What’s Your Context?

I recently had a conversation with my friend and LinkedIn connection, Brian Sommer. Brian is the gentleman who taught me content is not king, after all. Context is.

During our conversation, he told me he’d once suggested to a mental-health profession with whom he engaged in an online discussion that stress is self-induced. The mental-health professional argued with some vehemence against that notion, saying she based her own notions on evidence-based research, rather than on actual personal experience, conveying the impression that if something isn’t based on evidence, it’s not true, valid or possible.

Brian said, “She reminded me of former students who’d say, ‘If it’s not on Google, it’s not true’.” According to that line of thinking, neither editorial nor political agendas are true, either. But that’s fodder for a whole different post.

My own thoughts about the medical-health professional were that (A) she was more comfortable remaining in her own proverbial swim lane, and (B) she might have been in need of some professional mental-health help her own self. I kept those thoughts to my own self.

But when Brian told me that story, I did say to him:

I’d love to ask that mental-health professional why she thinks people are so afraid of thinking in new or different ways. More specifically, I’d love to ask her why she’s so afraid to challenge her own notions of perception and perspective.”

Since we happened to be on Zoom at the time, I was able to see Brian when he shrugged his shoulders.

But the questions linger: What are we so afraid of? Why are we afraid? I don’t know. But my conversation with Brian gave me a different context from which to view the coronavirus and compelled me to create this video:

Change your perspective. You’ll make a look on the bright side more than a cliché.

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Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brienhttps://obriencg.com/
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.


  1. “Context” is my #1 Strengthfinder strength, and I used to teach U.S. History and government, so I must have a gene with “context” stamped on it. My immediate response to your questions, Mark, is “It’s complicated.”

    We could easily be fearful just because of where we live. I happen to live in NYC. It’s congested, and at one point, it was the epicenter of C-19 infections in the U.S.

    Or because of our medical condition: I have a history of pulmonary issues.

    Or because of our age: I’m within the high-incident group age-wise.

    So was I fearful? Am I fearful? You bet.

    My in-laws live in rural Maryland. Are they afraid? Not so much “afraid” as “cautious.” “Place” can be a critical factor in how we look at things.

    Could I feign optimism and choose to appear to be less fearful of C-19? Sure, if I’m willing to accept the risk that goes along with it. Restaurants here are now allowed to set up outside seating. Could I choose to go there? Sure. Is it worth risking coming in contact with someone who carries the infection? For a bowl of pasta? Not at this time.

    And here’s the other thing. We always talk about the glass being half full or empty – I had a colleague for whom there was no glass, but that’s another story – but we never talk about the glass itself. Do we view our glass as a simple mass-produced item or an elegantly fashioned piece of stemware? Mine is the latter, and it allows me to see my healthy reflection. Right now, it whispers back “Smart boy.”