Answering Likely (and Reasonable) Questions

These questions and answers are related to the story:
(CORRECTIONS, CONTEXT & UPDATES) La Crosse SOUP founder redirected civic improvement funds

Reasonable Question #1 — Why are you making these corrections and not the Tribune?

Just a few days prior to me writing this, I did indeed ask the Tribune to make a series of corrections.

Unfortunately, when I met privately with the Tribune’s Editor, I was immediately dismissed, mocked, and told, “No. There’s nothing to correct.” In fact, this conversation was only one of several recent meetings I have had with Tribune staff about these corrections, updates, etc.

Just days prior to meeting with the paper’s current editor, I sat down for a total of nearly five hours over two days with a veteran Tribune reporter who concluded that, my story “is a story worth telling” and “if I were you, I’d want people to hear the full truth.”

Interestingly, a couple months prior to meeting with that veteran reporter, I was told virtually the same thing (“It’s a story worth telling. And if I were you I’d want people to know…”) by another highly-respected TV personality / reporter in the area after sitting down with them for nearly two hours early one morning, only to have their station manager dismiss the idea out of hand as the Tribune’s Editor later did.

I would have greatly prefered that the Tribune correct the record (and hope they still do) for a number of reasons, including that I’m fully aware of the inherent bias that one might read into a format like this, and because I am genuinely fearful that if I need to be the one to make these critical corrections to the story on my own. All of this could have been avoided if the Tribune’s Editor would have simply fixed the online version of the story.

Reasonable Question #2 — Why did you wait until NOW to say something?

The truth is, I haven’t waited until Now to say SOMETHING.

What I have done is waited until now to resort to saying this in this way, through this last option only after having exhausted all other options I could think of.

I have been trying, for — literally — years to get the full story out. I have tried, virtually everything I could think of, given my limited resources.

Unfortunately, nothing — to this point — has worked. And every time I try something — some new way to get my story “out there” — it is incredibly time consuming and both mentally and emotionally debilitating, as it requires — each time — for me to relive some of the most painful days of my life and try to pursue some “new way” I hadn’t thought of before.

I literally don’t see any other options at this point.

And unfortunately, while “this” all may have faded from the memory of 99% of the La Crosse public’s mind, it hasn’t faded my reality. The Tribune’s story continues to come up when I am exploring business opportunities; it came up recently when I interviewed for a dream job (and who knows how many times it has come up in background screenings when I have applied for a job and never heard back despite an otherwise stellar resume), and it has never faded from my memory — it has only served as a constant mental and emotional wrecking ball for me and my family.

Put another way, it’s like a door that wasn’t ever totally shut. But it’s not your door, it’s mine. It’s the front door to my home and my life. So while you may not feel the effects of the constant draft that this unclosed door has brought to me, inside my home, I have had to live with it. But I can’t keep living with that door cracked open. And, I can’t be upset that someone else hasn’t come over and shut it for me. Afterall, it’s not their responsibility, because it’s not there door… it’s mine — and it always has been.

But like a stubborn door that won’t totally close on the first try or the second or the eighth, sometimes the only way to close something for good is to open it back up for a moment in order to get the space you need to try to properly swing it closed again and get it closed for good this time.

I just want closure, so I can live again.

Reasonable Question #3 — Are you saying you did nothing wrong? Is that why you wrote this Medium article? To broadcast your view that you did nothing wrong?

Heck no! I did almost everything wrong that I could have done wrong — even if I was trying to do the right thing.

I screwed up repeatedly, in the lead up to, during, and after, the SOUP Kickstart debacle.

And now, I get to own each of those screw ups and explore Why and How when I tried to do the right thing here or there did I end up messing up so badly? These are the moments where great opportunities to learn and grow are found. An that (learning and growing) is what I have been trying my best to do over the last two+ years I have been living the life of a hermit.

So, as someone who is always trying — always trying to do things bigger and better and cooler and more “AWSM” — I am also someone who screws up a lot. And unless you live in Silicon Valley, where the culture around screwing up is best summarized by Mark Zuckerberg’s infamous motto: “Move fast and break things…” there’s no way to screw up and still come out smelling like roses.

I did a lot of things wrong. I don’t want or expect anyone to read the corrections and context and updates I’m about to offer, AND see that I somehow did nothing wrong. I just wanted you to know the truth.

Reasonable Question #4 — Didn’t you write a book that included a lot of this stuff?

I did write a book that included a lot of this stuff, yes. However…

1 — The book is too long and covers much more than the SOUP stuff and generally isn’t organized in a way that allows it to serve as a quality rebuttal to the most widely read version of the SOUP Story — which makes sense since that’s not why I wrote my book.

2 — In the book, I beat-around-the-bush on a lot of things I am now willing to be much more direct and detailed about here on Medium.

3 — Most people who were in some way exposed to the SOUP Kickstarter project were exposed to it almost exclusively on through the Tribune’s reporting in print and online (and through local gossip and hearsay) — and the vast majority of people with some exposure to this storyline didn’t read the book OR didn’t read all of it.

3 — Stories are made up of two things: Facts and Thoughts… Fundamentally, Stories are thoughts about facts. And when I wrote that book, I was in a dark place — the darkest place of my life. When I chose to write that book, I was climbing out of deep depression, and I truly didn’t want to be “Me” anymore. At numerous moments around the time of writing that book, I considered suicide.

Thankfully, I never got past the first stage of feeling so desperate for release from the pain I was feeling. And the reason for that is almost exclusively because I realized that if I tried to escape what felt like Hell On Earth, it would mean being without (potentially for eternity) my daughter and my wife, and that would be truly unbearable Eternal Hell. So, apart from literal suicide, I tried to write a book that would destroy my Ego, my sense of who I was, because at that time I hated Me, the real me, the passionate optimist. I hoped my book would kill off that Pre-SOUP-Fiasco version of Me and codify a new way for me to Be.

Certainly, I hoped my book could be valuable to anyone who would read it, but I realize now — which I didn’t realize when I wrote it — quite how much pain and anger and spite and [insert additional ugly emotions here] I was feeling when I wrote it, or that my subconscious aim was to kill off whatever parts of me that I thought were to blame for getting me into this mess.

All of which is to say, my book includes facts and thoughts. But my thoughts, when I wrote the book, were dark and ugly and changed the way I looked at things as compared to now… And in the words of Wayne Dyer, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

However, while my mindset has gone through a significant transformation over the last year and has lead to a new/changed way I have come to think about these things, the facts have not; in that regard, the facts described in that book are still entirely consistent with the facts described here (even if my thoughts about the facts have changed).

How did my mindset change so fast? The short answer is that shortly after publishing that book, I began working with two professional development coaches that transformed my entire world-view, and helped give me eyes to see many things I missed in the heat of the SOUP Saga (before during and after) and before, during, and after writing my book.

You can read the book if you want, but to be blunt — a significant part of me hates that book.

That’s all for now.

However, if this post needs future updating, I may add more to it.

Accomplished public servant and former elected official turned civic & cultural commentator and consultant 🔗

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