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How to Survive Cancel Culture with Wesley Donehue

George Grombacher October 13, 2022

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How to Survive Cancel Culture with Wesley Donehue

LifeBlood: We talked about how to survive cancel culture, why everyone should be prepared to deal with it, how to respond when it happens, and whether or not it’s a temporary phenomenon, with Wesley Donehue, political and business consultant, and entrepreneur. 

Listen to learn why the proper mindset is essential to surviving cancel culture!

You can learn more about Wesley at, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher


Wesley Donehue

Episode Transcript

what’s up this is George G and the time is right welcome today’s guest strong and powerful Wesley Donohue Wesley. Are you ready to do this? I am ready. Let’s roll. All right let’s go was the is a sorceress supreme of political campaigns issue advocacy and corporate brand reputation. He’s worked with Senator Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Trey Gowdy, his newest book is under fire 13 rules for surviving Kancil culture. Wesley excited to have you on tell us a little bit about your personal life more about your work, why you do what you do. Man, wouldn’t that take up like the whole 20 minutes answer? Just that question alone, right? Personal life 42 years old, I live in Charleston, South Carolina with my wife of 17 years and our three little boys 356 just turned six last week, three, six and eight. So live in quite the chaotic life man, serial entrepreneur, I own a political consulting firm as well as a corporate brand reputation firm, which is what the books about and in my spare time I’m an endurance athlete. So I spend the weekends trying to beat myself up as much as possible. That’s that’s kind of me in a nutshell. I like it. Three, six, and eight get to two boys will be six and through next month. So we’ll have to compare notes. But

Unknown Speaker 1:35
don’t shoot that kale. Crazy love the third one, but it’s chaos.

Unknown Speaker 1:40
All right. So what what what inspired you to write the book?

Unknown Speaker 1:45
So I’m canceled culture is getting kind of crazy in America right now. And

Unknown Speaker 1:52
you know, at the beginning, it started at a high level, you know, celebrities, politicians, corporations, but you know, that is what it is those people always are going to have a target on their backs, they get to that level kind of expecting it, they’ve gotten to that level kind of already enduring some some rough things in life, right. But when it got down to like, the normal person, I thought that was a big problem that needed to be addressed. When I say normal people I’m talking about like, small business owner, like, you see a lot of restaurant owners got stumbling into trouble retail owners, you know, they got all the way to Supreme Court, like a guy that bake cakes. You see a lot of things with teachers, principals, police officers, you know, other first responders. And these are people that don’t know how to deal with crisis communications or public relations. That’s just not what they do. And then they’re finding themselves on the front page of local newspapers or even Fox News and CNN and like I said, the cake guy, I mean, global news, right? So I wrote a book that is applicable to that high level, you know, those celebrities, but really, for the guys, you know, down at the bottom, who just have no idea what they found themselves in?

Unknown Speaker 3:06
Yeah, well, what a terrifying experience to have the mob show up at front of your business or your house with the pitchforks and the burning torches. Yeah, it really is, man. And I can tell you, I’ve dealt with this with, you know, big corporations like SeaWorld, and I tell the SeaWorld story in the book. And we could talk about that a little bit. I dealt with this with US senators, but honestly, you know, as a public relations expert, I never thought I’d find myself in this situation. But lo and behold, I did got into a Twitter argument went viral a, a certain part of the populace decided to boycott I own a brewery here in town to I said, I was a serial entrepreneur, I had, you know, a staff walk out, I was on the local newspaper for three days in a row. And I tell you, it’s a very tough emotional situation to go through. When these people are coming after your livelihood when they’re commenting on your wife’s Instagram pictures and making fun of the way she dresses your kids and, you know, having your wife cry herself to sleep and you wondering if your business is going to go out of business. And if you’re going to be able to keep your employees employed. And I’d say it’s a very emotional thing to go through. And people don’t realize this. Because, you know, we’ve gotten this part in America where people are gonna yell at these, these people on the internet that didn’t have to look in their faces, right? They’re not, they’re not really human beings. They’re just names on a computer. And it’s created this environment, this divisive pneus in America, that’s gotten pretty bad man.

Unknown Speaker 4:31
That was what I wanted to ask you. Is this a change in in humans in just humanity? Is it that technology has has changed the way that we’re communicating? Is it a little bit of everything? Yeah, you know, I always say I like tell the story of I created one of the first Republican digital agencies in the country. And as an early adopter, I used to sit on all these Facebook and Google panels. They’d fly us all over the country and suddenly these panels, and I would talk about how the internet we had all of human knowledge

Unknown Speaker 5:00
Elijah in our fingertips and we were able to communicate with anybody in the world and through the internet, we were going to tap into the best of humanity and solve all of mankind’s problems. And then, could I have not been any more naive, you know, 1520 years ago, because now he’s just the opposite, right? It’s actually tapped into the worst of mankind. And it’s really become a place like Twitter. You don’t go to Twitter to debate an issue or to talk about an issue. You go to Twitter to yell at people and to demonize them and call each other names. I mean, look no further than the abortion debate right now. Right? You are either one of two things on the internet, you you want to kill babies, or you hate women. And there’s nothing in between. There’s no nuance in between, there is no logical debate. The people that are pro life, want to yell baby killer at the pro choice, there’s in the pro choice, there’s wanna yell, what you want to enslave women, you know, Handmaid’s Tale, and they just want to throw these these names back at each other man, and it’s gotten really bad.

Unknown Speaker 6:04
And all we’re told is that we’re supposed to live ourselves live, live our authentic lives and live by our values. And part of that will be communicating those values. But if I run afoul of whatever popular narrative, or just, if I’m on one side, the other half is going to be mad, no matter what I probably say. So how, how do we reconcile that? How do you think about that? Stay off the internet? I, you know, I? That’s a very hard question to answer, because I read all the self help books, too. I mean, I read 100 books a year and at least 2025 of these the same self help books that you read, right. And you know, it’s always be your authentic self, and be transparent, and you be you. And you can’t be you anymore, because people expect you to be a programmed robot, who’s always saying the right thing. And the truth is, we’re all just humans going through human experiences. And as humans, we screw up, like, for what we say things that we think are funny, that might not be funny, or we might say something that’s offensive to someone. And

Unknown Speaker 7:13
we can’t just watch every thought that comes through our mind or every word that comes through our mouths. But what I say, to answer your question is just just know, when you go on the internet, you do have a moment to pause before you type. It’s not like a conversation, like you and I are having right now where you’re asking me a question, I have to immediately respond. I don’t have five minutes to sit here and come up with an answer, right? Because we’re, you got 20 minutes on a podcast, we got to get the question and answer out. But when you’re on the internet, you have the ability to just look, just take a break. And let’s think, is this this? Is this gonna get me in trouble?

Unknown Speaker 7:50
Yeah, to take that pause, maybe even sleep on it. But we need quick response times, especially on a platform like Twitter. It’s fascinating. My kids watch a show called Daniel Tiger, right. And he, you know, when you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.

Unknown Speaker 8:07
I mean, kids learn that at two years old, three years old, and think adults have forgotten that they just get angry and just start yelling at each other. And instead of debating an issue with facts and logic, the immediate response is to start calling each other names.

Unknown Speaker 8:24
And that’s, that’s what’s caused this is what’s caused this divisive pneus in America. And when people forgot that we’re Americans were either, you know, conservative, or liberal Republicans or Democrats, there’s no nuance, there’s nobody in the middle. And because of that, it’s created this canceled culture. And you know, as a Republican, everybody on my side likes to blame the liberals and you hear about the wokeness. But it’s comes from both sides, man. I mean, I can actually make an argument that 20 years ago, when I was sitting in church, people, you know, conservatives will say, well go boycott this business, because what they think is anti Christian. Well, that actually was probably the beginning of what we now know as canceled culture probably started from the right now the left might dominate it now with some of this woke talk. But it comes from both sides, man, nobody wants to talk to each other right now. And it gets a lot of people in trouble, which is why I wrote the book. Because when you find yourself in these kinds of crises, the ultimate problem is the mob as you called it, they don’t want to just silence you. They want to literally cancel you from existence. They want to make sure you get fired from your job or your business gets shut down and you can never work again and you are labeled, not as wrong on an issue, but as a bad human being. And that’s what’s so horrible about this just because we disagree and I don’t know what your political leanings are. But if you’re a liberal, I’m not going to hate you just because you’re a liberal. I’m not gonna start calling you name just because you’re a liberal. We can disagree on facts and go get drunk together afterward.

Unknown Speaker 9:54
Amen. So I

Unknown Speaker 9:57
it’s a fascinating thing where you look at

Unknown Speaker 10:00
It was what’s going on in the world, you say, You know what it feels like the internet is not real. Twitter’s not a real place. And you had employees walk out of a business, you had people protesting, you had people going on and harassing your loved ones on social media. So it is, you know, a very, very real thing that is happening to very real people. Head, Georgia had a friend who’s got a restaurant here in Charleston, who’s had to fire an African American employee, and that employee went all over Yelp and Google reviews, and I was fired for this reason, they’re racist, you should not go to this place to racist business. And you know, next thing, you know, you got 100, bad Google and Yelp reviews. And you forget that this is just a business owner, that wasn’t why the person was fired. And that business owner has other employees that are impacted by these comments, too. And that person is just trying to pay the bills. And if you’re a restaurant owner, unless you own like a big chain, like Godfrey, airy or something, most of the guys are just making enough money to pay the bills. You know, these aren’t rich people. They’re just trying to make payroll just trying to pay the mortgage or pay the rent. But these people don’t care, man, they just want to shut you down.

Unknown Speaker 11:17
So the framework and 13 rules. Tell us how I mean, it’s it’s a huge topic. And you come from this experience of, of, you know, cutthroat Well, political campaigns, which I think we all perceive to be very cuts

Unknown Speaker 11:33
and practical business experience. And and you are human being. So how did you grab a hold of the problem and boiled down to these rules? Yeah, so you know, we’re in the middle of campaign season. Right now, we’re doing a number of US senators, including Herschel Walker in Georgia, and through all these US senators, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, Cindy Hyde Smith, and more congress people than I can even count, we’ve encountered so much of this that we started, it becomes like daily routine for us. And then we started helping corporations, like SeaWorld were the company that came in and saved them after the Blackfish documentary. And eventually, it was like, alright, this stuff that we writing a book is actually kind of hard, by the way, because this stuff just becomes daily habit. And you just know it intuitively, getting it written down on paper is actually not as easy as it would seem. So, you know, after whiteboarding it out for a couple months, I really started with the SeaWorld story, and try to take what’s this one instance that we did everything, right? Because by the way, I don’t want to ever be one of those guys that says, I do everything right, because we’ve totally screwed up in the past. SeaWorld is an instance where I felt like we did every single thing, right? How can we take that story? And then break it down? And in these specific rules? And then how can those rules also apply to like a small business person? Or a teacher? Right? Like, not just for other corporations? How can that apply to the normal person and their everyday life? I like it. And do you have a favorite? Or is the rule number one, I think you know what my favorite rule is actually the first rule, and which is a weird one, because people typically wouldn’t expect it to be in a public relations book. And it’s all about mental toughness. Because what I have learned is, in almost every situation, the Mentally strong people, the people that are able to see the forest through the trees, the people that are able to respond with logic, those people typically succeed, mentally weak, people always dig, dig, dig, dig, dig in, the hole just keeps did, the hole just keeps getting deeper and they can’t get out of it. Could they’re responding with emotions. And this, this crisis hits and I think they just got to go on Twitter and explain themselves away. And that just gets them in even more trouble. So the first chapter is all about how every single one of us should be trying to develop mental strength and anti fragility before a crisis occurs. And by the way, this isn’t just a political or a PR thing. Every one of us as humans are going to go through something really crappy in our lives, right? Every one of us, I mean, we might get cancer, our spouse might get cancer, we might get a divorce, we might get in a bad car wreck, parents might die, parents will die. Whatever it is, each one of us are going to go through something really bad life. And people that have been able to as David Goggin says in his really great book callous the mind are typically able to survive those kinds of things. And the same thing comes true when it comes to public relations. And I can give you numerous examples of like Governor Mark Sanford here in South Carolina who was caught, you know, hiking the Appalachian Trail but was really with his mistress. And then when he got back just made things worse and worse and worse and worse because he couldn’t control his emotions. And it’s those CEOs it’s those politicians, so celebrities and small business people that are mentally strong, that are able to respond appropriately and logically. You have to do that before you

Unknown Speaker 15:00
any of the other 12 rules even apply, because I tried to give advice to a CEO for the other 12 rules because he was so mentally weak, he couldn’t control his own emotions and the other 12 rules, I couldn’t even get to him because he just kept making the problems worse.

Unknown Speaker 15:14
So it makes that makes perfect sense. So being able to, is it a function of being able to detach from the situation? I think so. And that’s actually another chapter to about having a team in place. Because, you know, a lot of times, you’re so close to the situation that you can’t see what’s really happening. And one of two things can occur, you could think it’s not a big thing at all, when actually the whole world is burning down around you. And a lot of times just the opposite, where you think the world’s falling apart, but really, nobody’s paying attention to this thing. You’re just really too close to it. So it’s very important to have a team in place around you, that’s not you, to help you respond you. This is a very important rule, you are not the best person to respond to your crisis, you need outside help, because typically, you’re just too close to it. But going back to that first rule about mental toughness, you have to be mentally tough to even recognize that, that you need someone else because you’re just going to be freaking out and you’re not able to even think Well, I can’t do this myself, I need someone else. But I talk a lot about you know, I started this by saying I’m an endurance athlete, you know, one thing I would do and recommend to everybody is just do really hard things in life. You know, get comfortable being uncomfortable. Don’t be one of these people that just sits in front of the TV all day and lives a very comfortable life. For me that’s running. You know, I’m literally sitting here in a boot because I tried to run 100 miles and I broke my foot on mile 71 Didn’t make it do an Ironman doing really hard things. Maybe that’s taking cold showers, I hate the cold, take cold showers, meditate daily read stoicism, you know, any these kinds of things that teach your brain to not freak out when things get tough?

Unknown Speaker 16:59
I love it. Not how you broke your foot on mile 71? Because it’s pretty crappy. Especially as the weather’s getting cooler now and I just want to go run and I can’t right, right, right. Is this? Is this a phenomenon that’s going to pass? Or is it do you think it’s gonna get way worse before it gets better? In now, that is such a great question. And I never really know how to answer it.

Unknown Speaker 17:24
Let me say this. I first let me just one reason I believe this is happening is because America has had it a little too good lately. And I hate to say that because we want prosperous times. But when it’s an issue of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, right when when you have your basic needs met, and I’m gonna I’m a welfare kid, I grew up on welfare, and Section Eight housing single mom.

Unknown Speaker 17:48
My My story is in the book, but it’s not the best, great place. And I can tell you, whatever you’re worried about how to feed your kids, or how to pay the rent. You don’t care what some celebrity tweeted last night, you don’t care what Joe Rogan or Dave Chappelle said, Okay, what’s happening is now our basic needs are met. And then you go up, you know, our safeties, okay. And then most of us have comfort. So what’s happening is we’re worried about really stupid shit. Because we all have it so great. And if we head into a depression or recession, which I really don’t want, it might actually solve the problem, people start having real things to worry about. I promise you, if you’re in the Ukraine, and you’re worried about Russia invading your country, or your apartment complex getting bombed, you’re probably not worried about what Joe Rogan said in his podcast, right? Well, America hasn’t so good that we worry about just dumb things. So I really think the only way to fix the problem is for America to go into a bad place, which I don’t want. But that might be the only thing that solves this. If not, I just see it getting worse and worse and worse for a while to

Unknown Speaker 18:55
complete completely agree. I look around, think about how out of whack our priorities are the things that we spend our time and our attention on.

Unknown Speaker 19:04
Don’t make sense. I mean, we just sit in front of a phone all day to so concern what these people are saying like really is that you know, your life is good. firstworldproblems when that’s what you’re worried about.

Unknown Speaker 19:19
You need to go out there and start running so you can run 100 miles in a row. All right.

Unknown Speaker 19:27
do hard things though. I think that that is I think that that’s excellent advice. Was the thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage and we’re going to pick up a copy of under fire 13 rules for surviving Kancil culture. Yeah, you learn about me at Wesley you can engage with me mostly on Instagram. That’s where I play the hardest and not on Twitter. And the book does find us on Amazon under fire Wesley Donahue and I’d love for you guys check it out. It might help you. Excellent. Well if you enjoyed as much as I did, shall Wesley your appreciation and share

Unknown Speaker 20:00
On today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to Wesley That’s w

Unknown Speaker 20:09
e SLEYDONEHU Find him on Instagram and pick up a copy of under fire 13 rules for surviving canceled culture on Amazon and we’ll list all those in the notes of the show. Thanks Ken Wesley. Thanks. And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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