Tonight, on the eve of my 54th birthday, I am taking time to reflect on the impact of more than 30 years of business writing. I’ve never doubted that the pen is mightier than the sword and that the internet-connected keyboard absolutely blows away the pen. I’ve done a little bit of good with my effort. I’ve also caused myself some problems. My writing got me invited and then uninvited to testify before Congress in 2004 (or was it 2005?). My writing about health care reform sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars yet writing has held me back from earning much more. At times I’ve written more than 10 columns in a single day. I only rarely wrote under a pseudonym and I completely gave up that practice about 10 years ago. I doubt that I’ve ever gone more than a day without writing something.
I’ve made errors in my writing almost daily; it seems inevitable when most of that time I’ve been without an editor or publishing agent. (Although I recognize that my quality and consistency were much better during the times I had a good editor). I’ve had my temper-tantrums with editors and compliance officers, even quitting some well-paying jobs. I like to believe that I’ve never compromised on a value position but that’s a weak excuse for not having a more lucrative career. My writing has triggered numerous threats of defamation lawsuits including threats from the legal departments for at least two Fortune 500 companies. Ironically, one threat came at the same time I was serving as personal financial adviser to the company’s COO and his sideline business in Cape May; work that was totally unrelated to my relationship with his company. All of those legal threats eventually fizzled. I like to think it because I wrote the truth and they realized that the could not win. In reality, they more likely realized that suing me wasn’t worth the effort.
I am naturally drawn to controversial topics. There is not doubt that I’ve unnecessarily offended some people. By now I should know to be more sensitive. I’ve learned that every mistake and insensitive comment that I make in print can cost me readers, personal relationships and more. I once said that I’d rather offend people but be read than to be politically correct and be ignored. Sometimes I offend people with my writing style; presumptive and generally unyielding to seniority or those of superior expertise. Yet I don’t recall any time when I wanted to harm or insult an individual, rather only perhaps point out some corrupt value or faulty ideology that they might endorse. On a personal level, I don’t harbor a bad feeling about anyone. Looking forward, I see myself transitioning to a video delivery format. I expect the same cycle of problems will repeat yet I hold out hope that positive personality traits are more likely to show in video may help soften the sting of the learning curve.