Tuesday, August 24, 2010

American Idol

What a beautiful world we would live in if relationships were everything, and money were nothing more than a useful tool.

I believe money has become an idol. The word 'idol' is not used a lot these days, but it was quite common a few thousand years ago. Here is my personal definition: Anything on which we set our affections; that to which we indulge an excessive and sinful attachment is an idol.

If money is an idol and if “having the latest in technology” are the idols that we buy with our money, then are money and technology not one in the same? In today’s world, can we not easily exchange the words “they have lots of money” for “they have the latest in technology”?

Fast forward to today--and consider the technology that we buy. People can have an excessive attachment to technology. They can also see technology as a source to get what they want and as a protector to keep them safe from harm. The reality is that technology derives its power from belief, just as idols did thousands of years ago. The difference today is that technology is universally believed to be powerful. But the purpose of technology is to simply facilitate relationships. We have unfortunately gotten to a place where people want the technology without the relationships.

In 1983, I started selling cellular phones. Car phones were very expensive, and they had to be installed; there was no such thing as a portable phone. In the 80’s people would actually buy cellular phone antennas to put on their cars – no phone – just the antenna - to make it look like they had a car phone installed in the car. Idol worship! Same thing happened with beepers. Having a beeper or radio pager on your belt was a status symbol, telling the world that you must be someone important, and that you must be reachable at all times. Is there not some of that, with today’s iPhone and iPad? Are these business tools, or are they idols?

As a technology adviser and consultant, I had to learn this lesson by experience. My belief was "technology is power" and to sell the latest and the greatest technology to the client was the sole objective. After all, having the latest and greatest technology meant more power, and having more power in the business world is good. Yet I have seen people in business with the latest and greatest technology who were miserable and others who were filled with abundant joy. And, I have seen people with no technology that were miserable and others who were quite happy indeed. Yes, you can still be happy in today’s world without an iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and without the latest upgrade of Windows.

Today, what America needs are technology professionals dedicated to helping clients focus on relationships. Relationships (both business and personal) are far more fulfilling and beneficial than owning the latest technology.

So, the question to ask yourself is this: is the new iPhone, iPad or other whiz bang gizmo that you recently purchased (or are about to purchase) a tool, or is it an idol? Is the new High Definition videoconferencing system that you are installing going to be a useful tool for your business, or would Skype’s free service have accomplished the task? Do you really need a brand new laptop, or will a simple upgrade in memory do the trick?

Simon Cowell of “American Idol” separates the winners from the losers with brutal honesty. So brutal, in fact, that he is very entertaining to watch. But he knows exactly what he is looking for, and he clearly speaks his mind. After 27+ years in telecom and technology sales, I feel that I have (just a little) Simon Cowell in me, in separating the true valuable and important technology tools from the idols.

And, at least I know that I can’t sing worth a damn.

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