Archives For June 2008

What I’ve Been Reading

June 30, 2008 — 10 Comments

Weapons of Mass Persuasion: Marketing the War in IraqPaul Rutherford (decent but the author should be ashamed of himself. ignoring the wealth of data, he relied on a ‘community panel’ of people to discuss the marketing of the war. it would have been fine if they hadn’t been quoted like experts, all had the same education level, been asked leading questions or I don’t know, if they didn’t all LIVE IN CANADA.)

No LogoNaomi Klein (klein has some big logic and belief problems but this book is great)

Teenage Wasteland: Suburbia’s Dead End KidsDonna Gaines (held up well. cool Iron Maiden references)

Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer AgePaul Graham (more coming on this)

Ben has an awesome piece about American Apparel. On the same level as this one about Zappos.

Fail Dogs is one the a Top Ten Pet Trend of the year.

I want to live in this apartment.

And like I’ve been saying, there is a market for what you do online.

You Are What You Do

June 28, 2008 — 31 Comments

When you see stupid billboards. Like the one I saw yesterday that had pictures of some people’s faces (token black guy) and then said “Toyota.” It’s easy to dismiss that as bad marketing. You forget though that someone with a fancy title -” VP of West Coast Advertising” – wrote a 40 or 50,000 dollar check for your viewing pleasure. Some other artist rushed to work each day to put the finishing touches on his big campaign. And of course, there’s the pesky little problem of advertising not working.

What about those Hedge Fund managers that go through divorces, raise fucked up kids, work 90 hour weeks that they need coke to get through, all for the glorious pleasure of not beating an Index Fund. A life exchanged for the privilege of deceiving people that you have a skill that you objectively do not. A gambling addiction without the self-awareness.

Or think about all the sleepless nights executives at Microsoft and Yahoo have spent over the last three months. Traveling, phone calls, lunches, dinners, frantic memos and pages of reports. All of that and they know – empirically – it will be an enormous failure.

And at least they were in the arena, marred in dust and blood. Unlike the journalists, analysts, consultants, trend watchers, coaches, authors – whose skills lie in breathlessly reporting the same story with different words. Apparently forgetting how laughable the chatter looks a few years later.

All those people subjugated their lives to showing up every day to an office. That is, in most cases, in the place of doing something they want to do. They stressed. They put shit off. Bogged in office politics. Missed the little pleasures. Philosophy. Reading. Thinking. Improving. They deferred. Wondered why their not happy. Debt. Turned around and tried to impart their ‘wisdom’ on the next generation.

Maybe they think about this daily and go ahead and do it anyway. Or, they never stopped to consider it. Probably the latter. No matter how many times they use the words “war room,” “attrition,” “4th quarter” – it’s not going to change the fact that it’s all a big charade. A joke. A lie.

Is that what you want to work your whole life for? I don’t. It’s my worst fear.

Honesty Box: I feel like all the time I am right on this edge. I’m trying to put this stuff on the record now. Reverse pressure. So I’m always thinking “but it’ll look bad if I become the person I said I never wanted to be.” I think I need all the help I can get.

Setting a Collision Course

June 25, 2008 — 5 Comments

“Let’s start with a test: do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers? If the answer is no, you might want to stop and think about that. If everything you believe is something you’re supposed to believe, could that possibly be a coincidence? Odds are it isn’t. Odds are you just think whatever you’re told.” Paul Graham, Hackers and Painters

Which reminds me of something that Cicero said, that at first I felt may have been a logical fallacy but am starting to finally understand.

“Ah, you’re trying to refute me by quoting things I’ve said or written myself. That’s confronting me with documents that have already been sealed. You can reserve that for people who only argue according to fixed rules. But I live from one day to the next! If something strikes me as probable, I say it; and that is how, unlike everyone else, I remain a free agent.” Cicero, Discussions at Tusculum

One of the most humbling things in the world is to see great thinkers struggling towards an understanding – Godin, story and organizational innovation; Gladwell, the evolution of genius; Greene, strategy and self-control; Lewis, what makes someone the best. You can see if everything they write, the circling of the drain or the stacking of the bricks, how they’re methodically closing the gap between what they sense and what they know.

When you stop looking at issues as right or wrong and more like problems to be wrestled with, you conveniently end up with an amalgam with opinions satisfactorily qualified to upset everyone. If, like Cicero, you’re engaged in an endlessly race to seal, discard, adopt, seal, discard as many ideas as possible maybe you’ll end up right where Graham thinks you should. A place where the only plausible explanation for being there is that you made your own way.

And if innovation comes at the crossroads where ideas intersect, then you should be embarking and subsequently colliding as many different paths as possible. I think that’s correct. I’m trying to pick up a book here and crash into a television show I’m watching over there. Or something my Dad told me and some different thing that I’ve seen Tucker do. An implication and somebody else’s actions.

I can only say what’s working for me but for the first time, I’m starting to come up with my ‘own’ ideas.

How to Change the Image of a Publicly Traded Company

June 25, 2008 — Leave a comment

I’d start here:

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The Pressure

June 21, 2008 — 9 Comments

I get weird feelings when I go back to places that I used to live. School. Where I grew up. Restaurants I spend lots of time at. Streets I walked down before. It’s always a “oh what a better time” kind of feeling. I was running the dorms after dark, through grassy knolls lit up and empty. I felt really at peace. For a second, I wished I could be back there. Where it was easy and I wasn’t always worried.

Which is totally bullshit. I caught myself. Being there was horrible. There was all kinds of pressure. I was always stressed about this or that, waiting, bored, fighting about something. I had all these deadlines and all this anxiety if I didn’t make them.

What I came away with wasn’t that we tend to idealize the past. I already know that and I don’t think that’s what I was doing. Being back it’s a lot clearer that it didn’t need to be that way. It’s actually a great place - I was the problem. Running through campus at night is one of my favorite things to do. It’s so peaceful. I never once did it when I lived there.

I made all the pressure up. It was a mental creation. An unnecessary torture I inflicted on myself. I am the source and the sufferer of my own anxiety. Idealizing rarely involves adding anything new, it’s mostly about trimming the details – the shit agonized and stewed over. You know, everything you don’t even remember anymore.

I think that driving force is responsible for a lot of the places I’m going. It propels you. But it also eats at you. It’s crushing. Epictetus said “that your son is sick, not that he may die of it.” Doesn’t mean you ignore it and pretend that he’s well. You just opt out of the anguish. Opt out of The Pressure. Or, I guess, you can wait for the past to do it for you.

I’m trying to do that this time around. That’s the nice thing about trying to live in the present – and how brief our piece of it is – you always seem to get another shot.