Archive for the 'relationships' Category

What’s the *#@#*$! big deal about $%*@#*! swearing?

When are you most likely to swear? The answer, more than likely, is whenever you’re awake, at least if you’re David Mamet or Quentin Tarantino.   In that case, another valid answer might be something like, when searching for just the right word to describe an ineffable aspect of the human condition.   Yeah, I like to start off with a crowd pleaser right away.  (Send your hate mail to nsavides@worldsBiggestTarantinoFan.com.  Thanks.)

Before – William Hogarth, 1730

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Kidding aside, those guys do have their merits, but I’d be a bigger fan if they used language in a more nuanced way.  It is revealing though, to consider when different people are inclined to swear.  Last time I remember swearing was a few days ago.  I was talking to a friend, trying to be nonchalant about an audition I had just attended.

In that interaction I had the choice of acknowledging my insecurities  or of telling a lie.  I chose to lie, pretending that it doesn’t sting every time others tell me in, so many words, that they don’t care about what I have to offer.  For whatever reason I chose to swear to help sell the lie. What about you? When do you tend to swear?

Before going further, let me mention that I usually have my blog topics planned out months in advance, and that’s also true for this one.  It gives me the chance to massage my thoughts over time.  In other words, I’m not writing about anyone I know in particular.  I usually don’t do that unless you pay me.

Speaking of which, now is as good of a time as any to mention that you too can be featured on this illustrious blog.  For just 47 moderately easy payments of $149.99, you too can be part of the revolution!

Photo credit: flickr.com/71804756@N00

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Act now and I’ll throw in this incredible cheese grater at absolutely no additional cost. In today’s hectic world, who couldn’t benefit from a proverbial better mouse trap, or in this case a better cheese grater, one that actually smiles back you?  Comfortable convenience now comes in a friendly package, so order now! Operators are standing by.

OK, well … um … that cheese grater, although incredible, is not mine to give away. If you own it, and would like to partner with me on this, send me an email at nsavides@worldsBiggestTarantinoFan.com.  And, when I say that operators are standing by, I mean me … all by myself, that is at least until this thing takes off and I can afford to outsource my call center.  Until then, I’ll have my phone out, staring at it with affection and anticipation, patiently waiting for it to ring.

Just a few jokes, people. Take them or leave them. Please send your detailed concerns about my jokes to nsavides@worldsBiggestTarantinoFan.com.  To the general populace though, I strongly advise you not to click on the email link. In fact the safest thing to do would be to avoid clicking on it all costs, for the consequences of doing otherwise might perturb your delicate sensibilities.)

Anyway, back to the task at hand.  My intention is not to get everyone to stop swearing in any context but merely to swear a little less. Please consider.

Berlin Street Scene – Ernest Ludwig Kirchner, 1913

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What a revelation it was to read that even Enimem doesn’t allow swearing at home.  This is a guy who has made a career out of being profane in lyrically innovative ways, not some clean-cut moral crusader.  Even he believes that there is something about swearing that is not quite right for his most cherished ones. (In a sense, he’s trying to protect his own family from the corrosive content he sells the world to get rich.)

In his book The Mentor Leader, coach Tony Dungy talks about how he encouraged his teams to avoid swearing in the locker rooms.  He frames this as another strategy to keep the team professional and focused on winning, and the guy’s won a Superbowl, so maybe there is some merit to his thoughts.

Odd how a few words, mostly 4-letter ones in English, have become taboo, as if they have an inherently more corrosive quality.  And yet they do.  I spoke with a friend of mine and he agreed that adding swear words to an insult or emotional outburst intensifies the negative impact.  Do your own experiments, and see if you reach similar conclussions.

The swear words in question usually debase their intended recipients, often in a sexual way.  Some words like the f-word are considered swear words in any context, but others like “damn” and “hell” depend on context.

A metaphysical discussion about heaven and hell is acceptable in Sunday school, but saying “what the hell?” is considered slightly rude in certain settings. With that said, it is worth mentioning that even that phrase might carry a kernel of truth in the most unexpected moments.   Perhaps there is something hellish about the event in question, like say your neighbor’s ghastly, exceedingly garish dinner party.

The Radical Reformer – George Cruikshank, 1819

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Let’s talk semantics for a moment. To damn means to curse, as in to wish ill upon another. Old Testament prophets would ask God to damn the wicked. When we say “damn it” we are doing something similar, invoking a curse on the source of our frustration.  Be careful about that: Our words have power, often more than what we intend.

When I was in college I witnessed an angry man swear at a college pay phone for a very long time. He wasn’t swearing at the person on the other end but at the phone itself, and it felt like minutes, not seconds, of swearing.  Still, others used the phone without issue that day, so it didn’t seem to be broken, but when I tried to use it later in the week, it didn’t sound right.

It wasn’t so much that it sounded broken, but possessed. Puzzled, I recalled the man’s curses. It appeared that his curses had come true. How strange.

I can think of a few instances in my own life where I was so angry at perceived injustices done to me that I swore about the guilty ones throughout the day, sending out a near incessant stream of curses into the universe.  I didn’t swear at anyone in person.  Those were just my thoughts, my prayers of outrage.

Days later when my rage had been subdued, I was dismayed to discover that ill fates had indeed befallen my targets. Maybe those things were just coincidences. Maybe they weren’t, but they didn’t feel like coincidences.

That’s why I do what I can to wish blessings upon others in my life, even the ones who make my life difficult.  Still, I have some room for improvement in this arena.

Sleeping Girl – Oskar Kokoschka, 1907

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If swearing is really less than ideal though, why does it show up almost everywhere? Swear words have stampeded their way onto book titles, presidential speeches, and sermons, all respectable platforms once thought to be too dignified for such words. Sadly, even the three-year olds are swearing.

Since it is so prominent could it be that there is something beneficial about swearing? In the movie, the King’s Speech, swearing is used to help the King get past his stuttering problem.  On a similar note, there are some scientific studies on swearing that suggest it helps us tolerate pain.

There’s also our contemporary inclination to show the truth in all its grittiness instead of making false pretenses about unearned decency.  True that, but let’s not throw out the @#$@! baby with the @#$%@#@! bathwater.

Just because something is true does not mean it is wise to showcase. Terrorists have beheaded victims in shocking ways, but if we were to give their videos unedited air time, then we would be helping to spread the shock they intended to create.  It’s sort of like that with swearing.  Hence the @#%@#! and not the actual words.  It allows us to discuss swearing, without the shock factor.

If you don’t agree that swearing has shock value, then go back and give another listen to the “Christian Bale rant” on YouTube. I had the link on here, but I took it out. Just listening to it again upset me, even though the swearing wasn’t directed at me.  Sad that such abrasive language from affluent and powerful people has become esssentially routine in our modern-day existence.

Self-Portrait in a Striped T-shirt – Henri Matisse, 1906

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To put it in perspective, Christian Bale, the superstar, the Batman, the celebrity is swearing at the Director of Photography Shane Hurlbut, the guy who gets a small fraction of a celebrity’s paycheck and shows up early on set to make sure that the high-priced actors look good on film.  Mr. Hurlbut also maintains a helpful blog at http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/ where he gives free, invaluable advice to aspiring cinematographers.  But hey, the guy probably had it coming, right?

Since we’re on the subject, I wonder if anyone has done a scientific study about the benefits of being sworn at by Christian Bale.

I know, he was having a bad day, and yes he’s a talented actor. Etc. I will even grant that he gave a masterful performance in The Fighter, a compelling sports film with anti-drug elements, but I could not bring myself to praise that film outside of this context.

It’s not the swearing in the movie that I mind so much, although there was a bit more than necessary to get the point across.  It’s that both Christian Bale and director David O. Russell have a history of swearing abusively at people on set.

The Death Dance – Otto Wirshing, 1915

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There are lots of movies and shows out there, and I’d rather talk about excellent work from people who treat others with consideration. But who knows?  Maybe the swearing duo has been reformed.  If they haven’t though, maybe we can, as a nice gesture, take up a collection for them.

Here’s the thing: Being a celebrity often involves frantic, stressful work, and with that kind of lifestyle, many of them don’t have time to learn about simple things like manners or common courtesy.  Be that as it may, I’d like to believe that if we were to pay for people like Christian Bale and David O. Russell to go to charm school for a year, they would be touched by our generosity and change for the better.

OK, maybe that idea is a little out there, but think of how much better the world might be if more of the powerful and the popular ones had manners. You may say I’m dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

Rising Sun – Paul Klee, 1919

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Anyway, so far I’ve only been a part of one show where the swearing had escalated to a toxic level, but it was enough to make me question why I was there.  Not only that, but it made me wonder if it was time to rethink my career path.  Do you really want your language to have that effect on others?

In our efforts to demolish the false pretenses of our parents’ generations, to be cool, we’ve forgotten that language isn’t there just to make us feel better about ourselves. It was once used to treat others with respect, with consideration. According to the historical record even George Washington swore, but only in his darkest moments.  Most of the time, he was civil and restrained, the consummate statesman.

As Washington himself said, “It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world”;  It’s not the hippest idea out there to consider how our words and actions will affect others, but like a good Frank Sinatra song it has old-world appeal.

Strangers in the Night album cover, 1966

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I’m sure you could do a cover of “Strangers in the Night” or “The Way You Look Tonight” with swearing, but the songs wouldn’t have that same classic feel. Clearly, Sinatra swore in private, but for his audience he brought only his best.   Sinatra had class, at least when performing.

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be swear words in art.  Through art we can explore both the good and the bad in our world.   Instead of going cold turkey on the swearing, why not just try to do more with less?  William Shakespeare, John Milton, and Victor Hugo rarely resorted to profanity. Kevin Smith uses it all the time. To whom would you prefer to be compared?

On a similar note, the film Rebel Without a Cause says so much more about the struggles of teenagers than most of today’s swear-powered teenage flicks combined. Sometimes swearing is the easy way out.

Girl in sunny garden with dog – August Macke, 1911

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Next time you’re caught up in swear storm, ask yourself if that language makes it easier for others to be sincere, to treat other with respect.  Again, can you convey more with less?  Why not try to figure out what it is that makes you so angry, so prone to shock others, in the first place?  I struggle too, but I value civil discourse enough to keep striving for improvement.  Join me and together we can make our world a little more decent, one unspoken swear word at at time.

If you appreciate my writing, why not write a comment or share the post with a friend? It would encourage me to keep writing and sharing bits of my heart with you.
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Peculiarly Uncommon Thoughts on Twitter and Celebrities

I once assured myself that I would never write about Twitter.  Everyone these days has already written about the subject, especially all the social-media marketers out there, and I’m not a jump-on-the-bandwagon kind of guy.  Still, I spend a bit of time thinking about authenticity, transparency, and celebrity so this post was bound to happen.  
Before commenting on how celebrities use Twitter, I want to explain how I use it, and why I have a love-hate relationship with celebrities.  (It relates, I promise.)  For one thing, Twitter offers a chance to share my thoughts and feelings with the world and to meet interesting people from different backgrounds, and by different backgrounds I mean more than just different types of social-media marketers.  Those folks are useful in some cases, but I follow enough of them already.  I’m more interested in meeting honest and talented people who do unique things and have captivating ways of seeing the world.  I don’t care so much about people trying to sell me things, but I do care about people, when I’m not fighting off my own inner demons, and I am curious to learn how my fellow humans navigate through this strange, but miraculous, journey of life.  
At its best, I also see Twitter as a way of counter-acting a profit-worshipping, depersonalized culture of buracracy and venality.  The casual nature of this simple-to-use online service encourages honest disclosure.  Go ahead and criticize Twitter for encouraging an ethos of oversharing, but at least people on Twitter are less likely to proclaim that everything about themselves and their world is great.  In real world conversations, people are tragically far less honest.  Don’t believe me?  Go ask a few random strangers on the street or even acquaintences how they’re doing.  Did any of them, perchance, mention that they were doing fine or doing great?  What a surprise that is, right? 
(I despise the kind of self-congralatory marketing that some individuals and companies use in a delusional attempt to persuade the world that everything really is great all the time.  It goes something like this, "I’m unconditionally awesome right now just like I’ve always been, and I’m going to continue to be more and more awesome each year."  Not to rain on your parade, but your ability to produce profits that just go up and up into infinity is somewhat impeded by the reality of your eventual death.  Sorry.)  
To continue with our experiment, go find a few random people on Twitter and pay attention to how they answer the previously mentioned, now implied, question.  I would be willing to bet good money that there are more compelling, more transparent responses from the Twitter crowd. There’s something special, almost magical, about being part of a community that is fueled by honest discourse.  To benefit from that transparency while withholding it from the group is a form of resistance, a selfish action that makes it a little harder for the community’s ideals to prevail.  
I embrace that sense of transparency that comes with Twitter while recognizing the risk it brings.  If I am too honest, I might convince some people that I’m an idiot or a jerk.  Maybe they won’t hire me or maybe they’ll use my words against me as a result.  But, I’m willing to face those risks because being transparent forces me to live a life worth sharing.  I acknowledge dark spots in my life on Twitter to be honest about who I am and to bring those dark spots into the light.  You see, I care more about becoming whole than about gaining market share, although there is nothing wrong with gaining market share if done in an honest and excellent way.  If you think that’s a foolish outlook, then by all means avoid doing business with me.  I don’t sell to everyone, and we’ll both be happier if you take your business elsewhere.
I’ve said my share of dumb things on Twitter, but I’ve made a point of not deleting those tweets.  (I have deleted one or two of the more impulsive and grammatically incorrect ones, but I haven’t done that for a few weeks.) I’d rather let you get a glimpse of what I’m really like than to make you think that I’m more noble than I am.  Again, at stake is the correcting influence of transparency, and if I’m going to embrace that idea then I should walk the walk.
Onward we go to discuss celebrities. I know, I buried the lead.  It was on purpose: honesty not fame is the foundation from which I hope to build the ideas that follow.  
Like almost everyone else, I admire people who are excellent at what they do.  I’m astonished by George Lucas’s cinematic wizardry, Tiger Wood’s concentration, Nicole Kidman’s elegance, Michael Phelp’s dedication, Oprah’s graciousness, Steve Job’s vision, Tom Wolfe’s depth, Tim Burton’s style, Brittany Snow’s sincerity and so on.  Even the celebrities who are famous for being famous tend to have some enigmatic quality tat captivates our collective attention, and yet the selfishness and baseness of some celebrities does much to screw up the world.  
(The next paragraph that follows may seem abrasive, but please trust me through it.  I need to make an important point, and I don’t know how else to do it.)  Have you ever reduced, in your mind, a celebrity to the status of a stupid skank who exists only to corrupt and to earn more money for powerful, amoral mult-national corporations?  I have … but, when I remember that we are created in the image of God, I can’t continue to maintain that thought.  Even the celebrities I am tempted to despise are loved b God, even they have something special to contribute.  
Now that I think about it, I’ve done my sare of thoughtless and skank-like things, and usually it was because I was hurting and I didn’t know how to better resolve the pain.  Maybe then I shouldn’t be so quick to judge, right? Same goes for you too.
From that perspective, it’s harder to see even the seemingly shallow celebrities as completely useless human beings.  They may be tragic examples of spoiled potential, but they are still children of God, and so they still matter by definition.  
I suspect that the angels and demons fight harder for the souls of celebrities since they are blessed with their awe-inspiring gifts.  
I suspect that the angels and demons fight harder for celebrities since they are blessed with the awe-inspiring gifts that they have. 
  

 

I once assured myself that I would never write about Twitter.  Everyone these days has already written about the subject, especially all the social-media marketers out there, and I’m not a jump-on-the-bandwagon kind of guy.  Still, I spend a bit of time thinking about authenticity, transparency, and celebrity so this post was bound to happen.  

"Illusion" from flickr.com/demisone

"Illusion" from flickr.com/demisone

 

Before commenting on how celebrities use Twitter, I want to explain how I use it, and why I have a love-hate relationship with celebrities.  (It relates, I promise.)  

On Twitter, I’m interested in meeting honest and talented people who do unique things and have captivating ways of seeing the world.   When I’m not fighting off my own inner demons, I do care more about people than about selling stuff, and I am curious to learn how my fellow humans navigate through this strange, but miraculous, journey of life.  

At its best, I also see Twitter as a way of counteracting a depersonalized culture of profit-worshipping and dishonesty.  The casual nature of Twitter’s simple-to-use online service encourages honest disclosure.  Go ahead and criticize Twitter for encouraging an ethos of oversharing, but at least people on Twitter are less likely to proclaim that everything about themselves and their world is great.  

In real world conversations, people are tragically less honest.  Don’t believe me?  Go ask a few random strangers on the street or even a few acquaintances how they’re doing.  Did any of them, perchance, mention that they were doing fine or doing great?  What a surprise that is, right? 

In case you didn’t realize it by now, I despise the kind of self-congratulatory marketing that others use to persuade the world that everything really is great all the time.  It goes something like this, “I’m unconditionally awesome right now just like I’ve always been, and I’m going to continue to be more and more awesome each year.”  Not to rain on your parade, but your ability to produce profit that goes to infinity and beyond is somewhat impeded by the reality of your eventual death.  Sorry.

"nopants spectrum" from flickr.com/kenyee

"nopants spectrum" from flickr.com/kenyee

 

To continue with our experiment, go find a few random people on Twitter and pay attention to how they answer the previously mentioned, now implied, question.  I would be willing to bet good money that there are more compelling, more transparent responses from the Twitter crowd.

There’s something almost magical about being part of a community that is fueled by honest discourse.   That’s why I’m compelling to protest against the people who use Twitter only to sell things.  To benefit from that transparency while withholding it from the group is a form of resistance, a selfish action that makes it a little harder for the community’s ideals to prevail.  

I embrace that sense of transparency that comes with Twitter while recognizing the risk it brings.  If I am too honest, I might convince some people that I’m an idiot or a jerk.  Maybe they won’t hire me or maybe they’ll use my words against me as a result.  But, I’m willing to face those risks because being transparent forces me to live a life worth sharing.  

I acknowledge dark spots in my life on Twitter to be honest about who I am and to bring those dark spots into the light.  In addition to that, I’ve made a choice not to delete tweets just because I regret writing them.  That way it is easier for you to see what I’m really like. 

You see, I care more about becoming whole than about gaining market share, although there is nothing wrong with gaining market share if done in an honest and excellent way.  If you think that’s a foolish outlook, then by all means avoid doing business with me.  I don’t sell to everyone, and we’ll both be happier if you take your money elsewhere.

Onward we go to discuss celebrities. I know, I buried the lead.  It was on purpose: honesty, not fame, is the foundation from which I hope to build the ideas that follow.  

Like almost everyone else, I admire people who are excellent at what they do. I’m astonished by George Lucas’s cinematic wizardry, Tiger Wood’s concentration, Nicole Kidman’s elegance, Michael Phelp’s dedication, Oprah’s graciousness, Steve Job’s vision, Tom Wolfe’s depth, Tim Burton’s style, Brittany Snow’s sincerity and so on.  Even the celebrities who are famous for being famous tend to have some enigmatic quality that captivates our collective attention, and yet the selfishness and dishonesty of some celebrities does much to screw up the world.  

"Tiki Alien from flickr.com/pete4ducks

"Tiki Alien" from flickr.com/pete4ducks

 

(This paragraph may seem abrasive, but please trust me through it.  I need to make an important point, and I don’t know how else to do it.)  Have you ever reduced, in your mind, a celebrity to the status of a stupid skank who exists only to corrupt and to earn more money for powerful, amoral multi-national corporations?  I have … but, when I remember that we are all created in the image of God, I can’t continue to maintain that thought.  Even the celebrities I am tempted to despise are loved by God, even they have something special to contribute.  

Now that I think about it, I’ve done my share of thoughtless and skank-like things, and usually that was when I was hurting and didn’t know how to better resolve the pain.  Maybe then I shouldn’t be so quick to judge, right? Same goes for you too. 

From that perspective, it’s harder to see even the seemingly shallow celebrities as completely useless human beings.  They may be tragic examples of spoiled potential, but they are still children of God, and so they still matter by definition.  Besides, I suspect that the angels and demons fight harder for celebrities since they are blessed with the awe-inspiring gifts that they have.  

Let me give an example to explain what I mean: I know that I’m ultimately responsible for the decisions I make, but films with strong moral centers have influenced me to do good after I saw them.  On the other hand, I’ve done reprehensible things while under the influence of values-deficient films.  I know I’m not the only one who has even been influenced by what he’s seen, heard or read, because if that were true, companies wouldn’t spend millions of dollars on advertising.  

The shiny, illustrious people we call celebrities have a similar influence, for good or evil, since they are similarly larger than life and also have access to our collective attention.   They can use that attention for good–to inspire us, address problems and point us toward the light–or they can demoralize us and lead us towards decadence and decay.  I talk about this more in my post entitled, How to Avoid Being a Corporate Artist.

I know it’s hard to believe, but celebrities are people too, and being a celebrity is not as easy as it looks.  They have to deal with thousands of people who want their limited attention, time, and money.  Some folks out there want to exploit or humiliate them while others try to seduce them with drugs or sex.  This is why I pray for celebrities on occasion.  (To be fair though, I’ve also thrown curses at some of them.  I do let my anger get the best of me sometimes, but I’m trying to get that right.) 

In any case, our collective future depends in part on the choices that celebrities make.  Their choices matter as much, if not more, than the choices that ordinary folks make, so it’s not a bad idea to care about the celebrities we admire and maybe even for those we don’t.  

With that said, it would be nice if celebrities would also care about their fans, and Twitter is a good way to do that.  Some already do, at least to some extent.  

Hugh McCloud, a cartoonist with wry and insightful observations who writes gapingvoid, follows me on Twitter.  He’s got a new book about creativity coming out in June.  It’s called Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity and it’s already selling well through pre-orders on Amazon.  

Jeff Heusser also follows me on Twitter.  He’s one of the founders of fxphd, one of the preeminent online training programs for visual effects in the world.  

Paul Coelho is the internationally renowned writer who wrote the best seller, The Alchemist.   He’s another guy who is following me on Twitter.  He’s currently promoting his new book about the excesses of celebrity called The Winner Stands Alone, a digression from his more fable-like tales, but a book that I’d still like to read.

I mentioned the products above because they seem interesting and because they are from people who matter to me.  Whose stuff didn’t I promote?  The stuff from people who aren’t following me back on Twitter.  The Gospel of John reminds us that we love God because he first loved us.  In Twitterland that translates into this: I care about you because you first followed me. 

"Man in the mask" from flickr.com/68137880@N00

"Man in the mask"ot; from flickr.com/68137880@N00

 

I don’t expect every celebrity to follow me back.  They often have more important things to do, and if they follow everyone they will get flooded by tweets they don’t value.  Fair enough, a celebrity who doesn’t follow me back had better add value with interesting, thoughtful, or amusing commentary.  If the celebrity in question or his staff writers tweets dozens of times a day, my patience for self-indulgent commentary greatly diminishes.  (I tolerate more self-promotion and self-indulgence from those who follow me back, because they can’t be so bad if they are smart, sophisticated, and decent enough to be following me.)  

Speaking of staff writers, it is dishonest to have someone else write tweets on a celebrity’s behalf without disclosing as much. It’s 140 characters or less, people.  How hard is it to write your own 140 characters for your fans?  Why not care enough about the people who help you enjoy the lifestyle that you do by  sharing things to delight them and show your appreciation.  

If you must use assistants to write your posts, then why not disclose as much?  Much as it pains me to admit this, Britney Spears sets a good example in this arena.  On her Twitter page, her tweets are distinguished from those of her managers by attribution lines.  It’s a sad state of affairs when Britney Spears takes the moral high ground that you avoid.  

Since there are a growing number of fake accounts, it is hard to tell the difference between what is a real account and what isn’t.  Sometimes these fake accounts are created by over-zealous fans who should have better things to do.  Other times, I suspect the devils who try to control celebrities perpetuate lies so that their celebrities can be everything to everyone.  For example, you could have one celebrity account geared to the Goths and one to the soccer moms.  By keeping the accounts ambiguous in nature, you can encourage others to believe that the fake niche account they found is really the celebrity in question.  And market share goes up and up!

"Budwing Feeds" from flickr.com/destinysagent/

"Budwing Feeds" from flickr.com/destinysagent/

 

 

Yet the more market share you gain in this dishonest way, the greater the risk that you turn yourself into a soulless product.  Sounds great, except people don’t care about products; people care about people.  Consumers will devour a product until it is licked dry.  Fans, on the other hand, will go out of their way to help the people they cherish.  Wouldn’t you rather have long-term fans than short-term consumers? Then my dear celebrities, offer honesty and affection to the people who support what you do.  

Fans and celebrities both have a responsibility to treat each other as people, not as products to consume or as numbers to hoard for ego-purposes.  (Yes, Aston Kutcher I’m talking to you.)  To do otherwise is to perpetuate foul one-sided relationships that lead only in death.  There are bigger things in this world than just your ego, your lust, or your profit-margins, so don’t be the jackass who ruins them with your selfishness.  

"String of hearts" from flickr.com/aussiegall

"String of hearts" from flickr.com/aussiegall

 

 

I close with a hypothetical.  What if certain people really are meant for each other, meant to collaborate, support or love each other, and together they could go on to do greater things than they could apart?  Wouldn’t that make life a little more magical?  But what if corporate, build-up-the-numbers thinking distorted the truth and prevented these destined pairs from harmonizing?  Wouldn’t that be a lamentable if these people never go on to fulfill their grander purposes together?  It could come in the form of celebrities who never inspire and get inspired by their fans, friends who never meet, or star-crossed lovers whose love never takes root.  

Whatever the case may be, it’s a tragedy, but it is a tragedy we can avoid if we aim for excellence with the honesty and love that heaven puts in our hearts.  That’s not a bad way to make the world less corporate, don’t you think?

Healing Corporate Relationships

“All tragedies are finished by a death, All comedies are ended by a marriage.” Lord Byron wrote that in Don Juan.   Great quote, especially when you think about it beyond a theatrical context (but then all the world’s a stage, isn’t it).    I think about this quote sometimes as a way to evaluate my life when it is all said and done.  Will I have lived a life of selfishness and distance from others, dying alone after a lifetime of sowing dissonance and death in others? Or will my life end as a small, but miraculous, divine comedy, one that involves building relationships with others that are bigger than me, while growing and giving back to the world a love greater than death?

Lord Byron painted by Marie Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Lord Byron painted by Marie Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

I don’t know the answer to that.  I hope for the second choice, but fear the first.  How would Lord Byron answer that question, I wonder.  With his work he gave us astonishing poetry that defies the shackles of a conventional existence, but with his personal life he left passion, yes, but also chaos and sorrow with his wandering, profligate ways.   I’m not judging; I don’t know that I can do better with my personal life, at least not on my own.  But, I must hope and pray that it is still a possibility, even for me.

By now, you may be thinking, “well that is very nice, but what does this commentary have to do with making my business less corporate.”   Actually, I have no idea about what you’re thinking, so I have to guess.  (Perhaps you are actually thinking about the delciious bologna sandwich you will make for yourself very soon.  If that’s the case, go make that sandwich and come back when you’re ready.)

This determination to keep our personal lives separate from our business lives is part of the problem. In earlier days, people lived in more tightly-knit communities and they had some sense of each other’s personalities and characters.   You did business with the baker because you knew him and knew his personal reputation.  If he wronged the town in his personal life, then that would be something that the sensible townspeople would address before continuing with business as usual.

I’m generalizing, I know.  I’m not trying to suggest that everything was as it should be in the past, but I just want to call attention to the strange modern idea of severing the business life from the personal one.   That’s why we hear so many more business consultants talk about improving business through better public relations or better marketing.  It is  less popular to talk about improving business by becoming a more caring, less broken person (although there are people out there like Zig Ziglar who do this well).

It’s like Tolstoy said, “everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” But if we want to change the things in business that don’t work, the stuff that leaves others discouraged and demoralized, we have to change the things in ourselves that cause the problems.   I’m writing this first and foremost to myself.

I have corporate interactions with people too often. Sometimes it’s because I want something out of them instead of valuing them as wondrous individuals worthy of affection and respect simply because they exist.   Sometimes it’s because being honest and facing the truth of the moment is hard, because it’s safer to prevent anyone from getting too close. (But, the same distance that prevents someone from stabbing another also prevents him from offering a hug.) Sometimes I don’t trust in a decency greater than myself or in a sense of self-correcting harmony that transcends the threat of easily observable punishment.

I want to change these things.  Talking about them helps.  So does prayer.  So does art and genuine friendship and playtime. Yes I really believe that even finding a sense of playfulness in the most mundane or painful of moments can make a big difference.   (That’s my justification for planning to buy myself a wii, by the way!)

I’ve been to awful business networking events where I’ve been encouraged to see other people as mere business opportunities.  Those things are proof enough that I’m not the only one who’s been tempted to see others as means to an end.

I’m sharing my personal struggles for my sake and for yours. If we all aim to be less corporate, even in our business relationships, then we’ll make the world a little better.  And maybe just maybe we can make those business meetings less about schmoozing to expand your brand and to maximize the power of your network (just the thought of that makes me want to throw up or get drunk) and more about meeting, appreciating and learning from interesting people.

Do you have any thoughts about how to turn corporate interactions into authentic ones?  If you do, I  hope you’ll share them.  Sharing honestly is one way to wish that it ends as a comedy for each of us. So, here’s hoping for a divine comedy to one and all.

Lord Byron by Richard Westall

Lord Byron painted by Richard Westall