Sunday, December 29, 2019

Figuring Out the 21st Century

There is so much work to be done here. The internet has blown up our brains. We're not able to just have our little subcultures anymore—there is an endless flow of critique brought to us by the web. "Here's 16 things you're doing completely wrong--#14 you need to stop immediately before you get CANCELLED."

Ah yes, this last decade brought us the threat of being Cancelled. Because of the internet everything you've ever done happened last week. No one would fire you for something you did 15 years ago, but if it's on the internet it's never going to feel like something you did 15 years ago. You're a bad person NOW.

I'm not actually wanting to cancel Cancel Culture—there's a lot I like about it. I like that men don't have as much free reign as they used to to say whatever they want without consequences (please know I'm exaggerating to make a point. No one has ever been fully free of consequence--but hopefully you'll allow that what men could say in the 1960s is radically different than what they could say in the 90s, and what they can say now).

But I don't like eternal judgement. We're weak creatures, and we're constantly evolving (sometimes devolving) and hopefully growing. Not all mistakes should be handled equally. If you don't recognize the world of difference between "I'm sorry IF I offended you," and "upon some self-reflection I can see how what I did was offensive, and I am sorry" then you and I are not on the same page. But YES, there is all the room in the world to talk about how there are different expectations and consequences depending on your racial/socio-economic status and I think you are RIGHT and I think that's NOT FAIR. 

I think we have a lot of work to do—and I firmly believe the work will never be done. But in no way does the latter cancel out the former. Let's keep at it.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Rumors Are True, You HAVE to Read This Book

I just read this piece of advice on how you should respond to complaints about your business. It's true, and it made me think of this book.

If you internalize this book you'll have a leg up on anyone you consider competition. So why would I share the secret and lessen my advantage? Alex Blumberg once said something like "the reason we're sharing our secret sauce [of creating successful podcasts] is because we know how much work it takes, and most people won't be willing to do it." Exactly. Reading the book is easy; practicing what it preaches is not necessarily so.

the advice: When responding to an offensive comment, never argue with the customer or appear condescending to him or her. This is an extremely counterproductive way to handle the situation.

The book:

The 90-10 Rule

One of the doctors that I work with said one of his professors in med school gave him the following advice. I think he mentioned this offhand about two years ago, and it's never far from my mind:

90% of people are going to love you and love what you do. 10% are not, and there's nothing you can do to ever please them. Don't worry about the 10%.

A thought just occurred to me: I can imagine a few people coming to me and saying, "yeah, well what if my ratio is more like 50/50, or 80/20, the other way?" I would say this—that means that you're probably an asshole. I would consider getting that looked at. But then again, there are some well-known assholes who are VERY productive and the choice is yours.

Being an asshole has never really worked for me. I'm not very good at it.

You Know More Than You Think

The other day I heard someone regarded as a genius say that, in general, they feel like they know almost nothing as they are going about their day to day life.

As in, if you're not doing something on a daily basis, you're not going to be very familiar with it. You may have learned a ton in school, but if you didn't use it this week, you're going to have to recover and dust off that knowledge.

This made me feel better because I feel this way all the time. Up until now I thought that I was just less-than, that my brain didn't work real too good, that I wasn't good at remembering things and applying my knowledge.

Oh, I suspected that life & the brain worked this way, that it wasn't really my fault that I couldn't remember all the things that I have learned—but I'm an insecure little dolt, so I needed a genius to go before me and tell me it was ok.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Who Are You Going To Be?

Just have fun in here--what other choice do you have?

I’ve always suffered from delusions of grandeur. Probably most people who suffer from this end up transforming themselves into rockstars. I, on the other hand, am a very low performing delusionist, so I have moldered in ignominy while others have striven and grasped the brass ring.

Since childhood I assumed I was going to be famous. It was just a matter of reverse engineering the process to find out how I was going to get there. Engaging the birthright of becoming famous was difficult because it was like this--if it’s a forgone conclusion that I will be discovered, every step is treacherous because there is only one path that leads to your discovery and fortune. Your job is as much, if not more so, to find that buried line you are destined to walk along, than to develop yourself into the person that earns it in the first place.

My 20s were one big creative block. So terrified was I to put anything down on a page that wasn’t worthy of a Pulitzer or an Oscar or a fat advance and a five book contract.

My 30s are almost done, and those were consumed by kid duties and that little business known as SURVIVAL. (Yes, yes, and Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones, and lawn maintenance.)

I suspect I am not that unique in my experience as an American child. Our great sin is Vanity, as it profits incredibly well. And that’s what we’re about. Dollars. A dollar is the American coat of arms. It’s vain and empty, but also sexy, haunting and, well, tough to shake. I shouldn’t be ignorant enough to think that I can rise above it, but it would be nice to wake up enough to laugh at it.

I have a new tack I’m thinking of taking. It’s called Relax. Just chill. The bills are (mostly) paid. People don’t tend to “get discovered” if they haven’t already been discovered by their 40s, so you can relax. Just have fun with the thing. And I can also now face the monster--there’s not anything I’ve done, so far, that’s worth discovering. But even if I were to be--that discovery is not all it’s been made out to be. It’s mostly empty, like just about everything we are sold in this god-blessed, god-forsaken but occasionally beautiful social experiment of a nation.

The person who doesn’t need to win is more dangerous than the person who does.

Maybe it messes us up to think of “what we’re going to be” when we grow up. Because no one says the garbage man, the accountant, the middle manager, the buyer for the local hospital. Maybe we should think of Who we’re going to be. Who are you going to be when you grow up? Are you going to be someone kind, interesting, creative, helpful, adventurous? The “career” model has been mostly disrupted--it’s no longer a comprehensible thing. We grow up to have 10 careers, now. We are parents, influencers, cubicle crusaders, geeks slave to this scene or that, gig aficionados, and photographers (47% of the Millennial population are now confirmed aspiring, professional, or semi-professional photographers). We are entrepreneurs who pay too much for healthcare and have to constantly innovate because the machines are coming for our jobs.

Lately I’ve taken to drawing graphs and diagrams to give myself some sanity. I drew one that shows the amount of work one can accomplish, and it starts at quality, and goes all the way to an extreme amount of quantity. Quality drops off along the continuum as it stretches to the right. So just pick where you want to be. Pick what works for you.

The other one that is giving me strength is this--

I draw a vertical line, which represents the human population. The top 2% are the geniuses--your Einsteins, Disneys, Michaelangelos and Shakespeares. They are untouchable. You’re never going to get there. Kiss it goodbye. But there’s this middle third on the vertical line, and that’s us. It’s your middle managers, your garbagemen, custodians, comedians, Hollywood directors, authors and entrepreneurs. It might come easier to some, but the thing that defines them all is that they had to put in the work. Some are at the lower end of the spectrum, so they had to work harder. Of course luck is always in play, and don’t you ever forget it. But there’s nothing you can do about that, so all I can really do is focus on the work. It might be a little, it might be a lot, but what does that matter; it’s my story, and it will be whatever it’s going to be. Amen.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Thoughts on the Hellscape that is Trump's America at the Beginning of 2019

I had been wanting to say something, but then I spoke with someone today who's wife is a federal worker today, and that was enough to push me over the edge. She's a lawyer for the Dept of Homeland Security, and she's considered essential personnel, so she's been working now for 5 weeks without pay. Bills are piling up for their family and they have no idea what they are going to do. He was keeping his chin up, but I could feel the fear and the desperation just under the surface. It made me want to cry. It made me want to scream.

What is happening in this country is deeply fucked up. I cannot believe that I have to say that it is immoral, sick and evil to be playing chicken with two million people's lives because you are afraid of Ann Coulter and you're throwing a baby fit to make a little progress on a campaign promise. This isn't politics--this is an authoritarian narcissist who truly doesn't give a shit about the misery he is inflicting on federal workers, those trying to claim asylum, etc. The word for someone who has that much power, and who cares that little for the effects of the wielding of that power, is "monster."

It is immoral and wrong to make a promise to someone (in the form of a job) and then pull the rug out from under them like this. For every president in the history of this country it has not been an option (to let it go this long, every day the consequences of the decision worsening the well-being of this country). Trump is betraying his obligation to lead and protect this country. Trump has been a conman that could be spotted from 1,000 yards his whole career. We are getting no "art of the deal" here. But if you STILL think he is an upright, competent, effective businessman and politician--God help you. And to all of those who still support him, I say shame on you for aiding and abetting the horror he is inflicting on this country.

I know I've offended some with these words and insinuations; I hold no ill will against you, but I stand by them. If silence equals consent, and if all it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing, then apparently I should be doing and saying things when my conscience is offended. So should you.