erik Qualman.jpg
Erik Qualman wearing his signature specs.

‘Privacy Is Gone,’ Says Guy Wearing Bright-Green Glasses

“All of us have a digital stamp, a digital footprint, a digital shadow,” says Erik Qualman, a digital maven.

If you love your privacy, Erik Qualman has some bad news. “Privacy is gone,” he says. “We live in a post-privacy world.”

He is an author and motivational speaker. He also is billed as a digital leader, presumably a good position to hold in today’s world where commonplace things include tracking online consumer activity, interacting on Facebook and showing the real you on YouTube.

“All of us have a digital stamp, a digital footprint, a digital shadow,” Qualman says at a recent American Financial Services Assn.’s annual Vehicle Finance Conference where topics include data management in a digital world, machine learning and cybersecurity.

Qualman’s presentation is entitled “Making Sense of Digital Leadership.” He tries to keep it in perspective.

“Digital tools are not designed to replace face-to-face,” he says. “When used correctly, those tools can deepen relationships, especially when time and distance are an issue.”

But he adds: “Keep it simple. It’s not about adding stuff; it’s about taking it away.”

Qualman stands out because he wears eyeglasses with bright-green rims. He first donned those years ago for an offbeat photo shoot.

He decided he liked the look, but it has drawbacks. “I’ve lost some business because of it. Some people don’t take you seriously.” On the other hand, “I’ve gained more business because of the glasses.”

He’s from “a family of General Motors engineers.” His brief time in the auto industry was as an internship at Cadillac 27 years ago.

Technology constantly changes, “but human nature never does,” Qualman says. Accordingly, some of his advice is more practical than digital.

For example, as a self-described recovering multitasker, he recommends focusing on one thing at a time. “You’ll get more done. Switching tasks back and forth can reduce your IQ by 15 points. The brain is trying to decide what’s the priority.”

Other self-improvement tips:

  • “Take physical breaks every 20 minutes. Stand up. Look at a fixed object, like a tree or a sign. It works.”
  • “Write down the most important thing you want to do today.” That makes it easier to get it done.
  • “The No.1 reason we don’t act is because we are afraid to fail. Failure alone doesn’t make things better. Evaluated failure does. But that’s the hardest thing for an organization to do. Fail fast, fail forward, fail better.”

He’s written five books including “Digital Leader: 5 Simple Keys to Success and Influence.”

A couple of his other books deal with that passing of privacy: “What Happens on Campus Stays on YouTube” and “What Happens in Las Vegas Stays on YouTube.”

When he travels, he reads e-books, at home he prefers traditional books. “People read faster on paper,” he says. “Ninety percent of us still prefer to read that way. It’s why college kids carry backpacks filled with books.”          


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