I'm obsessed with pop culture: Music, movies, literature, celebrities, etc. I tackle a variety of subjects, and I'm not afraid to draw strange comparisons.
About me: Born and raised in Orlando. Vanderbilt grad. Loves people, dancing, discussing, yoga, and napping.
If you want to get in touch, follow me on Twitter @elizrissman. Elizabeth Rissman's Blog by Elizabeth Rissman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
We have all used, yours truly included, buzzwords at one time or another. These zingy, fashionable tidbits of popular vernacular describe big ideas in business, but not necessarily how to accomplish them. They drive me crazy, because they are in their least harmful state the building blocks of annoying corporate speak, and in their most extreme cases, failure.
If you’re not sure what I’m talking about (but, if you work in corporate America, I think it’s highly probable that you do), I encourage you to watch the following video for some prime examples of these dubious phrases. In the latest promo for their new marketing platform, software juggernaut Adobe pokes fun at the advertising industry’s increasing inability to sidestep hard questions through buzzwords, a tactic utilized since, well, the beginning of the industry itself. To these marketers, Adobe proudly proclaims, “We’re onto you.”
How many times have you wanted to falcon punch (or just electrocute a little) a buzzword user during a meeting? Deliciously speaking to that sentiment, the takeaway from the Adobe Marketing Cloud commercial is clear: The person who uses buzzwords is either attempting to a) mask their own ineptitude or b) impress or distract the audience with purposely abstract terminology.
The trouble with buzzwords is that they sound good without really saying anything. In a corporate world where employees from entry level to top leadership are grasping for straws in attempt to define meaningful goals and unique concepts, sounding like you know what you’re talking about is one of the only weapons left in the arsenal.
Buzzwords, however, create more confusion than they do clarity.
I’ve sat in numerous meetings where terms such as “shifting paradigms,” “halo effect,” and “integrating cross-functional strategies” are thrown around with the frequency of insults on a reality TV show. While these words are impressive in a sense because they hint at concepts that are original or trendy, people rarely understand them.
What ensues is a massive failure to communicate. Staff members (and clients) don’t ask for clarification on nebulous terminology because they’re too afraid of being judged by their peers. The consequences, however, are numerous and rarely pleasant, as unclear, muddled objectives result in project discord.
This begs the question: What purpose do these fancy buzzwords serve if no one knows what’s actually going on?
Writers like Malcolm Gladwell and Steven Johnson don’t talk over their readers, but they don’t dumb down their messages for them either. They weave encyclopedic, though accessible, vocabulary with rich story-telling, illustrating each point until it’s cleanly defined but not further. Their writing is simultaneously intellectual and warm, communicating to the reader as if they were their smartest friend talking over a “let’s catch up” beer.
Buzzwords are easy, but they’re a trap, a crime that’s almost too tantalizing not to commit. In his essay, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell warns writers of the dangers of idioms and popular, preconceived language. According to Orwell, the laziness and convenience of using buzzwords inevitably stifles original ideas. Unsurprisingly, because it’s Orwell, the theme quickly culminates in thought control through propaganda, but the following quote sums up what I’m trying to intimate:
“This invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases…can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.”
Communication should be like a highly usable website layout, simultaneously describing objectives in simplistic, easily navigable ways while thoughtfully engaging the recipient. This is obviously much easier said than done, and something I continuously work to improve, but is the end to which we should all strive.
Let me close with these analogies: Apple products aren’t popular because they’re complicated; they’re popular because they embrace intuitiveness and simplicity. Helvetica isn’t necessarily a better font, but it’s a lot easier to understand than calligraphy.
The next time you ask someone to “circle back” or go for “low-hanging fruit,” ask yourself, “Do I even understand what I’m saying?”
My brain feels like a hazed frenzy of constantly inundated status updates and tweets. The culprit? Social media and the Internet at large. If we could only streamline some of the extraneous information that is simply irrelevant to us. Enter three social media options I wish were real.
Political filter on Facebook
I’m really glad every four years people pretend to care who their next president is because they love complaining, but for the love of bald eagles and monster trucks, I’m really tired of hearing about it.
“My opinions are facts!”
I grow more and more apathetic about our country’s political situation with each passing year. While I plan to vote in November (perhaps by tossing a coin, because, why not), bi-partisanship in Washington fosters a climate that is continuously adversarial devoid of resolving real challenges. Both parties seem infinitely more interested in undermining each other rather than fixing our country’s issues. And as a country, we have issues. Big time.
I feel discussing political opinions on social media is perpetuating this environment of animosity. You know why? Because people don’t change. They especially aren’t going to change when they read it on Facebook.
Or to sum it all up, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Group hug now?
Tasty treats filter on Pinterest
I recently lost 30 pounds. Hooray. While I consider losing this weight a huge personal accomplishment, keeping it off is another demon within itself. Because I have the tendency to eat my feelings when I have a bad day, I feel that it would be in the best interest to myself and America’s growing obesity epidemic to institute a filter tasty treats option on Pinterest.
You know who eats this stuff? Probably no. Because they can’t effectively leave their houses.
Cookies and cream Oreo bark? Glazed donut holes dipped in Nutella with chocolate sprinkles? Pinterest, you cruel enabler. You Mephistopheles of delectable delights. How am I not supposed to become hungry when everything in my Pinterest Newsfeed is another way to bring on gleeful heart failure? Health crazies, I don’t want to eat your lame organic cookies either. If I’m going to have a cookie, I’m going to have one that is freaking delicious. But generally, I should just stay away from cookies just as a drug addict should stay away from methamphetamine.
Bot vaporizer on Twitter
You receive an email saying you have a new follower on Twitter. ZOMG! Yes, people think I’m interesting! Maybe they want to read my blog, the blog you are reading as we currently speak! Happy dance—commence!
And then the crippling disappointment. No, I don’t want to follow back your fake marketing company. Smoking hot babe from Russia, I know your game. It’s not just us normal people who are plagued by Twitter bots. Forbes recently ran a story which referenced a study analyzing the presidential candidates’ social media. It is estimated 29.9% of Barack Obama’s followers are bots. Mitt Romney’s Twitter base is estimated to be comprised of 21.9% fake people. If these services are supposed to be fostering connections between real people and galvanizing political activism, this is an epic fail.
Dear “Maralyn”…I’d tell you to go die in fire, but you’re not even real.
Twitter, I’m not sure how to stop this game of lies, but bots are literally the most annoying aspect of using your service. In an age of limitless access there are people looking to take advantage of new markets. I get it. It is the sketchy marketing person’s inalienable right. I just wish all these profiles would be instantly vaporized or stop following me so I can form some charade of legitimacy. That I’ll do on my own terms.
What’s your social media pet peeve? Let me know in a comment or tweet me at @elizrissman. Only real people may apply.
It’s official: We are in the throws of a wet, hot American summer. It’s hard not to feel a sense of patriotism during the summer months because between Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day, we have a holiday celebrating American-ness about every 4 to 6 weeks.
I am proud to be an American. That’s not to say that I am blissfully ignorant of our many faults. America, in a sense, is a flawed protagonist: The Don Draper. The Great Gatsby. The Dr. Faustus. The Icarus with wax wings that we can’t wait to melt because we love blowing stuff up.
This is a t-shirt I bought from LOLmart. Bud Light and denim cutoffs not included.
We are a nation desperately clinging to a frontier spirit with tactics which at sometimes are downright Machiavellian.
I remember mornings at Windermere Elementary School where instead of the underwhelming Star Spangled Banner, they would play “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood. You want to know how to get a room of 25 8-year-olds completely amped? Play “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood. If you had given us a gallon of Pepsi and put then put us at a Wiggles concert, you would have not see such fervor.
We miss those times, in a way, when our devotion for our great country is pure and untainted. Growing up, we are given this whimsical image of what America is: The colonialists who fought for freedom against a tyrannical, oppressive government. This image is inevitably shattered when we learn we were just attempting to avoid paying taxes on the French and Indian War, which resulted in a resounding “WTF?” from the British.
When I was 21, I rode on a plane from California to Florida and was fortunate enough to have a window seat. What proceeded in front of my eyes was a geological metamorphosis: The hills of California, the majestic peaks of the Rockies, the expansive Great Plains, and the lush forests of the Southeast. You realize America is just as diverse in our population as we are in our geographical features.
And that’s when the controversy sets in.
Different people have different needs.
Freedom means different things to different people. To some, it means freedom from government oppression. To others, it means the freedom to be left alone.
For a country founded as a result of escaping intolerance, we are not really all that tolerant. To put it mildly, we weren’t very nice to black people. We weren’t very nice to people of color in general. Want to learn something depressing? According to A People’s History of the United States, 75 million Native Americans lived in the continental United States before the time of Columbus. Now it’s closer to 5 million.
We’ve marginalized the Native American population to such an extent, their story is barely even being told. The narrative between whites and blacks is still very active, though far from resolved, especially as seen from someone who lives in the South like myself. The fact we have a black president intensifies this narrative. And in addition, the controversy behind undocumented workers/illegal immigrants from Mexico and Latin America continues to be a point of national contention. Also, if you’re gay, Muslim, or disabled…well, you already know.
For a country built for people with differences, we aren’t very nice to people who are actually different. So how do we all play nice in the sandbox?
At the risk of oversimplification, I want to say as in many dysfunctional relationships, you get through it. If you think your spouse or significant other is perfect, you’re wrong. No one is. Neither is America. You have to collectively come to terms with the past, which we as a country have not, and move on to make something even better.
As a country, we are extremely emotional. We feel deeply about our causes, whether it is religion or the environment or equality or access to medical coverage. Every controversy is met with people who believe in the American spirit in the mindset that your opinions count because this country is made not by oppressive dictators, but by the people. For the people, by the people, if we are being specific.
Like many people growing up in America, America itself has had a bad childhood. How do we make sense of it all so that we can move on? Our beacon of hope in the distance is the idea of what America is and what it can be. It’s the Americans who discovered the frontier, who built the first computer. It’s the spirit of brotherhood that emerged from the aftermath of 9/11, the day we all became New Yorkers. It’s because even on the doorstep of economic and political meltdown, we still think we’re the baddest mothers in the game.
Are our problems complex? Hell, yeah. Can we get through it? I think we can. We may have to evolve, but America, particularly the American Spirit, has the power to transcend and triumph.
Season 5 of Mad Men has many recurring themes, but the one I think is most interesting is: What happens when your actions catch up with you?” This theme is a great addition to another recurring Mad Men theme, “What happens when success isn’t enough?”
This is what I call the epitome of #whitepeopleproblems. It’s not the problems that come from having too little. It’s the problems that come from having too much. (For incredible commentary by the cast and creator Matt Weiner, here’s the link to AMC’s website.)
Don Draper should get a Lifetime Achievement Award in the “Broken Man, Haunted Past” category because he just makes it look so good.
Season 5 of Mad Men concludes with an iconic outro of Don strutting into a bar smoking a cigarette, the embodiment of mysterious cool. A beautiful, young woman approaches him almost instantly to ask if he’s alone. Don Draper looks up from his drink with a witheringly sexy look, and then the show ends.
What would Don Draper do? We’ll find out next season, but there’s an excitement that the old Don is back, even though the old Don is a womanizing, alcoholic megalomaniac. But he is, undeniably, the womanizing, alcoholic megalomaniac every woman wants to love and every man wants to be.
It is a montage of the old Don Draper, the characterization of which has been conspiculously absent in Season 5 and gets fans of the show’s pulses racing. When discussing this current season with my brother via text message, he wrote, “Why is Don so lame now?” A question many Mad Men fans have been asking themselves.
This season, Don is a newlywed again when he marries his office sweetheart, Megan. Don has been notoriously distracted in Season 5 because he’s been happy in his new marriage to Megan. But as his marriage to his beautiful but free-spirited young wife starts to crack, Don starts to gravitate back to his “old-fashioned” ways: Ordering old fashions and looking cool in bars while (not even trying to) pick up women.
Happy Don doesn’t have his edge, but Happy Don is doomed to be short lived. While Don thought he was doing good by being transparent about his dark past with Megan, unlike in his marriage to Betty, he still hasn’t really dealt with it. Deep down Don is sabotaging himself. His inability to deal with his dark past and disregard for others emotions is what made him cool. It lit the fire, especially creatively for him. It’s why Mad Men fans fell in love with him. He is, for most people, the guy they’ll never have, or the guy they’ll never be.
Spoiler alert: Lane Pryce, the loyal yet foppish British office manager at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price hangs himself in his office in the second to last episode of Season 5. Don feels an immense amount of guilt because deep down he fears that Lane’s extreme actions are the result of Don demanding Lane’s resignation after Lane embezzles money from the company. Meanwhile, Lane’s death parallels the death of Don’s brother Adam, who also hanged himself.
Lane’s death stirs up old emotions, and they manifest themselves in spectacularly creepy ways. Don goes to see the dentist after a rotting tooth puts him in agonizing pain. While under the gas, Don as a hallucination he’s talking to Adam. Don pleads to his deceased brother, “Don’t leave me.” The ghost of Adam responds mockingly, “Don’t worry, I’ll hang around.”
This exchange is cruelly ironic and exemplifies Don’s fear of abandonment. All Adam wanted was a brother, and Don denied him because Adam was too much of a reminder of his past. It’s ironic that Don fears being abandoned by his brother, when that’s exactly what Don did to Adam.
Adam says to Don, “It’s not your tooth that’s rotten.” Don’s father was kicked in the face by a horse that was spooked during an electrical storm, which probably explains Don’s recurring problems with his teeth. It is a physical manifestation of Don’s haunted past.
Switching gears, let’s talk about Pete Campbell. Pete is one of my least favorite characters because he’s a ladder-climbing wiener, but I think it’s interesting that Season 5 has his life paralleling Don’s life in Season 1. The themes of getting older, missing your youth, and not being happy with your prizes after you’ve won them are apparent.
Pete Campbell and Rory from Gilmore Girls.
One of the most dramatic scenes is Pete’s confession to his adulteress. His words affirm what the audience has been suspecting all season: Pete’s becoming Don, a man he both respects and despises.
When his adulteress asks Pete why he had the affair, he answers in a particularly weary monologue:
“All the regular reasons I guess. He needed to blow off some steam. He needed adventure. He needed to feel handsome again. He needed to feel that he knew something. That all this aging was worth something, because he knew things young people didn’t know yet. He probably thought it would be like having a few tall drinks and feel very, very good, then go back to his life and say, ‘That was nice.’ When it went away, he was heart broken. And then he realized that everything he had was not right, either. And that is why it happened at all. And that his life with his family was some temporary bandage on a permanent wound.”
Pete’s confused because he did everything Don did, but has no idea how unhappy Don was as a self-involved, alcoholic adulterer. It is the classic case of comparing others outsides with your insides. Don seemed so good at it, but all the while he was crushingly unhappy. Now Pete knows what it feels like.
Earlier this season, several of the partners visit a brothel. In the ride home, Don, who didn’t partake in any of the illicit activities, gives Pete a hard time. Pete, naturally, calls Don a hypocrite. Don says, “Had I married this one [Megan] the first time around, I wouldn’t have done all those things.” Now as his marriage to Megan starts to show signs of wear and tear, glimpses of the “Old Don” are starting to come back.
The take-a-way? Success is stifling. Be careful what you wish for, because everything you’ve ever wanted is not what you actually want. A house in the country. The spouse and the babies. The success in a high profile job. None of it will make you happy, as your responsibilities slowly form a cage which will eventually smother you.
And that is the epitome of #whitepeopleproblems: The depression that comes when too much is never enough. I can’t wait for some more answers in Season 6.
I came to this realization a couple of years ago. It sort of explains why people go looking for comfort in all the wrong places. I call it the “Personal Jesus Theory,” as in, yes, the Depeche Mode song “Personal Jesus.”
“I will deliver. You know I’m a forgiver.”
Basically, feeling incomplete or insecure is a part of the human condition. This sounds incredibly depressing, but if we think of it from a biological perspective, this really isn’t all that bad. Human life is fluid and dynamic, but the need for survival is constant. Needs being met today may or may not be the needs that need to met tomorrow. This is explained in a blog article I wrote (an excerpt is copied and pasted below).
In a highly volatile natural environment, such as our Earth, contented people get lazy and lazy means game over. Life is going great and then oops, it’s a flood. Did you get swept away, or did you build a raft or move to higher ground? Life is tenuous, and those who feel the need to keep pushing the boundaries of their situation succeed while those contented do not.
Now, back to the Personal Jesus theory. Everyone, in a sense, is looking for their Personal Jesus, their savior who will propel them out of the depths of despair or mediocrity into pure contentedness.
Humans attempt to cope with the inexplicable emptiness by trying to fill it. There are numerous ways to go about this, and few that are healthy: Co-dependency in relationships, overeating, overspending, extreme religion, substance abuse, cult type organizations…the list goes on and on of ways to distract ourselves from our insecurities rather than deal with them.
“Jesus Christ, Superstar, Do you think you’re what they say you are?” My money says the guy on the left is skeptical. PS, according to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jerusalem gets their coffee cup supply from Office Max. They seem eerily familiar.
The lyrics to the song “Personal Jesus,” originally performed by Depeche Mode, but now has many covers and incantations, reveals the desperate nature of feeling alone and looking for salvation, basically anyway we can find it, even through people who look to take advantage of us.
Your own personal Jesus/ Someone to hear your prayers/ Someone who’s there
Feeling unknown and you’re all alone/ Flesh and bone by the telephone/ Pick up the receiver/ I’ll make you a believer
We are less divorced from our ancestors than we think—we have evolved, but our biological instincts are still here in some respect. You throw in the culture of achievement that is transposed upon us from an early age, that emptiness is emphasized.
The notion of complete contentedness is a brass ring held before us to taunt us into achievement, which we believe will make us happy, but even when we achieve our goals, the happiness is fleeting. We get a job, we’re told to start looking for a better job. We buy a new house and start looking for a new car. We get back from vacation and start planning our next vacation.
Now, here’s my disclaimer: I’m not saying that religion, success, personal achievement, or material possessions are bad. I’m personally a huge fan of all four. But these entities have their appropriate roles in our life, ie the Fight Club conundrum of owning your possessions and actions, not allowing your possessions and actions to own you. Because when that happens, you inevitably develop a physically flawless but ultimately insidious alter-ego who tries to dismantle society’s infrastructure, eagerly bringing in an age of unadulterated anarchy.
I kid. It’s okay to have a sense of humor, even when talking about The Theory of Life. God certainly has a sense of humor. I have 27 years of existence to prove it.
What’s the moral of this fable? Be your own personal Jesus. Don’t go looking for it in other people. We all want to feel a sense of belonging, but what we really need, and can’t articulate, is to feel a sense of belonging with ourselves.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” —e.e. cummings
These are the faces of people who would rather spend their Sunday indoors talking about the Internet.
I’ve come to the realization that I’m a school nerd. I’ve been through all the steps—denial, fear, anger, and eventually acceptance. That’s not what this story is about. I’ve come to terms with my Nerdom. This story is about the bonds that form between nerds, the generation of self-worth, and the feeling when you’re a part of something special.
Hilary Mason is the Chief Scientist of Bit.ly, yes, the website you use to compress URLs and gain insight into social content sharing. When they interview new employees, she asks her current colleagues afterward, “If this person was in the office on a Sunday, would you go in?” Now, going into the office on a Sunday is a necessary evil in our frenetic business environment, but what Mason is looking to do is create a corporate culture where people excite and inspire each other—enough to go into work on the weekends.
Bit.ly is the brain child of what Hilary refers to as “good nerd work,” that is, the breakthrough that occurs when the right people interact syngeristically on the right subject at the right time. But there’s another result of hours spent in the lab or the library together: The bond that is forged between nerds on the verge of discovery.
Chinese food? Check. Equations on the walls? Check. Friends forever? Check.
I know this process all too well. While it can be at times frustrating, exhausting, and leaves one wondering what a normal night’s sleep looks like, I live for these moments, because I love the creative process and the friendships that are forged.
Hard Work Pays Off
As the Lester Bangs character says in Almost Famous, “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is the what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.”
I don’t mean the term “nerd” in a pejorative way. I mean it as people who are endlessly curious while not being overly concerned about being cool. Nerds are individuals with passions, but in the sheer excitement of their pursuit of passion, may come off as dorky. I myself have been known to break out into my self-proclaimed “nerd dance” to celebrate an epiphany or achievement, much like an NFL player after scoring a touchdown.
I’ve spent many a late night in high school, college, and in my current career in a crunch session. It’s beyond exciting. To a degree, how Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak must’ve felt when they formed Apple, Inc. Or maybe I make this comparison because I shameless hope one day make billions of dollars from a consumer product that transforms culture and revolutionizes communication.
In high school, I participated in after school activities like cheerleading and student council. By John Hughes movie standards, this means I would’ve been popular.
I’m most likely a mix of the Alley Sheedy and the Anthony Michael Hall character.
It didn’t. Trust me, winning the eleventh grade AP English Composition award pretty much put a sign around your neck that says, “too many feelings” and “a future in cats.” Winning the award got me into a good college; it did not get me asked out.
My real friends in high school were the people who cared about going to a selective college as much as I did, which was a lot and borderlined on the unhealthy. After we graduated, my friends went to schools like Emory, Dartmouth, and University of Southern California, and they’re the ones I keep up with til this day.
We were not nerds per say because we were all well-rounded in that “these extracurriculars will look great on my college application” kind of way, but at the end of the day, what we really cared about was academics. Long afternoons were spent on the phone trying to figure out geometry proofs as were bus rides drilling each other on Bismarckian diplomacy and nineteenth century German unification. These intense study sessions were just a part of the landscape, one part out of necessity and the fear of failure, but also the fact we actually wanted to help each other succeed.
Late night study groups in college looked similar. We were well acquainted with the delirium that occurs with your friends when you’re simultaneously freaking out before tests and erupting into fits of giggles, the by-product of exhaustion and being overly caffeinated.
Your study group.
My study group: Nerds disguised as hot girls. From left to right: Me, current surgical resident at University of Kentucky, magna cum laude Vandy grad, Northwestern Law grad. Obviously, this was taken not while we were studying (as evidenced by the margaritas) because if I put a picture up our our real study sessions, which involved no make-up and pajamas, these girls would rightfully murder me.
Friend study groups thankfully have graduated to the business world with me. The result of having fun on a project is working harder, staying later, better ideas, more innovative products, and stronger office synergy.
Hilary Mason remarked sagaciously during her talk, “Creativity is the step adjacent to expectations.” These creative jam sessions potentially evolve into something big. Somebody makes a joke, but actually, that joke in all of its ridiculousness has a kernel of validity which evolves into a better solution.
The past year has been a tipping point in my career. On the paid side, I started working for a company that makes an alternative keyboard for persons with special needs. If you’ve ever worked for a tech start-up, you know how it is—you work your tail off, but at the end of the day, you “own” it. My boss also fosters a “think tank”-like atmosphere and actually listens to my opinions, which, honestly, is incredibly refreshing.
On the unpaid side, I was invited to become a committee member of Tech Thursday events at Urban Rethink, a progressive co-working space that emphasizes collaboration between disciplines such as art, science, technology, and community. Even though it is volunteer work, it is incredibly rewarding, as I’ve met incredible people and have been able to continue in my Nerdom.
In essence, I feel like I’m a part of a social movement. I imagine people in the youth counterculture of the 1960s feeling like this. There’s a community of support and sharing ideas. I’m a part of a new social movement, and I don’t know exactly what that really is. We’re not speaking out against a war or inequality. We’re not even rebelling against the establishment. We’re rethinking it.
Business as we know is changing. People are more mobile. Ideas are more accessible. This inevitably changes the economic ecosystem.
Mason spoke to this in her lecture. She is the founder of Hack NY, a non-profit which pairs gifted college graduates with interesting start-ups, thereby saving them from the narrow options which exist currently for math minds such as finance, consulting, and academia.
I didn’t take the traditional route and become a doctor, lawyer, or investment banker, and that’s OK. I may still do that later in life. Who knows? We don’t know what the future holds, and by the time we figure it out, it’s going to change again anyway. I don’t know what my career will ultimately look like, but what I’ve learned is that you to be corporate to be a good business.
Creativity: A Love Story
In The Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron writes that creativity is self-sustaining. I have a wonderful boyfriend, an amazing friend group, and an incredible, supportive family, but none of them can give me the unique satisfaction of a job well done. The inspiration I create for myself can only be self-created.
Inspiration is like a love story. You “meet” this idea in your head, and you fall in love with it. You get butterflies from the hope and promise of teetering on the precipice of discovery. Have you found “The One?” Or will this new idea eventually break your heart? This chaotic, unfolding narrative, which no one really sees, is crucial to the nerd’s self-worth.
Do my favorite Friday nights include catching up on Pinterest, yoga, and Glee? Yes. Did my Valentine’s Day table conversation involve programming languages such as C++ and Wordpress HTML? Yes. Find your tribe consisting of people who are comfortable enough with themselves to let their passions unabashedly show through. Then you can go to Barnes and Noble afterward.
I took my car into Crawford Tire today to get an oil change.
I don’t normally chit chat with strangers, but I talked to another patron in the waiting room for 45 min who could’ve been out of a Willie Nelson song. His name, of course, was Amos Jones. He was from San Antonio, Texas.
We discussed: big government, Second Amendment rights, traveling across America in a Winnebago, and BBQ. He was literally wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. Though his opinions differed dramatically from mine at times, I found him completely charming and interesting.
This is the best physical description I can give. It’s the narrator from The Big Lebowski. He had a voice like him too.
Amos owns a pool hall in San Antonio, Bradley’s and Billards. Stop in and see him if you’re in the area.
Life is character driven.
Gathering buzz from the Sundance Film Festival, the movie Bully comes out in theaters March 30. The documentary film follows five characters and their experiences, from kids who are harassed every day to parents who have lost a child as a result of bully-driven abuse. Bully brings attention to a pervasive problem in America that is often overlooked or shrugged off, and I can’t wait to see it.
I never really “got” bullying. I know some psychiatrist would say kids do it because they’re insecure and even at a young age society feels the need to separate the “winners” from the “losers,” but I never really understood the concept of why someone would do it. To me, it seems counter intuitive to make nerds hate you. Here’s why:
The richest person in America isn’t Brad Pitt. It’s Bill Gates. He’s worth 59 BILLLION dollars. Brad Pitt’s net worth, on the other hand, is a comparatively meager 150 million dollars, a sum of money I’m sure Gates hands out to trick-or-treaters on Halloween instead of Skittles. Brad has washboard abs, a perfect smile, and a hot girlfriend, but Bill Gates could probably buy Brad Pitt plus Angelina Jolie and their menagerie of ethnically diverse children and reprogram them to do his bidding. Granted, he won’t because he’s a “humanitarian,” but you get the picture.
High school ends, and afterwards, there’s a big world out there where your status is less dependent on good hair and who you’re dating, and more focused on ideas and innovation. The nerds, geeks, dorks, and losers may have not been with the in-crowd, but they eventually serve up a nice ol’ slice of humble pie in the future. Here’s three reasons to be nice to nerds:
#1 Nerds are more successful
In The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg invents Facebook not just because it revolutionizes college student interaction, but on a greater level, to redefine society’s power structure. When it’s evident he will never get into a Harvard Finals Club, not because he doesn’t have the grades but because he doesn’t come from a rich or influential family, Zuckerberg “borrows” (some may say steal) The Winklevoss Twins’ idea for an online community exclusive to Ivy League schools where students can post personalized profiles. He knows this idea will be popular because of his prior work with a website named Face Mash he created, for giggles mostly, in which he hacked into dormitory mainframes to steal pictures of female co-eds so he could put them side by side for students to compare. This venture managed to piss off Harvard administration and every female on campus, but it proved to Zuckerberg he was onto something big.
When pitching the idea of Facebook to his friend Eduardo Saverin to secure financial backing, Zuckerberg says, “Eduardo, it’s like Finals Club, except we’re the president.” It doesn’t matter that Zuckerberg doesn’t come from the “right” family who goes to the “right” country club and knows the “right” people. He creates Facebook because he’s the only one smart enough to know how.
Zuckerberg is now worth 17 billion dollars, and he’s only my age, a piece of data which makes me want to jump off a cliff.
#2 Nerds are more interesting
While popular high school kids are out partying, engaging in pre-marital relations, and plotting how to dump a bucket of pig’s blood on the school outcast at prom, nerds are pursuing their interests. Whether it’s video games, computers, movies, or reading, nerds don’t let socializing get in their way of a good old Saturday night alone with their hobbies. Going back to Bill Gates, Richest Man in the History of Time, I’m assuming he spent a lot of weekends alone in his parent’s garage tinkering with circuit boards rather than executing perfect form keg stands at underage ragers.
While popular kids coast by on their good looks or family affluence, nerds are making themselves into more well-rounded people. This point is best depicted by a cartoon by TheOatmeal.com titled “What they should have taught us senior year of high school.” After high school, your ability to make friends is not congruent to your ability to play sports, and those who internalize their experiences into ambition eventually come out on top.
#3 You won’t end up on someone’s “People to Kill List”
“Boy, am I glad I called that guy.”
Remember the scene in Billy Madison when Adam Sandler calls Steve Buscemi and apologizes for being such an a-hole to him in high school? Little did Adam Sandler’s character know that Steve Buscemi’s character is a gun enthusiast who promptly crossed Sandler off of his “People to Kill List” when he made it right. Then Steve Buscemi puts on red lipstick. That was a close one, Billy!
This point is as much about being a decent human being as it is about survival. The sad truth is that 13 million kids will be bullied this year. That’s crazy. While standing up to cruel antagonists is an unfortunate part of life, some of these kids are so harassed they take extreme measures, sometimes as extreme as bringing a gun to school or taking their own life. While I’m not condoning these actions, they are the actions of people who have been pushed to their limits. There’s no reason it should ever go that far.
Conclusion? Don’t pick and choose who you’re nice to. Be nice to everybody, whether it’s the prom queen or the biggest dork in the school. Don’t watch silently or complacently as you see others bullied. For some reason, everyone remembers who was nice to them in high school and who was a douche bag. When nerds make it to the top for their eventual reign on mankind, you want them to look down favorably upon you.
If your day to day routine is anything like mine, it probably looks like the fulfillment of one obligation after the other: Wake up, work, errands, chores. Rinse and repeat.
We’re so busy organizing our future, we forget to enjoy life in the here and now. It takes stepping out of your daily routine to realize what you really want, a place or event to shake you out of the limited perspective that’s symptomatic of mundane routine. Enter the importance of travel.
Most people think profound travel experiences can only happen when we engage in profound work, such as volunteering in impoverished communities. While the experience of giving back is inimitable, paradigm shifts can happen almost anywhere. Yes, even at luxurious locales.
One of these frozen beverages is my PDA in its resort wear, I swear.
It’s the freedom you experience when you dig your toes into the sand and you realize you have no idea where your phone is, nor do you care.
It the humbling awakening that occurs when you look out at an endless aquamarine colored ocean and realize you are only a very small piece in a very big world.
It’s the exhilaration that comes from meeting new people and sharing ideas.
In our daily lives, taking chances is frowned upon. Often, we’re so busy imposing limitations on ourselves, we forget our sense of adventure. But when you jump on the opportunity to zip-line through tree tops, SCUBA dive with sharks, or take a picture with a monkey, you surprise yourself.
“My friends, are you ready to have your picture taken with a monkey?” Why, yes, yes, I am.
We’ve gotten so good at saying NO that we’ve forgotten how easy and liberating it is to say YES. Consider the possibilities when you start taking chances on yourself. Suddenly that work promotion you were too scared to accept seems in reach.
In my experience, people take vacations for two reasons: To reconnect with their loved ones or reconnect with themselves. Sharing an unforgettable experience with your family or significant other. Exploring a personal passion, such as yoga or photography. Granting yourself the permission to sit on the beach and idly read a book. It doesn’t matter what you want to do, because your time is finally your own. No deadlines to meet, no appearances to keep up—-just you living life on your own terms. An escape in its true meaning.
Vacations give us the chance to be the best version of ourselves. The one who laughs often and freely. The one who loves openly and honestly. The one who’s not constantly counting dollars or calories. The one who’s not incessantly comparing themselves to others and wondering if they measure up. The one who’s rested enough to have the clarity to make good decisions as a parent, spouse, employee, or friend.
Do you remember that person? If it’s been a while since you saw them, you may need a vacation.
We have a tendency in our culture to work past the state of exhaustion until we are so artificially wired with caffeine and the threat of failure we keep working because that’s all we know how to do. But as doctors, experts, and purveyors of common sense will tell you, this lifestyle isn’t sustainable. Recuperation and relaxation are crucial aspects of the human condition.
I leave you with a quote. In his best-selling productivity manifesto 4 Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss illuminates the flawed nature of a non-stop work ethic.
“Alternating periods of activity and rest is necessary to survive, let alone thrive. Capacity, interest, and mental endurance wax and wane.
You’ll think a vacation is a horrible idea until you step off the plane at your destination. And then you’ll wonder what took you so long. I guarantee your perspective will change, and everything will shift into place.
I sat with my Sunday morning coffee in hand, shocked. I had turned on the local news for the weather report, and instead, I learned that Whitney Houston, iconic singer, was dead at age 48.
As in most highly publicized tragedies, I turned quickly to my Facebook profile to post an update. I recalled my most fond Whitney Houston memories, such as listening to The Bodyguard Soundtrack over and over again on cassette tape. (To which many of my snarkier friends playfully teased, “What’s a cassette tape?”) Yes, I am a child of the 80s and 90s, so naturally I got my Whitney fix through the ear phones on my Walkman Cassette Player.
Oh yeah, high tech, y’all!
Since her death yesterday, Facebook and Twitter are awash with grief and homage to the departed singer. Links to videos, including her moving rendition of the National Anthem at the 1991 Superbowl, are abundant. We look back at Whitney in her glory days, circa 1988 to 1991, and see a musical icon with the world at her feet. Nearly 20 years later, we wonder, “What happened?”
Whiteny Houston channeling…Jessie Spano? This has been the kindest comparison Elizabeth Berkely has ever received.
We all think that Bobby Brown introduced Whitney to drugs, his influence spurring her erratic behavior which eventually destroyed her career.
However, many journalists have asserted that the real Whitney was never the wholesome, elegant good girl the media depicted. Whitney Houston grew up in notoriously rough East Orange, New Jersey, and had been linked to other celebrity bad boys and drug users such as Eddie Murphy and Darryl Strawberry before she met Bobby Brown. In the E! True Hollywood story episode “Bobby and Whitney,” a number of the journalists interviewed essentially say, “You could take the girl out of the hood, but you could not take the hood out of the girl.”
In a similar fashion, I often blame Kevin Federline with bringing out Britney Spears’ white trash side and ultimately ruining her career. As soon as we saw the trucker hats and Cheetos, we knew Britney’s stardom was on borrowed time. In this scenario, trailer park replaces hood. However, it’s not like Britney spent her childhood at high tea with the Queen, either.
Surely, Whitney’s exploits of the last 20 years have left many fans wondering if her squeaky clean image was concocted by a slick record executive. Canceled shows, late arrivals, and outlandish requests brought Whitney’s diva persona full circle as an extraordinary talent impossible to work with and unwilling to share the spotlight.
We all know this is the best Whitney.
Whitney regained brief popularity during the Bravo hit “Being Bobby Brown,” a reality show following her up and down marriage to Bobby Brown. Despite some hilarious catchphrases, however, the show reinforced her reputation as a tarnished once famous singer grappling for attention.
Whitney’s sudden Saturday death has left Grammy Award producers scrambling at the last minute to include a respectful one song tribute with the help of Jennifer Hudson. A full blown tribute will not be performed, according to Grammy organizers, because “It’s too early and fresh at the moment.”
J-Hud killing them softly at the Superbowl, just as Whitney did years earlier.
More like they don’t want to do anything that could be perceived as controversial because her death is under investigation. Though if we’re all being honest, most believe it’s somehow drug related given her tumultuous past. In fact, early reports suggest she may have drowned in the bathtub from an overuse of prescription drugs found nearby.
The saddest thing about Whitney’s passing is that she seemed like she was getting back on track. Why is it that icons are taken just as they are poised for a comeback? Weeks before his death, Michael Jackson was described as healthy-looking and agile as he rehearsed for his “This is It” tour. Whitney was described in a similar fashion by industry insiders. It just goes to show that even though we feel a connection with these celebrities because their personal lives are spread all over the tabloids, we don’t really know them.
Bittersweet memories, that is all I am taking with me. Whitney, we wish to you joy and happiness, but above this, we are wishing you love. I know wherever you are, you’re still doing you and giving people chills with your powerful performances. You will be missed!