought that you ought to be able to drop bombs with such precision that you could bring an enemy to his knees – without killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, without destroying cities, without having costly land battles, and without doing any of the kind of extraordinary carnage that we saw in the First World War.
So they had this dream. The dream didn’t work in the Second World War, but in the 60 or 70 years since then, we have come a lot closer to what the Bomber Mafia was talking about. We haven’t had wars nearly as deadly as the First and Second World War. We’ve engaged in limited military conflicts, where we were able to target who we wanted to hit.
Now, I’m not suggesting that this resolves all the moral questions around the military escapades of the United States in the last 60 or 70 years. However, the Bomber Mafia said there ought to be a way to pursue military objectives without killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. And we’re certainly a lot closer to that today than we were in the Second World War.
One of the themes you explore in the book is the collision between morality and technology. What lessons can we take from how the Bomber Mafia approached technology and the principles they stood for?
The reason I love the Bomber Mafia so much, is they were a group of people who were engineers and pilots. They were the kinds of people who would be working in Silicon Valley today. So they had a strong belief in technology, but at the same time, they had a very strong moral grounding. They believed that technology had to be used in accordance with ethical principles, and they took their ethical obligations as seriously as they took their technological fascinations.
That’s rare. I can’t find anyone in Silicon Valley who has that same nuanced approach to technology, who really does seriously ask the question, “Is this technology going to be used in a way that advances human welfare?” That was the only reason the Bomber Mafia were pursuing this dream of a new kind of war. It wasn’t because they thought it was cool or they were going to make money, it was because they thought it would save lives. That’s the lesson of the book – that we need these types of people in those positions.
What is your best piece of career advice?
This is a piece of advice I borrowed from my friend, and he says, “Always have a project.” And what he means is, don’t let your job dictate 100% of what you do. Always have something that you’re pursuing for your own reasons, that satisfies you in a different way, that you’re the boss of, and that you have control over.
If your job doesn’t allow for that, then you need to go off and do something on the side. You’re often a better judge of what is the best and most productive use of your time than your manager or superior.
Boehner, who was speaker between 2011 and 2015, has been promoting his new book “On The House: A Washington Memoir.” After an excerpt was published by Politico, it was met with backlash from Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who was called a “reckless asshole” in the book, as Insider previously reported.
Boehner, who voted for former President Donald Trump for re-election in 2020, said he was “disappointed” with what followed. Trump repeatedly pushed baseless claims that the presidential election was rigged and that he won over President Joe Biden, ultimately resulting in an angry mob storming the US Capitol building.
“I was disappointed at what happened after the election. I kept looking for evidence of a stolen election like most Americans did. Where’s the evidence? How can he keep saying something without providing any proof? And there wasn’t any,” Boehner said on “Meet the Press,” calling the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection “one of the saddest days in my life.”
When asked by Todd about Trump, Boehner added that he has “no interest” in the former president’s actions.
“I’m trying to make sure that Republicans understand as a Republican party we need to go back to the principles of what it means to be Republican. Things like fiscal responsibility, things like a strong national defense, things that hold Republicans and the Republican party together and have for the 150 years. Let’s go back to being Republicans,” he said.
In between jobs, I’ve chased magic swords. A friend of mine traveled through Vietnam and Thailand. Another spent time taking care of her family and one enjoyed the summer doing nothing at all.
From a human perspective, a gap in your résumé is obviously a good thing – you’ve spent that time having pizza for breakfast, entertaining clever thoughts, learning Spanish vocabulary, or devouring all seven Harry Potter books.
Gaps in your résumé mean freedom and freedom takes courage.
I’m in my mid-30s now, but from 1992 to 2008 when I was preparing for working life, I feared the résumé gap. Career advisors taught us to see them as the death knell to our careers.
“People will ask about it,” we were warned. “And what are you going to say?”
Having come from a non-academic family, I certainly wouldn’t have dared to leave any gaps in my résumé before my first job in a local newsroom.
The fear of plunging myself into “economic ruin” would’ve plagued me and I would’ve been afraid of how I’d justify myself in job interviews – and whether I’d even be able to respond to the dreaded question.
But now, my advice to anyone with a résumé gap would be to answer boldly.
I dropped out of a university degree and spent my days playing computer games until I finally got a place on a different program. Although that might not seem like a good use of my time, it taught me a very important lesson – if something doesn’t work for me, I have to change it.
At that point, it was my degree, and later on, it was a company I was working for. Both times, it’s been worth it because I’ve been able to better evaluate my situation and think about my skills and what I really want. My life has improved as a result and I’ve become a better worker.
“I don’t have any gaps on my résumé,” one of my acquaintances wrote to me once. “And I regret it.”
The people I know who do have those gaps have told me they took the time off to recover from mental health issues. Many of them decided they wanted to work for themselves during their breaks, and a lot of them have made it happen.
What people learn during their time off from their careers gives them the freedom to think differently and maybe even better. Admitting that is tough because it goes against our ideas about the “ideal worker.”
That’s precisely the problem. What society demands of professionals today isn’t sustainable anymore, or even relevant. If you do your job well only when it works for you, then you are one thing above all else: replaceable.
People do lots of things in their jobs. They develop ideas, help people, solve problems, manage the chaos behind the scenes at large institutions, tackle climate change, teach, calculate, heal, and program.
We’re not always equally good at those things and gaps tend to help us improve our performance. We need to remember life isn’t a machine and people aren’t cogs – life is complex.
If we don’t incorporate that into our lifestyles and into our work, then ultimately there won’t be anyone left who can develop the ideas to accommodate our complex lives.
However, gaps are scary. One of my friends is currently looking for a job but she’s scared to spread the word through her networks, whether professional or personal. I think that’s a fatal error.
If we all had the courage to leave gaps in our résumés and if recruiters approached gaps with curiosity rather than apprehension, the world of work would radically change.
Even taking parental leave is considered a “gap” in your résumé – a career inhibitor or something you shouldn’t allow yourself.
The truth is that work experience rarely makes us discover anything about life. We only get that through life experiences.
That’s why I think recruiters should be more concerned when someone comes into an interview without a gap in their résumé.
“I would dream of that, because I think that’s where we live,” Cook said when Swisher asked if the tech would be the answer to some modern voting issues, like fraud. “We do our banking on phones. We have our health data on phones. We have more information on a phone about us than is in our houses. And so why not?”
America’s voting systems are notoriously low-tech, which stands in glaring contrast to modern systems of banking, commerce, and healthcare.
“It’s pretty arcane,” Cook said of America’s voting apparatus. “I think we’re probably all having the wrong conversation on voting rights. We should be talking about using technology.”
“How can we make it so simple that our voting participation gets to 100? Or it gets really close to 100. Maybe we get in the 90s or something,” Cook said.
Though voting through smartphone could expand accessibility for some voters, cybersecurity experts speaking to CBS News last November listed a number of ways it could also disenfranchise other voters: Security issues, the cost of iPhones, internet access, and voter identification were all among the main issues cited.
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