Being Honest

January 21, 2009 — 9 Comments

From an outsider’s point of view, the last few weeks have been very good to me. Stuff I touched has been all over – national papers, all the huge blogs and I got to work with some important people. The strategies I came up with are just starting to pay public dividends. Plus my phone won’t stop ringing.

But up close, it’s more complicated. I made a bunch of sloppy mistakes. I had to let someone else handle an important decision because I couldn’t find the words to justify my position. People have been sending shit back for corrections. I haven’t posted here much. My reading has been whatever. And I’ve been trying to write up this sort of ad/essay fusion thing and after four cracks at it, I’m about to hand it off to someone else because I just don’t think I have the chops.

It has been depressing, frankly. At first I was trying to use the stuff in the first paragraph to convince myself that the stuff in the second wasn’t so bad. But I don’t really get anything out of that either. Sometimes, I guess you have to admit to yourself that you’re not performing at the level you want to and that it’s going to take a lot more of this until you get there. I’m trying, now that I’m conscious of it, not to use a cathartic release like this post to make it easier to deal with. It’s not supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to suck.


January 15, 2009 — 15 Comments

Da Vinci and Michelangelo were both fond of saying ogni pittore dipinge se, that “every painter portrays himself.” What they meant wasn’t that artists insert themselves into their own paintings (although they often literally do) but that ultimately art is created under a subtle belief that artist’s lens is in fact reality. The scene that an artist portrays is defined by how they see themselves and its difficult to know where to separate them.

In psychology this is often called the false consensus bias. It’s a belief that that your logic is logic and that the world is in step with your opinions. In everyday life, it’s how people overextend themselves and can’t see outside their own head.

Cynicism and sarcasm are highly underrated tools for avoiding this. My friends email each other examples of people saying things so lame that they couldn’t have possibly considered anything other than their own opinion of themselves. And that mindset is the leading cause of most douche chills. (my two favorites are here and here) We all know what’s coming if we do that stuff ourselves.

I see this with emails or people’s bios all the time, especially with people my age. They’re always these grandiose, absurdly generous descriptions of themselves. Like they never once thought “what would happen if someone who knew me saw this?” Same goes for people’s blogs. What do you get out of being overwrought? And why don’t you have any friends who call you out on it?

You know what you think of yourself and what you think you can become. If you’re on point, people will come to agree with it in time. For now, maybe try to come to terms with the reality of where you are and consider what that might look like to objective people with a few feet of distance. It’s ok to filter your actions and words through what others think, so long as you don’t believe it. It’ll prevent you from looking like a jackass.

What I’m Reading

January 13, 2009 — 4 Comments

Eleanor Roosevelt : Volume 2 , The Defining Years, 1933-1938 by Blanche Wiesen Cook (blown away by ER. she deserved a better biographer. it feels like the writer died in the middle and someone put it together from her notes without bothering to proofread)

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin (good. lame that this is already overplayed)

The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (Modern Library Classics) by Giorgio Vasari (amazing. much better than Plutarch’s Lives. Michaelangelo’s and Titians are the best. the translation is very readable)

The Tower Menagerie: The Amazing 600-Year History of the Royal Collection of Wild and Ferocious Beasts Kept at the Tower of London by Daniel Hahn (an example of an author ruining an otherwise fascinating book by interrupting themselves with too many footnotes, parentheses and tangents. I learned more his style mistakes than the subject)

How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq by Matthew Alexander (for some reason he annoyingly refers to himself and colleagues as ‘gators and it makes the whole thing seem ridiculous. Mark Bowden’s foreword a marketing ploy, it’s only 3 pages)

Also, I think Seth Godin is wrong in this post about advertising or at the very least, not being totally forthcoming. I guarantee when he does ads he doesn’t judge their success on math or conversions. It’s a tyrannous, poor set of incentives. Acquisition driven advertising unintentionally favors the short term of the long term and rips the life out of brands. They should be evaluated on whether they say something, otherwise it’s just arbitrage.

Daily Routine

January 10, 2009 — 7 Comments

Daily Routines is one of my favorite sites. Nobody seems to have any idea what I do so I thought I’d put mine down.

I get up between 9 and 10 and check my blackberry to see if anything important went down while I was sleeping. If there wasn’t an emergency (there usually is), I shower and put on jeans and a white t-shirt. If there was, I could end up spending the next two or three hours on the phone, pacing in my apartment. I don’t eat breakfast. I try to get to the office before twelve so there is parking, spending some time with my RSS reader and responding to emails before I leave. I make sure to read Buzzmachine, Transworld Business, Valleywag and my delicious inbox. The Wall St Journal comes every morning which adds nothing to my day but an extra trip to the trash.

At the office, I check in with my assistant to see how to projects he’s working on are going. I normally haven’t explained them well, so we spend some time fixing it. ______ has probably called me a few times by this point with new directions to take things on or ideas to flesh out. These get split up and delegated. I read at lunch and when I get back to my desk if it’s good. The rest of the day is spent talking to reporters, approving ads, phone calls and monitoring the Google and RSS alerts that let me pretend I’m everywhere at all times. I try to leave the office around 7 or 8.

Dinner with the girlfriend. An episode of House. Read for an hour. Run for 35 minutes. Jump rope after if there is time. If I wrote or worked something out in my head while I was running then I transfer it to text quickly before I shower. Emails to people as stuff comes up. Hang out. She goes to bed with dog around 12. I get back up and work until 2 or so. Reading or catching up on whatever I was too busy to get to during the day. I send the emails that I’ll get responses to in the morning. Send a To Do list to my assistant while he’s asleep to work on while I am asleep. ______ is normally still up, even on the east coast, so we talk again before I wrap up and go to bed.

Elizabeth Hasselbeck doesn’t support the use of the morning after pill because she believes that “life begins at conception.” That’s a wonderful point of view if you ignore the pesky little fact that the only purpose of emergency contraception pills is to prevent conception from occurring. In fact, they have no effect whatsoever on a woman who is already pregnant. Now, no doctor would let you take them for fun but the point of the pill begins and ends well before Hasselbeck’s beliefs are relevant.

The test of her opinion rests at the moment someone informed her that she had misunderstood the medical function of the pill, a fairly common mistake. Did it change? Did she feel relieved or did she respond with “Hmmph, well I still don’t like it.”

Your opinion is either dependent on the facts or it’s not. When they change, you should shift along with them, not wobble and revert like an earthquake proof building. We know that, but try and see. Read something that directly contradicts a long-held opinion on a controversial issue (say gay marriage or tax cuts or some person you idolize), you can see how quickly you try to rationalize and preempt the arguments as though you have a stake in it. The reality is that it shouldn’t matter which side you’re on, so long as it’s the correct side.

I think that “OK, I know but still…” is about the dumbest possible phrase that can come out of your mouth. There’s almost never an excuse for it. It’s rooted in this delusionally coddled belief that you can somehow dissent from the world around you and it will make a difference. Look at the people who live their lives that way: George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Margaret Mead, Marxists, the annoying feminists who totally missed the problem with Hasslebeck’s argument and how that ultimately panned out for the things they all wanted to accomplish. The results do not look good.