Responding to Trends and Messages

You can live your life one of two ways. You can be like Pavlov’s dogs, responding to all the trends and messages that are sent your way. You can be romanced by war, lured by junk food, or captivated by very trend that pours through the tubes. Someone once described advertising as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it. Some of us live in a world of perpetually arrested intelligence.

The alternative is to try something more elegant. You can learn to use your brain so that you choose the behaviors and internal representations that will make you a better person and this a better world. You can become aware of when you’re being programmed and manipulated. You can determine when your behaviors and the models beamed out at you reflect your real values and when they don’t. And then you can act on the things that real value as you tune out the ones that don’t.

We live in a world where there seems to be a new trend every month. If you’re a persuader, you become a trend creator rather than someone who just reacts to the multitude of messages. The direction in which things are going is as important as what is happening. Directions cause destinations. So it’s important to discover the direction of the stream, not wait until you get to the edge of Niagara Falls and find you are in a small boat with no oars. The job of a persuader is to lead the way, map the terrain, and find the paths that lead to better outcomes.

Trends are created by individuals; for example, the national holiday of Thanks giving was created, not by a political officer, but by a woman who had a strong to unite our country. Her name was Sarah Joseph Hale, and she succeeded in a task that had frustrated others for over 250 years.

Many people have a false notion that the Thanks giving holiday has been an American tradition since the Pilgrims first ‘gave thanks’ in October of 1621, but this is not true. For 155 years after that, there was no regular or unified Thanks giving celebration held in the Colonies. The War of independence brought forth a victory that was celebrated by the entire country for the first time. And still the tradition was not upheld. The third Thanks giving was held after the successful drafting of the Constitution, when President George Washington proclaimed November 26, 1789, a day thanks giving. However, this, too failed to become a recurring event.

The, in 1827, along came Sarah Joseph Hale, a woman with enough commitment and persistence to make it all happen. The mother of five children, she chose to support herself and family by becoming a professional writer at a time in our history when few women were known to be successful in this profession. As the editor of a ladies magazine she helped to make it a major national periodical with a circulation of 150,000. She was known for her editorial campaigns on behalf of women’s colleges, free public playgrounds, and day nurseries. And she wrote the nursery rhyme. Mary Had a Little Lamb. However, the most important cause in her life was to create a permanent national Thanks giving day. She used her magazine as a major tool to influence those could institute such a trend for the nation. For almost thirty six years she campaigned for this dream by constantly writing personal letters to presidents and governors. In her magazine, she annually published tempting Thanks giving menus, featured stories and poetry that focused on Thanks giving themes, and she wrote editorial after editorial after editorial in support of an annual Thanks giving day.

Finally, the Civil War provided Hale with an opportunity to express her point in a way that would capture the nation. She wrote, would it not be a great advantage socially, nationally and religiously to have the day of our American Thanks giving positively settled? In October 1863, she editorialized putting aside the sectional feelings and local incidents that might be urged by any single state or isolated territory that desired to choose its own time, would it not be more noble, more truly American, to become national in unity when we offer to god our tribute of joy and gratitude for the blessings of the year? She wrote a letter to Secretary of State William Seward, who then showed it to President Abraham Lincoln, who felt the concept of a national unity was precisely right. Four days later, the presidential issued a proclamation setting the last Thursday in November 1863 as a national Thanks giving Day. The rest is history. All because a woman with persistence and persuasive ability effectively used the existing media.