Tag Archive: ACPEN Presenters

Five Things Jerry Seinfeld Teaches Us About The Art Of Great Conversation

Submitted by ACPEN presenter Dr. Bruce Weinstein, The Ethics Guy.

Thank you, Netflix, for releasing all at once the latest season of Jerry  Seinfeld’s essential series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The show pulls off the unusual feat of appealing to people who love automobiles, espresso, comedy or any combination of these.

Most of all, however, Jerry Seinfeld demonstrates the art of great conversation. Specifically, he does the following five things in the show that anyone interested in becoming a better leader would do well to heed.

Jerry Listens

A conversation is like a tennis game. In tennis, you hit the ball to your opponent, she or he then lobs it to you, and back and forth you go. In a conversation, you ask a question or make an observation, and then you stop and listen.

That’s how a conversation is supposed to go but too often does not. For many people (otherwise known as yakkers or crashing bores), the conversational metaphor is not a tennis game but a batting cage. They hurl ball after ball at you. You try to bat one back, but whether you do or not doesn’t matter, because the yakker has already prepared another ball to shoot at you.

Jerry Seinfeld uses the tennis metaphor. You rarely get the sense that when a guest on the show is speaking, Jerry is waiting for the next thing to say.

Converse like Jerry. Listen.

Jerry Looks

“She studied the lines in my face,” sings Bob Dylan in his breakup song, “Tangled Up in Blue.” Like that woman, Jerry Seinfeld studies the faces of every guest he has on the show. Unlike that woman, he’s not in the throes of a troubled relationship. No, Jerry studies faces because it’s life’s details that fascinate him and form the basis of all of his comedy.

I’ve never had the pleasure of speaking with Jerry one on one, and I’ll admit that I’d be a bit self-conscious. But none of the guests on the show appear to be bothered by Jerry’s attention to their faces. That’s because each guest is both a friend of Jerry’s and an observer of life too. It’s not a stretch to say that Jerry Seinfeld and all of his comedian friends are successful because of their attention to detail.

Converse like Jerry. Look.

Jerry Laughs

One of the intoxicating pleasures of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is the good-natured humor and ready laughs that permeate every episode. The lightness and airiness of the conversations make whatever professional or personal problem you’re dealing a little easier to bear. Yes, it’s that good. (That’s also a characteristic Larry David’s interactions with his real-life pals on Curb Your Enthusiasm, but a proper analysis of that marvelous show would require a separate column.)

I once remarked to a friend that Jerry’s laughter on Comedians sometimes feels forced. He will howl at something his guest says that hardly rates a 4, let alone a 9, on the Richter scale of comedy. “But that’s how friendships are,” my buddy replied. “Friends laugh at things others wouldn’t find amusing at all.” He was right.

We’ve all had conversations with people who regard their every utterance with deep reverence. I fear that I’m like that on occasion, and the show reminds me of the dangers of being this way.

Converse like Jerry. Laugh (some of the time).

Jerry Respects

There is no more touching example of how Jerry Seinfeld treats his guests with respect than the final episode of this season. Jerry Lewis is his guest, and the love and admiration Seinfeld has for the true king of comedy is evident in every moment of its twenty minutes.

Lewis appears fragile, and the episode must have been filmed not too long before he died. That makes it even more touching than it would have been already, and your eyes will be welling with tears by the end.

Seinfeld evinces the same respect with other legends of comedy who have been on the show: Don Rickles, Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks and among them. One can only imagine how amazing it would have been to see Jerry with Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, George Carlin or Richard Pryor.

Converse like Jerry. Show respect.

Jerry Exudes Confidence

As far as conversation partners go, a milquetoast is almost as bad as a cocky, arrogant fill-in-the-blank. Jerry Seinfeld is no milquetoast. He makes no bones about his unmatched success in both comedy and television. On a couple of occasions that level of confidence does become boastful, but when I observe that, I ask myself, “Who wouldn’t be guilty of braggadocio from time to time if they had Jerry’s level of achievement?”

Even Bruce Springsteen, whose leadership style I wrote about in a previous column, admits to hubris. As he told Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes:

I got as big an ego and enjoy the attention. My son has a word, he calls it ‘Attention Whore.’ But you have to be one of those or else why would you be up in front of thousands of people….”

Overall, Seinfeld’s degree of self-regard is absolutely right for the spirited conversations he has with his friends and colleagues.

Converse like Jerry. Believe in yourself.

The Bottom Line

On Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld makes you feel as though you’re right in that car with him and his esteemed guest. It’s not just because the show strategically uses GoPro cameras inside the vehicle. Seinfeld is a gifted conversationalist who shows what talk can be like when it’s done right: enlightening, engaging and just plain fun.

If you fancy yourself a leader, or simply want to be a better friend or colleague to someone, watch the show and follow suit.

Check Bruce’s availability to speak to your group on high-character leadership here.
And check out some of Bruce’s ACPEN courses here.

Kill Quill for a Fair Way Forward? The U.S. Supreme Court Reconsiders State Sales Tax Nexus Law in Summer 2018

This summer, it’s widely expected that the U.S. Supreme Court will overrule, distinguish, or substantially limit its 1992 decision holding that only sellers with a physical presence within a state are within reach of that state’s sales taxing authority. If the Court does depart from its longstanding, bright-line physical presence rule, it will spell major changes both for national online sellers and state economies, as billions of revenue dollars become accessible to state tax collectors and lawmakers scramble to implement a workable scheme for tax regulation in this context.

Quill Corp. v. North Dakota

In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, which struck down the North Dakota Supreme Court’s decision holding that the mail-order office supplier was required to collect and pay North Dakota use tax on its sales to roughly 3,000 customers within North Dakota. The Court held that a state may only impose tax obligations on a seller that is physically present within its borders. This physical presence includes employees, agents, or independent contractors working in the state, tangible personal property within the state (inventory, vehicles, or rented personal property), or a physical location there (an office, salesroom, distribution center, warehouse, or other place of business). The Court imposed the physical presence requirement to prevent state legislatures from creating unfair burdens on interstate commerce.

The landscape has changed since Quill: remote sales have exploded in volume due to the internet. Many argue that now brick-and-mortar, in-state sellers and state coffers are the ones that need protection. In the internet era, and in light of Congress’ failed efforts to address the issue, state legislators have chipped away at Quill by enacting so-called “Amazon laws,” named for the e-commerce giant they first sought to target. These include click-through, notice, affiliate, and economic nexus laws.

Click-Through Nexus

A “click-through nexus” law, like that of New York, requires an out-of-state seller to collect sales tax when the out-of-state seller pays a commission to an in-state company whose website allows customers to “click through” to the out-of-state-seller’s website and make purchases there. At least twenty states have enacted these so-called “click-through nexus” statutes.

Notice Laws

Notice laws are another type of Amazon law rolled out by states eager to reach and tax online sales dollars. Louisiana, for example, requires out-of-state sellers that do not collect and pay Louisiana use tax to notify their Louisiana customers that their purchases are subject to Louisiana use tax and provide each one with an annual notice containing the total amount the purchaser has paid that seller for property or taxable services in the preceding year. Similarly, the remote seller must file an annual statement for each Louisiana purchaser with the Louisiana Department of Revenue that includes the total amount paid by the purchaser to that seller for property or taxable services in the preceding year.

Affiliate Nexus Laws

Affiliate nexus laws treat the in-state physical presence of a related company as the physical presence of the seller when certain conditions are met. For example, Texas’ affiliate nexus applies when:

  • The out-of-state seller sells the same or similar product as the related company under the same or similar business name;
  • The out-of-state seller uses the related company’s Texas facilities or employees to advertise, promote, or facilitate the out-of-state seller’s sales;
  • The out-of-state seller uses the related company’s Texas facilities, or employees are used to perform any activity on the out-of-state seller’s behalf intended to establish or maintain a marketplace for the out-of-state seller in Texas, including receiving or exchanging returned merchandise; or
  • The related company maintains a distribution center or warehouse and delivers property sold by the out-of-state seller to customers.

Economic Nexus Laws

In 2005, Ohio became the first state to enact what is now termed an “economic nexus law.” Ohio’s law provides that any seller who makes over $500,000 in sales to Ohio purchasers is subject to Ohio’s sales tax laws. Other states have followed suit, drafting similar statutes with sales thresholds ranging from $500,000, to $10,000 to no threshold at all.

These and other Amazon laws are intended to bolster state use tax law enforcement, and some even provide for expedited and streamlined legal procedures for tax collection.

South Dakota v. Wayfair

Perhaps the most deliberate challenge to Quill is that of the South Dakota state legislature, which is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court in South Dakota v. Wayfair. South Dakota’s law requires sellers with no physical presence in South Dakota to collect and remit sales tax to the state when the seller’s gross revenue from sales to South Dakota residents total $100,000 or more through over 200 transactions. Before the law came into force in May 2017, South Dakota sent notice of lawsuit to the four largest out-of-state sellers that it believed would exceed the threshold and were not collecting sales taxes. Of those, Wayfair Inc., Overstock.com, Inc., and Newegg Inc. refused to comply. South Dakota filed suit, and the case made its way to the South Dakota Supreme Court, which ruled for the sellers against the state, citing Quill. The state filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which the U.S. Supreme Court granted. The U.S. Supreme Court announced in January that it would hear the case.

Many express doubt that the Supreme Court will overturn Quill in light of the political nature of the questions posed in South Dakota v. Wayfair, emphasizing that it is Congress’s job to police states’ infringement on interstate commerce and to develop a taxing scheme that brings the currently insurmountable task of nation-wide state and local sales tax compliance within reach for online sellers. However, it is also doubtful that the High Court would grant certiorari only to simply punt to Congress without further input or development of the issue.

In the absence of a final decision, online sellers face a dilemma: comply with state laws that are, on their face, unconstitutional at present, or defy those laws and risk the repercussions from state governments. Assuming the Court overturns Quill, online sellers’ exposure from failing to comply with state laws could be nominal or overwhelming, depending on whether states are allowed to, and do in fact apply their laws retrospectively.

The Supreme Court’s decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair is certain to cause ripple effects throughout the tax world. Doing away with the physical presence standard may raise issues regarding the calculation of Texas franchise tax obligations for combined entities with out-of-state members. Even if the Court declines to overturn Quill, state legislatures that have ignored the physical presence standard may have to enact laws to make up for the potential tax revenue lost. At the very least, the pressure on Congress to resolve this issue should reach its pinnacle.

Oral arguments are scheduled for April 17th, and a decision is expected by the end of the current term, in June.