The Enemy of Truth – Boyd Matheson
The Enemy of Truth – Boyd Matheson
“Who is responsible for truth?” As the opinion editor and head of strategic research for The Deseret News, Boyd Matheson sets out to answer questions like this in his weekly column. The prolific writer shares his thoughts on the state of the nation, its future and much more with host Charles Mizrahi.
- “Who Is Responsible for Truth?” (00:01:54)
- Discerning Reality (00:09:38)
- Artificial Division (00:13:01)
- Breaking the Cycle (00:16:53)
- Utah: A Crossroads to the World (00:21:31)
- Politicians Work for Us (00:25:03)
- Mediocrity Is the No. 1 Killer (00:28:08)
- Change Is Here (00:32:19)
- The Healing Power of Gratitude (00:40:26)
- “Everybody Wants to Be Part of a Story” (00:45:32)
- More From Boyd Matheson (00:50:06)
As someone who’s worked in both the private and public sectors, Boyd Matheson has a unique perspective to share. Today, Matheson uses his ability to look at an issue from all sides to write his weekly column as the opinion editor and head of strategic research at Deseret News. He also hosts a radio show and podcast: Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson.
Before You Leave:
BOYD MATHESON: I live in this place called Utah that is thriving because it has a great free-market economy, which is creating jobs and opportunities. And it has these robust institutions of civil society where religious organizations and civic groups—businesses that give back to the community—the kinds of people you work with all the time, Charles, make community happen. And because of that, we’re in this thriving place. Someone born into poverty, or who falls into poverty, in Utah has a better chance of not just getting out of poverty but making it into the middle class than anywhere else in the world. It’s an extraordinary thing.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: My guest today is Boyd Matheson. Boyd is an opinion editor and head of strategic research at Deseret News, where he writes a weekly column and hosts a radio show and podcast.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Prior to this role, he was the president of Sutherland Institute, a highly-respected think tank, advancing constitutional values of faith, family and freedom. And he was also chief of staff for the U.S. Senator, Mike Lee. Boyd was involved in many of the most critical issues facing our nation and led the senator’s idea factory on Capitol Hill—where great ideas were free to anyone looking to help the country. Boyd is also an experienced communication strategist, having worked two decades with political and corporate leaders to advance their message. That is why I listen to what Boyd has to say. He’s one of those rare individuals that worked in the private and public sector and now shares his views in the media. He has a way of looking at problems from all sides and coming up with practical ways to solve problems. I recently sat down with Boyd to talk about how we, the people, are in the driver’s seat—not the politicians in Washington.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Boyd, thanks so much for being on my show. I greatly appreciate it, man.
BOYD MATHESON: Hey, Charles. Great to be with you today.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: OK, Boyd, you are prolific. How do you sit down every day as an opinion editor and think of ideas? I know you’re looking at the beautiful Wozzeck Mountains in Utah, and everything looks great out there… And you’ve got a baseball bat for hitting people and getting them away from you when you’re thinking… But how do you come up with ideas?
BOYD MATHESON: To me, the real challenge is learning to be still. We live in such a rat race and chase of a world that often we find ourselves so scattered. The biggest challenge for me is learning to slow down enough so that I can actually think. A lot of us could use a little more time to ponder and reflect. And of course, looking out the window here is not a bad place for me to start.
BOYD MATHESON: But I actually find that the early morning hours are the best. I’ll actually try to write before I check the news of the day—even though that often drives a lot of our topics and a lot of the things that I want to weigh in on. It’s actually about pushing all of that away and creating enough space. I found that life actually happens in the in-between stuff. It’s the pause in between the word. It’s the space in between the music. All of those places are where we actually find inspiration and the things that I think matter most in the world.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, your article comes out how often? Once a week?
BOYD MATHESON: I have one main column that I do per week. I also write some editorials and then just kind of weigh in whenever we’re ready to weigh in on something.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: You know, there’s one thing… I was looking through some of your articles, and you’ve written, gosh, I don’t know how many articles over the years. Your newspaper is 150 or 160 years old, right?
BOYD MATHESON: It’s 170 years old!
BOYD MATHESON: It’s been around. Right outside of my office, I actually have a replica of the wrought iron press that they dragged across the American plains back in the 1850s.
BOYD MATHESON: They started here with a weekly circulation and a really interesting mission too. Even back then, they were in this outpost in the middle of nowhere and talking about weighing in and writing about things—both national and international—and weighing in on everything from science to the arts to business and to politics. They’re still going at it today.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: There was one article I saw recently, and it said something that I think it was really spot-on. The title of the article was: “How Oprah, a printing press and some red pen show who’s responsible for the truth.”
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I want to quote what you wrote here because this is really good stuff. And I hear this so many times, that it just boils my blood. “In the age of fake news, confirmation bias, social media echo chambers, alternate facts and straight-up lies, the looming question for me is, ‘Who is responsible for truth?'”
CHARLES MIZRAHI: What the heck is going on in this country?
BOYD MATHESON: Sadly, there are a lot a lot of politicians and a lot of the media who aren’t interested in the truth—or they’re not interested in being responsible for the truth. I actually shared it in the piece. It was an experience. I knew I wanted to write about in the middle of everything that you just described, Charles. And so, I told my assistant editor, Christian, “Hey, I’m going to write about truth this week.”
BOYD MATHESON: And it would just turn into one of those weeks where there was just meeting after meeting and crisis after crisis. There may have been a little bit of procrastination on my part. I got to the day that my page—my column—was due. I kept putting it off. I ended up having to guest-host a national show. I just told Christian, my editor, “Hey, just save me a spot at the bottom of the page. I’ll fill it.”
BOYD MATHESON: It got to be late. Five o’clock came, and he brought me the proofs around for the day to check. There, at the bottom, was my mug (my picture) and a fake headline. And then he’d just written in red ink and said, “Truth will be written here.” It really was the answer to my question of: “Who’s responsible for the truth?” I’m responsible for the truth. We’re all responsible for the truth. And we can’t rely on anyone else to do that. It has to begin with each of us individually.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Hasn’t it always been that when the media portrayed truth or the facts… The New York Times, all the news that they feel is fit to print… What’s the media supposed to be doing here? Was it ever “truthful”? Wasn’t it always someone’s opinion or political organ of the Democrats or the Republicans or the Whigs or the Federalists that were throwing out—and I hate to use this term because it’s so terrible—their truth?
BOYD MATHESON: Yes, and that’s what we have to be careful of—the difference between their truth, my truth and the truth, I think, is the real test. And of course, there’s always been a bias within media organizations. There have always been people who’ve been trying to influence. And that’s OK, too. That’s not a problem. But what we have to do is recognize what it is.
BOYD MATHESON: I think one of the real challenges of our day is that so many of those things have just become blended together. So, you can’t tell where real reporting begins or ends and where opinion begins and where in-depth analysis comes. And so, it really is incumbent upon all of us to dig a little deeper, to dig past the headlines for sure.
BOYD MATHESON: I had a woman call me one time when I was at the Sutherland Institute, and she was just screaming about something she had read in another paper about the Bears Ears—a big public lands issue here in the state of Utah. She just was screaming, “[It’s the] last straw! I can’t take it anymore! How in the world can President Trump do this to build a golf course on this land?” And this land looks like Mars. There’s no way anybody—not even President Trump—could build a golf course on Bears Ears. I think she had mastered circular breathing because she just yelled for about ten minutes. So, finally I pulled up on the screen the article she was referring to. In big black letters, it said, “The following is not news. This is satire.”
BOYD MATHESON: The whole article was beautifully written. Robert Gehrke wrote it for the Salt Lake Tribune. [It was] great writing, and it was hilarious. The only thing she had done was have her bias going in. She read the headline and the first sentence, and confirmation bias kicked in. That set her on her way. I could never convince her that it really wasn’t true and that she should go out to the Bears Ears and explore if a golf course could be built because there’s just there’s no way.
BOYD MATHESON: But it also leads to another important thing, Charles. I think one of the biggest challenges we have to the truth is instant certainty. Instant certainty is the enemy of truth. It’s also the enemy of trust. Again, the news cycles are going so fast that everyone thinks they have to immediately do it. How many times do we find out that initial reporting was wrong? But we do it individually as well. [We need to] learn to suspend judgment—especially with a spouse or a child—and actually listen better and listen different. That will get us to the truth and will actually build the trust we need in families, neighborhoods, communities and in the country.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: OK, so the news cycle used to be a 24-hour news cycle. Papers had hit their deadlines. It was one or two cycles throughout the day. The television cycles were the six o’clock news. And it seemed to me—and you’re going to tell me how naive I am, or was—that there was some type of not only civility, but some type of baseline of what was reportable. If I saw it on the seven o’clock news, or Walter Cronkite said it, I could trust someone. Now, the news cycle is 24/7.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It’s like a canyon of crap being shot out every which way, 24 hours per day, through Facebook, Twitter and all social media. How is an individual supposed to discern what’s reality and what’s fantasy?
BOYD MATHESON: Yeah, it is it’s a great test of our time, and it goes back to really where we started, Charles. Learning to step back and step away is often the best way to step up and get a different view of things. If all we do is continually ingest, we’re going to be really bloated and really overwhelmed. Often, it leads us to actually disconnect from really important conversations that we need to have. So, part of it is us individually making sure we’re getting a variety of sources and not just getting into our own social media bubble and hearing what we want to hear—or what others want to serve up to us because they think that’s what we want to hear.
BOYD MATHESON: Checking sources and looking at the facts, where does that go? Sometimes it is that stepping away. One of the things that I recommend everyone do is just do a power-of-one when it comes to your digital devices. Just take one hour per day, one day per week and one week per year to disconnect. That’ll change your world. It’ll change the way you look at news. It’ll change the way you look at your neighbor. It’ll change the way you look at your family and the people that you actually care about. Part of it is not trying to digest more, faster, or get through it quicker. Sometimes it’s just disconnecting from it all so you can get some perspective. What we really lack in the world today is reflective moments. It’s those moments in between to actually get perspective and a view from a little higher up. That takes a little bit of effort and a little bit of work. It’s much easier to skim across the surface and keep playing mind games—clicking and chasing—than it is to step back a little bit, take a deep breath and get some perspective.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: My fear in all this, and I’ve thought about this often… I love history. I read as much as I can about history and how easy it is to manipulate the masses.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: And it’s, unfortunately, a fact. We are built to have shortcuts in mind because our caveman ancestors couldn’t spend time pondering if there was a bear in the woods. By the time they thought about it, they were eaten. That gene pool didn’t survive. So, we’re the product of people who acted quickly on the little information that they had.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: My concern—and tell me if I’m wrong with this or where I’m off base—is that any type of dictator or authoritarian can find the right soundbites and pound the table in our social media for a new cycle… which, today, is a day or two—or three or five days—until it becomes reality. Then, it becomes fact. Then, it becomes truth. And then, it becomes whatever they want to do. Am I off the deep end on that?
BOYD MATHESON: No, Charles. In fact, I think that one of the biggest issues of our day—far more than a lot of our national security issues… As much as I will pound the table about national debt and the skyrocketing numbers, this artificial division is so dangerous.
BOYD MATHESON: We hear over and over how divided the country is. We’re too divided. We’re too divided. And it’s simply not true. Dictators have used division as a way to maintain power for centuries. You know that as a student of history. We’re seeing it in much more subtle ways than we ever have.
BOYD MATHESON: When I went back to Washington, D.C. as a chief of staff—not as a political guy, but as a guy who had spent a couple of decades doing business consulting—I was amazed at how little division there actually was. Look at something like immigration. We always say that’s a great dividing issue of our time. Well, it is for those who want to maintain the status quo of power. Because as long as Congress or a president can convince us that we’re too divided to deal with health care or immigration, it allows Congress to do nothing. It allows outside organizations to raise hundreds of millions of dollars a year and use it as a divisive wedge issue for political campaigns.
BOYD MATHESON: So, we go to this idea of immigration. I still remain convinced we could solve 94.5% of immigration [issues] in a single afternoon on the floor of the United States Senate and Congress because everyone agrees. Everybody knows we need a border. Everybody knows we need an entry-exit system. Everyone knows we need to make legal immigration easier, more efficient and more effective. We need to know who comes in the country and who leaves the country. if Disneyland can tell me where my family is at any moment in time during three days in the park, surely the most powerful country in the world can figure out who comes in and who goes out. But both sides love to use that as a wedge issue. Here’s the real problem, Charles: We have been conditioned to react inappropriately to those base emotions of angst, anger, fear and frustration because it’s how they raise money. I call it the shampoo bottle model. If you remember in the old days on your shampoo bottle, it said lather, rinse and repeat.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It was like an endless cycle.
BOYD MATHESON: Yes. So, you lather people up and get them angry. You get them frustrated. Then, you let them rinse that off with a nice $25 contribution and repeat. Just like Pavlov’s dog, we have been conditioned to respond inappropriately to those negative-based emotions. When people tell me that the country is so divided, I don’t buy it. I have traveled this country top to bottom, left to right. When you go into real neighborhoods and real communities, we are not that divided. Those in power want us to believe that because it gives them an excuse to do nothing and it ensures that the status quo power remains. [Then] the people with the power and influence continue to have it.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: How do we break the cycle? I get this beautiful email or great thing from a politician… And by the way, I can’t believe how many people actually think that Congressman so-and-so wrote them an individual letter. It absolutely works. Right? It’s staggering. I guess because I’m from New York—so I don’t trust anybody or anything—I look at these things and… One lady, when I was a money manager and we had clients who were pretty accredited—credit investors are wealthy, intelligent people—says, “I just got a letter from the president of Dreyfus mutual funds. Wow this guy’s really high up, could you send it to me?”
CHARLES MIZRAHI: This was back in the day. The mail sent it to me, and it was a form letter. There was a form letter signed in a different signature color than the president of Dreyfus. And this lady, who was worth several million dollars, thought that the president of Dreyfus was writing to her. I guess it’s working because politicians keep doing it.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: How do we break this cycle of keeping everyone against each other and fighting each other? They keep stirring the pot. How do we break it?
BOYD MATHESON: So amazingly, like most things, it comes back to a “we the people issue.” We have to expect more, not less, out of those that we elect and send back to Washington—or into our state houses, for that matter. The sad reality is that as much as we like to complain about our politicians on a typical election cycle, about 92% of incumbents win reelection. I call it the old Dennis Rodman syndrome. The Chicago Bulls hated everything about Dennis Rodman when he played for the Detroit Pistons. They hated his hair, antics, dirty play and all of those things. They hated him—detested him—right up to the point [until] he became “their” Dennis Rodman. But even though they didn’t like his antics and a lot of the sideshow stuff, they knew they were getting 19 rebounds, four blocked shots, three steals and a guy who was going to wreak havoc on the other team’s best player. A lot of times in politics, we have the Dennis Rodman syndrome where people are like, “Yeah, they’re not the greatest. But hey, they’re ‘my guy’ or ‘my gal.'” So, we tolerate it. Part of it is we, the people, expecting more. Part of it is also—and this is really critical, Charles—that we have to recognize that the politicians in this country have almost never led this country.
BOYD MATHESON: It’s culture and community that lead, and the politicians follow. Go back to the very beginning, the Declaration of Independence—powerful document, important document, galvanizing document… But it was not a leading document. The Revolutionary War had been going for 18 months before the politicians got around to putting it on paper. But it was very important. Look at Jackie Robinson. In 1947, he breaks the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Seventeen years later, Congress gets around to doing meaningful civil rights legislation.
BOYD MATHESON: And so, one of the things that we, the people, have to recognize is that we actually lead and the politicians follow. I think if we all recognize that and acted from a position of strength rather than from a position of weakness—looking to Washington to solve our problems—it’s all about community and culture. I can be really pessimistic about some of our politics in the country, but I have never been more bullish on the future of the country. Because I’ve been in neighborhoods. I’ve been in communities.
BOYD MATHESON: I live in this place called Utah that is thriving because we have this great free market economy, which is creating jobs and opportunity. And we have these robust institutions of civil society where we have religious organizations, civic groups, businesses that give back to the community—the kind of people you work with all the time, Charles—that make community happen. And because of that, we’re in this thriving place. Someone born into poverty or someone who falls into poverty in Utah has a better chance of not just getting out of poverty, but making it into the middle class than anywhere else in the world. It’s an extraordinary thing. And it’s not because of our politics. It’s not even just because of any specific faith. It’s because of all of those dynamics as a laboratory of democracy. When that happens, great things happen, and society rises, and people can live their version of the American dream.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Why is that ethos confined—or why do you see it thriving in Utah when it’s not thriving in, let’s say, Oregon or California?
BOYD MATHESON: Well, part of it is, again, this belief that it’s not about the government making things happen. It’s about individuals. And again, if you have a free market economy that has a government that is light-touch in terms of regulation… You’ve got entrepreneurs and tech companies flocking to Utah because it’s a great place to work and do business. But then, you have these great communities, and people get that. And so, it’s being part of something bigger than yourself. And in Utah, again, is this laboratory of democracy. It’s working.
BOYD MATHESON: And going back to the beginning of our conversation, those pioneers that trekked across the American planes to get out to this middle of nowhere basin, they had this bigger vision that, “Hey, we can we can be not just a crossroads to the west, but a crossroads to the world.” And right now, you’ve got, as I mentioned, tech companies that are coming here. Silicon Slopes—that’s really thriving. Inland Port is coming online. That will make us a real hub. New international airport. We have an educated workforce… More languages spoken here than just about anywhere. So, it’s really well-positioned, I think, to lead out as the pandemic moves along. This will really be a crossroads to the world.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: You’re spot on. You look at California now with the brain drain. Because of what’s happening there, people are moving to Texas. People are moving to Nashville, Tennessee. Look at New York. Governor Cuomo was saying that all he does is spend this time—I don’t really believe this—telling people to stay. Out in the Hamptons, there’s no reason to stay. They’re raising taxes, the city’s falling to crap, there were riots in the streets, there’s a progressive, socialist mayor who is ruling by fiat… And money travels. The rich people are the most mobile in society. So, they leave. These politicians think that they have a captive audience, and they don’t really have a captive audience. They have a very transitory audience. People are going to flock to the place where they’re the freest, where they can start businesses and where they can live with dignity.
BOYD MATHESON: Yeah, that’s exactly right, Charles. And it’s the one thing… If there was one message I could give to every American today, it would be: Function from a position of strength. As you said, Americans are mobile. And not just the wealthy. Almost anybody can pick up and move to another place and thrive.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Well, look… What builds the North in the early 1900s is the great migration of African-Americans to northern cities. The South just got rid of them. They didn’t want to be sharecroppers anymore. That was it. They were being subjugated. They were being abused. They were being killed and lynched. They moved. After the Great Depression, right before about World War II, we had an amazing shift of population across a massive area. I think I was reading somewhere that it was one of the largest migrations—I don’t know how many tens of millions of people…
CHARLES MIZRAHI: But yeah, it seems to me—and I want your opinion on this—that many people have forgotten that politicians work for us. We don’t work for them. They’re temp workers.
BOYD MATHESON: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And it goes back to this idea that we have to function from a position of strength, not from a position of weakness.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I’ll give you one quick example. There was a congressman brought to our community and I’m not going to mention his name. He was a one-term congressman. A Democrat who came in a Republican-slide area, and did the stupidest thing in the world. He voted for impeachment. And his constituency is clearly Republican and more conservative-leaning. It was brought in order to raise money and I looked at him, and I said, “Congressman, you disappointed us.” He said, “How so?” I said, “How could you do this? We finally have a president who is pro-business, understands the Mideast better than anybody has understood it and is going to make peace (this was back before there was the Abraham Accords) and the economy is thriving. Say what you want about the man, this is a partisan lynching. And Pelosi basically said she’s not going to do this unless everyone’s on board, and you went ahead and voted for impeachment. Tell me how that makes sense?” He said, “I voted with my conscience.” I said, “Well, you’re going to be out of business. You’re going to have to find another job.” And he looked at me, pretty smug, and said, “We’ll see.” And he’s out of work. We voted him out.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It’s like hiring a warehouse manager. The guy just came late every day? You’re gone. Why don’t more Americans feel that way about their politicians? Why are we not leading from where we are instead of trying to have them tell us what to do?
BOYD MATHESON: Yeah, I think there’s a couple of parts to that that I think are really critical. One is that focusing from a position of weakness. This is the classic “what the politicians do to us.” They say, “The most important right you have is your right to vote. And you can vote however you want… But if you don’t vote for me, you’re going to lose power. You’re going to lose influence.”
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Armageddon.
BOYD MATHESON: Exactly. The sky is going to fall. And some Americans buy into that and say, “Oh, my gosh! Well, I better reelect so-and-so, because they’re going to save me or they’re going to protect me or they have my best interests in mind.” And so, again, it’s part of that conditioning that is really killing us as a country. And the American people have the power. They have the power. But we’ve been convinced—and sometimes, we’ve convinced ourselves—that there’s nothing we can do. Can’t fight City Hall, can’t change Washington… We could do it in a heartbeat if the American people would just recognize where the power lies. We’re always looking for the power. And the reality is that we have it. And we just have to exercise it, we have to own it and we have to be accountable for what we do. I mean, all of the things that made our country extraordinary are the things that are most threatened right now.
BOYD MATHESON: One of my biggest worries for the country—and you know this from your business experience… The most dangerous day in the life of an organization is the day you do well. It’s the day you hit. No. 1. It’s the day you’re in the press. It’s the day you go live on Wall Street. And what we have to recognize is that we’re trying to do something in this country that’s never been done before. We’re trying to become one of the first societies ever to outlive their own success. And you can go through Mayan empire, Egyptians, Romans, British… through the list. And these societies have achieved extraordinary heights. And then what happened? They got comfortable. They rested on their laurels. They started doing the minimum standard. They started to coddle, rather than challenge each other.
BOYD MATHESON: And mediocrity is the No. 1 killer. Mediocrity is the No. 1 killer of any business, it’s the No.1 killer of any community… On a personal level, it is the No. 1 killer of any relationship. The moment you start doing the minimum standard, you just start doing the check-box stuff… That’s the beginning of the end of a business. It’s also the beginning of the end of a marriage or a relationship with a child or a friend. And it’s the same in the country.
BOYD MATHESON: We have got to get back to excellence as the order of the day. And if we don’t, everything else is kind of window dressing in the end. If we have universities that just put out mediocre students that are worried about being offended about someone challenging their thinking, that’s not helping us strive for excellence. We get comfortable…
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Do you see us at that stage? Are we at mediocrity now? Are we just basically checking the boxes?
BOYD MATHESON: There are there are pockets, to be sure. And there are institutions that are fostering and nurturing that. I think our higher education, in general, has been on that. I mean, they’re using the same model from the 1700s. And if it weren’t for the pandemic, they’d still be doing it exactly the same.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I would venture to say from Socrates, because nothing much has changed. It’s basically having a professor up there lecture the students. What’s changed from that way of teaching?
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah. And so now, we know there are lots of ways we can do it better. And sadly, it took a pandemic to rattle it a little bit. You look at all the student loan debt for a lot of students that had no business going into that space or should have been much more focused or directed into a better space where they could earn and have upward mobility… And so, we’ve got to change the dynamics. We’ve got to challenge everything. And we’re not in a season where we can tinker around the edges. We need quantum change in a host of areas. And those that do that are going to thrive and succeed. And to me, that’s critical for the country.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Warren Buffett always says that when the tide goes out, you get to see who’s swimming naked. So, COVID really showed us which business models are terribly weak, and which ones are extremely robust. So, we have a K-type recovery. Certain businesses like brick-and-mortar retailer is just getting decimated, and then you have Zoom and companies that are just doing tremendously well—Amazon, Facebook, so on and so forth—with the pandemic. They’re just doing outstanding.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Now, you bring up education, you bring up the university, you bring up the colleges… We had the incentives, in my opinion, placed in the wrong place. The incentives for universities to keep the high sticker price up because the government was footing the bill… And now you have these people who took classes and took amazing amounts of debt to get a master’s in social work, which they’ll never make more than $80,000 to $90,000. The job doesn’t pay for more than $100,000. How are they going to pay $300,000 in debt? Did anyone ever figure this out?
CHARLES MIZRAHI: You brought up a great point, Boyd, and I’d love to hear more about it… How are we going to change that whole university model? Or how do you see this university model changing in the next year?
BOYD MATHESON: Yeah. I think it is the change is coming. Actually, the change has already happened…
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It’s here! Just look at the Ivy Leagues, right? They were trying to charge parents the same $60,000. Parents are saying, “You’ve got to be crazy. My kid’s on Zoom. They’re not there. Why are you still charging me the same amount of money?” The inefficiencies in the university infrastructure are horrendous. The fixed costs are just so stupid for today’s day and age. So, I think we’re not only there—we’re past it.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I have one son still in college, and he has friends—and friends and my other son who are now in graduate school—who took the year off. They said, “I’m not going to do this Zoom stuff. Let me get real-world experience, and intern somewhere.” And this is not from regular community colleges. One of them is in Wharton, and the other one was at Harvard Law. And so, you’re seeing that brain drain leave that university system. We don’t need this anymore.
BOYD MATHESON: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, it really goes all the way back to a great apprentice program.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Trade schools! What happened to trade schools? You have a better shot at making a hell of a lot more money… And no disrespect to master’s in social work. I just bring that up because we know someone who is one, and they struggle and have a lot of debt. And take that same person who, for whatever reason, doesn’t want a master’s in social work… Become an electrician or plumber. They’re going to make much more money without any debt.
BOYD MATHESON: That’s right. That’s exactly right. There’s so many options like that, and yet there are so few students who have actually ever sat down and said, “OK, this is how much it’s going to cost. This is what I’m likely to earn.” And figure out if the math actually works. I mean, I’m horrible at math, but I can figure out that math. It just doesn’t work.
BOYD MATHESON: And I’ll never forget… I was with Senator Lee one time. He was speaking to a law school. And a student got up and asked kind of a self-promoting question. This young kid had just passed the Bar and he said, “So, Senator, what is your advice to someone who’s just passed the Bar?” And the senator looked him right in the eye and said, “All the training, all the studying, all the work you put in to learn… all of those things have positioned you perfectly to be a great apprentice at a law firm.” And the kid was just crestfallen. He thought he was going to get this great nugget.
BOYD MATHESON: But I’ve always believed this—that the real test, for our day and age, is what you learn after you get out of school. The shelf life of a formal education is about 18 months. You get about an 18-month head-start. And everything after that is: Are you a lifelong learner? That’s going to be the key.
BOYD MATHESON: I was really blessed. I grew up in a family of 11 kids. My dad was a big reader. And the rule at our house was that if you wanted to learn something, you had to read five books about it, talk to three people who knew about it and then you had to go do it. And that was the model. Probably the most important thing I ever learned was to love learning. Now, higher education can be great to learn the discipline of learning. That’s important. But the only thing that really matters is: Do you love learning?
BOYD MATHESON: David McCullough, one of the great writers of our time, helped so many get into history. I was amazed to learn… I got to talk to him at the Library of Congress, and he talked about being in in college at Yale. And he hated history. David McCullough hated history. He had to take a history class before he could pass. So, he said, “I went into the big hall. It was all freshmen. I was a senior. It wasn’t even a real professor—it was a graduate student.”
BOYD MATHESON: And he said, “That graduate student came out, and he changed my life in a single sentence. He said, ‘In this class, I will never test you on a date, a time, a location.'” And David McCullough said that it was like the windows blew open, and suddenly history became a never-ending river of ideas to be explored. It changed his life because he hated memorizing dates and locations and battles and all of those things. But it changed him forever. And we need more of that. We need that kind of learning going on which, in a digital age, you can do really easy. It’s more about channeling and fostering kids than anything else.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, that’s a great segue for this. Maybe there’s a way for big business—or any business—to start an apprenticeship-type program. We call it “internship.” But internships just suck. You’re getting someone coffee. You’re not learning anything… in many cases, I should say. But most internships, really, you’re getting someone coffee. And I know I’m going to get a lot of calls and emails and stuff, but let’s call it what it is. You’re not putting someone out of brain surgery there. And rightly so. They know very little, and they’re coming in to learn by shadowing or something.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Maybe—I’m just throwing this out there—there’s a way for business to take in (and this is maybe a partnership with government)… Where the money that parents are spending (maybe the government subsidizes these businesses) to take them into their living classroom, which is the business world or whatever, and let them see what it’s like. Because how do you ask a 19-year-old kid, “What do you want to do for the rest of your life?” I changed 17 ways to Wednesday—before I was 19—what I wanted to do.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I realized I couldn’t play first base for the New York Mets—even though I used to bring my glove every game when we were kids thinking they’d call me (because back in the day, there were only 1,500 people in Shea Stadium—not a lot of fans). But I always thought that was it. I didn’t wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to be a floor trader.” But that’s where I eventually ended up. Maybe that’s one idea that’s pretty low-barrier-to-entry that any business—or anyone who’s listening now—could just start.
BOYD MATHESON: Yeah, and we’ve proven that companies can do that. Why not get a certification from Apple or Google? Why not go onto the floor and actually learn how that thing happens? The apprenticeship idea is old as time, and it actually works if we’ll fully engage it. The biggest challenge and the biggest barrier to that is the iron triangle of the current universities and their system, the accrediting agencies and the government. That is the iron triangle that’s preventing real innovation from happening at a much faster pace. There’s some good models and some good things that are that are happening there…
BOYD MATHESON: But I go back to Benjamin Franklin. He had his Leather Apron Society, where he would just gather young people in all the different trades. But then he would talk to them about principles. And it wasn’t just the principles of how to be a good carpenter or how to be a good printer. It was how to be a good thinker, how to become a better member of society, how to think strategically. And that’s what we really need more of. It’s not about more colleges and universities, even online. It’s about thinking different, thinking better and having that real-world application every day.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: And how many businesses—how many printing presses—did Benjamin Franklin kick-start for others? He was a worldly guy. He knew where it was at. And that’s why he retired at 40 years old. He was a brilliant man and he knew how to leverage his talents to finding smart people and putting them into business.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, I’m challenging you, Boyd. You have a big newspaper there. Find those five or 10—start with that. And I think we should just change the name from “internships” to “apprenticeships.” I think that changes everything.
BOYD MATHESON: Yeah, I agree.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Let me just move on to one thing in one of your articles, which I saw just recently. It just smacked me in the head. It was really, really good. “How do we heal in 2020?” And I’m going to quote what you wrote…
CHARLES MIZRAHI: “On Friday, Russell M. Nelson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, delivered a message to the world. In the midst of a global pandemic, economic upheaval and social strife, the 96-year-old prophet-president extolled the healing power of gratitude.”
CHARLES MIZRAHI: And I’m going to quote what you wrote quoting President Nelson: “I’ve concluded that counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems.”
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I think it’s so profound, yet so simple. I guess that’s where the profound truth lies—in the simplicity of it.
BOYD MATHESON: Yeah, that’s right. And that’s the truth with most truth: It’s very, very simple. And with that very simple challenge from President Nelson, he launched millions upon millions of social media posts as people started to focus on what they were grateful for. I think one of the big threats is ingratitude. If you ever want to read some really great stuff, William George Jordan was a great writer during the early twentieth century. He talked about the fact that ingratitude was the shortcut to all the other vices. And when you lose that ability to feel awe, gratitude and wonder, you really start to lose everything else.
BOYD MATHESON: There is a healing power to gratitude as we recognize what we have. It also makes us a little more sympathetic and empathetic to those around us.
BOYD MATHESON: Most importantly, I found that in just focusing on it for the last seven days—not just as a Thanksgiving execution but in looking at it broader in terms of how do we actually heal—it really moves you into some fascinating places as you start thinking about all the things that we can be grateful for. And then [we should consider] what we ought to be doing with that because real gratitude always includes action. [Whether it’s] sharing it, teaching it or helping another enjoy it… Those are all really powerful things that I think came out of a really simple plea from Russell and Nelson to the world that spawned millions upon millions of people to just stop for a moment and be grateful.
BOYD MATHESON: I mentioned in the in the piece Lee Brower does a lot of high-end consulting and work for families, trying to make sure that their wealth perpetuates. He actually said the biggest reason for wealth not to be passed from generation to generation—even when there’s clearly enough for it to just continue in perpetuity—is not bad investments or reckless spending. It’s ingratitude. It actually breeds something that ultimately undercuts the principle of the whole thing.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: You’re spot on. Without gratitude, you can’t you can’t be happy. A person with gratitude who gives thanks is a happier person. Someone who doesn’t thank and doesn’t count their blessings, can never be happy. There’s always something that someone else has that they want. How do you satisfy them? How are they ever happy?
BOYD MATHESON: Now, that’s exactly right. And learning to be content with what you do have, and recognizing how blessed we all are—especially in this country… Just taking time to pause and reflect on that is a transformational process. I know it is for me. When I start thinking in terms of gratitude first… Sometimes, we kind of save that for the end. “Oh, yeah, I’m thankful for this and that.” When you put gratitude first, you see everything differently. You actually see better.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: My grandmother lived a very long life. She said, “Every day above ground is a happy one.” You just get out of bed every morning and you can walk. Just think of how many people can’t do that! And then how many people don’t have a home?
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I want to tell you something, which my family makes fun of me for… But I marvel at it every time. Can you imagine that we can turn on our faucets in our home and have something that most people throughout the world can’t have—clean water?
BOYD MATHESON: Yeah.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Bill Gates is spending billions of dollars and having all sorts of contests to figure out how to make sanitation—fecal matter, urine and everything—to be biodegradable so it doesn’t cause so many to die from diseases. And we have toilets in our homes. Until the 1920s and 1930s, most homes didn’t have a toilet. It’s just absolutely amazing what we have as Americans. Clean water and sanitation—let’s take it from there. We should be having a happy day. Our infants are not dying from all sorts of diseases that affect Third World countries.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, how do we get back to that? How do we get people to appreciate all that they have—especially in this country?
BOYD MATHESON: Yeah. I think we are surrounded by so much abundance… And recognizing that, even just going through what you just rattled off there, Charles—in terms of water and sanitation… That’s a good day. It’s an amazing thing. And then you start getting into the subtleties of everything that we have… The fact that you and I could be on opposite sides of the country and have this conversation today and then share it with millions of people beyond that is extraordinary. Think about how powerful that is!
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Just imagine, you and I growing up (I think we’re more or less the same age) as kids… I know I remember, and I’m sure you do as well… As kids, we used to have hours and hours of arguments on Joe DiMaggio’s batting average in 1951. And it was decided by the old wise men in the community who happen to know that.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Now, you just look at your iPhone or smartphone. You have the knowledge of the universe at your fingertips… and you don’t even need your fingertips! Ask Siri or Google, and you get all that information. It’s like you have a genie on your shoulder. And yet, we have people who complain about the literacy in this country. We have people who are uneducated in terms of history. And I think that’s where you get the 1619 Project. We’re so illiterate about our founding because nobody took the time to learn anything about it.
BOYD MATHESON: Yeah, and I’ve always said that a society that forgets and loses its ability to be thankful and to reflect on that history is in danger of losing a great deal more. And I think that’s part of what we’ve had. We’ve lost that connection. Everybody wants to be part of a story, which is one of the interesting things that’s come out of this whole pandemic. We’ve never been more connected in the history of the world, and yet we have more and more people who feel disconnected. And it’s because they’ve lost that connection to people. They’ve lost connection to the story. They’ve lost connection to who they are and where they come from. Because everybody wants to be part of a winning story.
BOYD MATHESON: It’s why we wear the brand name clothes we wear, drive the cars we drive, the groups and associations that we have… Everybody wants that connection. And in our race and chase for everything else, and for things that we have been told and conditioned exist outside of what we already have, we’re losing the very connection that we need—the real source of all of that. Which, again, goes back to family, community and those things that happen on a very, very local level.
BOYD MATHESON: And so, getting people to slow down and realize that… It’s been fascinating for me to watch. I’ve seen people around the world who’ve suddenly said, “You know what we did this week? We had dinner as a family.” And it was like this big novel idea.
BOYD MATHESON: As I mentioned, I grew up in a family of 11. And we had this great tradition… My parents were the best at this. Every Saturday night at 5:00, all 11 kids were expected to be at home. We had a big table- like a big cafe counter. And my dad would make pancakes. Charles, I don’t know if you’ve ever had pancakes in a large group before. They do not come in stacks. That was a radical concept for me. In fact, we had the joke at my house that eating pancakes with the Mathesons was like the early stages of labor pains—you get them one at a time and about 10 minutes apart. And yet, it was during that time when we were waiting for those precious pancakes to come our way that my parents were sharing things with us kids. More importantly, they were asking questions and listening to what we had to say. And for years and years, that was always the tradition. Even after most of us were married and gone, we always found a good reason to slip by mom and dad’s at 5:00 on a Saturday because we wanted that connection. We wanted to be part of that.
BOYD MATHESON: And we need more of that in the country today—those kinds of traditions in nuclear families and extended families and communities. There’s nothing more powerful than that. It is the essence of what the country is really all about.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Great message. Boyd Matheson, you’re a champ. Where can listeners find you on a weekly basis? Where do they look for you?
BOYD MATHESON: They can go to Deseret.com, or they can follow me on Twitter, @BoydMatheson.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Beautiful. I know I do since we started speaking a few weeks ago. I love your articles. They’re simple. They’re to the point. Simple English, simple message. Like your dad making pancakes. Really great stuff.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Boyd, thanks so much. God bless you. And keep fighting the good fight. You’re doing outstanding.
BOYD MATHESON: Thanks, Charles. Privilege to be with you. Appreciate what you do, and especially how you do it. You’re making a difference. Greatly appreciate it.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Thanks so much.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Thanks for listening to this episode of The Charles Mizrahi Show. If you’re a new listener, welcome. If you’ve been listening for a while, we’re glad to have you back. Either way, we’d love to know what you think of the show. Please leave a review if you listen on Apple podcast. Reviews make it easier for others to find the show. You can also see the video of the interview on The Charles Mizrahi Show channel on YouTube.
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