John Ramsey Miller
I suppose it’s no surprise that young people still don’t want to hear what the older people have to say. There is an ancient saying that goes: “Young men think old men are fools. Old men know young men are.” I’ve been thinking lately that maybe this is one time when the young know more about certain things than we do and we might look to them for assistance. I figure I know a lot more about some things than the youngsters know, but it’s possible that what I don’t know, that they do, is more important right now to survival in the “new” world.
A couple of weeks back, my brother left his new iPad on the coffee table. He back came into the room to find my six-year-old granddaughter playing a game on it. She had never seen an iPad, but she turned it on, and was playing a game on it. Kids are not intimidated by technology the way most of us (guys and gals of a certain age) are. I have to admit that I am feeling sort of lost in the technology department, and am not yet seizing the “new” opportunities everybody is talking about. Well, I don’t have a book ready yet. I’m thinking about it and measuring myself for the new world, but I have more questions than answers. My kids get it and they see what is invisible to me.
The problem I have in this new exciting world is one of visualization. Back when I was in advertising [If memory serves correctly after thirty years] I remember a story that David Rubinstein told me. Rubenstein Bros. is one of the finest men’s clothing stores in New Orleans and has been in business for half a million years. David told me that when he and his brother, Andre, took over the store, they decided to change the advertising mix, from a system of ads in the newspaper, to adding radio spots. They recorded a commercial and when they played it for their father, he asked them what it cost to make. When they told him he was flabbergasted. “It lasted no time, I don’t remember what it said, and it cost more money than I have in my pocket!” With an newspaper ad, it was there in your hand. You could read it as many times as you liked, admire the art, and act on it or not. With radio, it was words in the air, and they were gone as soon as the ad stopped. If you heard part of it, you could not replay it.
I used to laugh at that story, but from a different angle than I see it now. Back then, I thought the old man was pathetically outdated, which perhaps he was. But something in the air was …in the air and didn’t actually exist. And it was advertising money he thought should be used on something proven, something he understood and was tried and true. The times were changing, the old model was dying, and his sons saw that they needed more and different in a changing market. The people they wanted to bring into the store, were young people who listened to music. The sons grew the business by leaps and bounds because they went with the new ways, going after the up and comers. But as we get older don’t feel comfortable with change we can’t see how to use in the old way. Now I understand that we are all locked in our habits, wanting the things that worked when, to work forever. My problem is that it’s all about comfort zones. None of us want to be left behind gnawing on a dinosaur bone while others are feasting on some kind of new-fangled, ding-dong tofu burgers with sprouts.
The old model for any enterprise is going to become crippled, but still working for a while before it fails entirely, but probably not for long. Our world is changing, and it calls for new eyes and open minds.
I am having trouble embracing what seems to me no more substantial than air. I’ll be okay. I know that. I have always trusted my instincts. I can write stories, and I can get the kids to make sure they are put in the air where they need to be so people can find and read them.
I know it really doesn’t matter to people whether I jump on the tech wagon, or watch it go by with others riding on it. I figure I’ll just bring in the kids.