07/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

He Started It!

As a kid growing up in the Bronx in the early thirties I certainly learned a lot, and sadly, most of it was wrong! It still amazes me that little has changed for me in this regard over so many years.

I was always having "traditional" disputes with my older brother. Whatever was involved I would run to my mother shouting and crying what I thought were magical words like "mother, he started it" as though that mattered at all. I grew to realize that neither my mother nor my father cared one little bit who started it, and that all that they both wanted was "peace and tranquility" in our home. Sadly as a rule, that was not to be.

As a parent myself, I infuriated by both of my children and my then wife when I told the children that I was neither a policeman nor a judge, and if they came to me in the middle of a dispute that I would not hear testimony and that I expected them to sort things out themselves and if they did not then I would just punish the two of them. They cried "unfair" and I cared not at all.

In the same group of stupid notions that I have long held was and is my "being right." This became very important to me as though there was some ultimate win in it, and it has taken me a long time to realize that "being right" is an empty an accomplishment as you can possibly have. Do you know how sad that is to have only recently realized that?

In my "checkered corporate career" as a senior operating sales executive for Screen Gems, CBS, Columbia Pictures, Polygram, and MGM/UA I was at odds with many of their managements and remained employed because my divisions were very profitable. It was as simple as that.

Managements however are, as a rule, are like the military in that they issue orders and expect people to blindly follow them.

Fay Vincent, the Columbia Pictures President once asked me: "Norman, why don't you just do what we tell you to do without giving us an argument?"

One Corporate President who loved me because I was responsible for making a lot of money once said that if any of his corporate group were giving me a bad time about anything that I should let him know and he would take care of the problem and have them leave me alone. He was solely interested in our profitability. Not a bad idea.

There are certainly better ways to say this but in my not very humble opinion these power struggles in almost all corporate disputes are, to a certain extent, "a dick thing." The Corporate guys that I dealt with wanted to demonstrate that "theirs was bigger then mine," and that was foolishly unacceptable to me.

Had I known then what I know now and was mature about it I would have at every opportunity told each of them that "theirs was enormous" and mine only "teeny weenie." I did not need to be right, but I thought that I did.

Did anyone ever tell President Bush about this?

Had I been smart I would never have lost sight of the possible outcome that I desired and done whatever it took to obtain that outcome.

I needed to always play the game of "what's in it for me" which is not a bad place to start in a corporation, or in life for that matter. Sadly I did not.

I was totally invested in being right all the time and it was difficult for me to obtain the outcome I desired. I now take a second look and ask myself "OK, what is it that you want to get out of this?" Not an easy thing to do when you have spent most of your life lusting for being right most of the time rather then considering the "what's in it for me" thing.

In my seventy seventh year I am much more likely to look at "where I am and how do I get where I want to be" before taking any action.

This stuff is applies in business, politics, and of course in interpersonal relationships. How about this one? "If only she could see why what she is doing is wrong, things could be much better in our relationship."

It could have been instead: "I want to have sex with her and if I tell her that she is once again wrong that just is not going to happen. Do I want to be right or have sex? Accusing the other person does NOTHING to change ANYTHING. This is true in almost EVERYTHING!

Now at last to my point:

Following the Obama Cairo speech, so many who support Israel continue to do the same thing, which is point out that the Israelis are "right" and everyone else "is wrong." It does not matter if this is correct, but if you continue following that concept it will leave the Middle East perpetually in conflict. It does not matter who is right or who is wrong. It is better to consider that this is where the parties are at this moment, and what happened in 1347 BC does not matter in the least.

Someone once said "the past is history, the future is mystery, and the present is REALITY.
Here is a reality that is valid for the situation in the Middle East.

In order to "make a deal" the Parties MUST be prepared to be vilified by their constituents. Why do I say this you could ask? It is because EVERYONE has evidence that will prove their point, and everyone wants to be RIGHT!

Everyone will be of the opinion on both sides that they would have made a better deal had they been in charge of the negotiation. My ears still ache when I listen to the Corporate types who know nothing ask me why I did not obtain one thing or another from a major deal. In order to make a deal like peace in the Middle East, everyone must be prepared to give up things that they have said were nonnegotiable.

If things stay the way they are, the parties will continue to get out of this situation what they always get, which is more hostile rhetoric. They will continue to stay in a state of armed conflict.

The way things are will undoubtedly be the way that they will remain. Perhaps with the passing of a few thousand years things will get better, but until then it just appears to remain hopeless.
They will all try to prove that the other guy is wrong and that they are right and they will continue to blow up the other guys people and property out of some form of "righteousness."

Both sides will demonstrate the validity of their cause because history and God are on their side. They should all deal as best as they can with REALITY and make the best deal that they can make right now and be prepared to honor it.

Throughout my nearly fifty year career I never ever negotiated a deal, but rather I made deals. It is not possible to get everything you want in a deal!

Sadly the human condition is unable to allow these "deals" to be made and hostility will go on until one side annihilates the other or everyone or both sides perishes. Their tombstones all can say:

But They Started It! And I Was Right! We Will Never Agree To That! It Is Nonnegotiable!

US/Cuba anyone? nonnegotiable