Archive for the '"Humanology"' Category

WoD – On Busyness…

This is a fantastically written article on what I’ll call busy-ness, (as a bit of a continuation on our recent theme.)  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/
 
Perhaps in my own small way I, too, am a kid standing outside the classroom window making faces.  The irony of it is, most of you will be too busy to stop and read the article.  That’s WoD worthy, right there.  But then there is the brilliant Richard Scarry reference in it, too…

The ‘Busy’ Trap

Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs  who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

Even children are busy now, scheduled down to the half-hour with classes and extracurricular activities. They come home at the end of the day as tired as grown-ups. I was a member of the latchkey generation and had three hours of totally unstructured, largely unsupervised time every afternoon, time I used to do everything from surfing the World Book Encyclopedia to making animated films to getting together with friends in the woods to chuck dirt clods directly into one another’s eyes, all of which provided me with important skills and insights that remain valuable to this day. Those free hours became the model for how I wanted to live the rest of my life.  

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. Not long ago I  Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college — she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. She has a boyfriend again. (She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: “Everyone’s too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.”) What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious and sad — turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.  

I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day. And if you call me up and ask whether I won’t maybe blow off work and check out the new American Wing at the Met or ogle girls in Central Park or just drink chilled pink minty cocktails all day long, I will say, what time? Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.  

But just in the last few months, I’ve insidiously started, because of professional obligations, to become busy. For the first time I was able to tell people, with a straight face, that I was “too busy” to do this or that thing they wanted me to do. I could see why people enjoy this complaint; it makes you feel important, sought-after and put-upon. Except that I hate actually being busy. Every morning my in-box was full of e-mails asking me to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I now had to solve. It got more and more intolerable until finally I fled town to the Undisclosed Location from which I’m writing this.  

Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. There is no TV. To check e-mail I have to drive to the library. I go a week at a time without seeing anyone I know. I’ve remembered about buttercups, stink bugs and the stars. I read. And I’m finally getting some real writing done for the first time in months. It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.  

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking.  

“The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.” This may sound like the pronouncement of some bong-smoking anarchist, but it was actually Arthur C. Clarke, who found time between scuba diving and pinball games to write “Childhood’s End” and think up communications satellites. My old colleague Ted Rall recently wrote a column proposing that we divorce income from work and give each citizen a guaranteed paycheck, which sounds like the kind of lunatic notion that’ll be considered a basic human right in about a century, like abolition, universal suffrage and eight-hour workdays. The Puritans turned work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment.  

Perhaps the world would soon slide to ruin if everyone behaved as I do. But I would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world’s endless frenetic hustle. My role is just to be a bad influence, the kid standing outside the classroom window making faces at you at your desk, urging you to just this once make some excuse and get out of there, come outside and play. My own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love. I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd.  Life is too short to be busy.

Sunday:
LAMDEN (LAMMdehn)
Scholar, erudite person, learned man
Whoever Tim Kreider is, he is a lamden to me now…
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WoD – The Higgs boson

Spoiler Alert:  this one is kind of science-y.  Ok very science-y.  So if that’s not your bag, feel free to move along to the punch line.  (Or the Yiddish part.)

So, did anyone hear the news about the Higgs boson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson) today?  Yea, for particle physicists!  (Yes, that’s tinged with a bit of sarcasm.)  

Ok in truth, I didn’t even know it was a thing until today.  But now I do.  See here:  http://thenextweb.com/shareables/2012/07/04/so-what-is-the-higgs-boson-and-why-is-it-important-anyway/  Actually you can just watch the pretty neat video embedded in the article, which is also here: http://vimeo.com/41038445.  Warning, it is 7 minutes.  But it is an enlightening, eye-opening 7 minutes, for sure.  

There are many amazing things to probably think about in all this.  Life, the Universe, and Everything, (as Douglas Adams of “Hitchhiker’s Guide” fame wrote about.)

However, here’s the thing.  

After reading all this and watching the amazing mind-bending video, I am more convinced than ever that we are going to cause some sort of cataclysmic disaster to our world via the Hadron Collider, or some related scientific endeavor.  Some stupid or arrogant or amoral or unknowing scientist (because let’s face it – we have tons of these, in reality) will perform some poorly thought-through and not-well-supervised experiment that collides a proton with an anti-proton (I know I know, this isn’t a real thing.  I’m just sayin’), which will create a rip in the time space continuum and our whole world will implode.  And all human progress and the amazing civilization we have built will be wiped out in a nanoblip.  

Because let’s face it – our world will not live forever.  So the Woody Allen-like question then becomes, what brings about its end?  Natural decline as the energy in the earth’s core slowly fades over the next 4.5 billion years, or will it be due to some other, non-natural reason?  I’m betting on the latter.  And in particular, our own curiously destructive hand.  We humans are both that amazingly brilliant and that classically stupid at times, yes…

Thursday:

BEHEYME (nehHAYmeh)

Idiot, fool

We humans are oxymorons.  We can be both super smart and beheymes, all at the same time. 

WoD – Ideas (in the shower)

The other morning, I had some good, deep thinking on the state of digital media, while I was near-comatose in the shower.  In fact, I get a lot of ideas in the shower, or sometimes while I am shaving right afterwards.  When my brain is literally not fully awake.  Yet somehow, this is when new ideas bubble up and take root in my semi-conscious state.  (Usually these thoughts are quickly and unfortunately drowned out by the incessant, rhythmic, repeated beat of one, all-encompassing thought:  “coffee…  must have coffee…”  repeat.) 

But here’s the thing.  I am not the only one who has this happen or who has said this.  Not nearly.  In fact, I bet darned-near all of you out there have this happen on occasion.  

So my thought today is not about any one new idea or gadget; rather, why the heck do so many of us seem to get good ideas while in the shower!?  Why there?  Why then?  

Well, it’s probably due to what you’d intuit: we are in a relaxed, uncluttered state of mind, not overrun with more conscious decisions and burdens (yet).  In short, an unencumbered mind.  Here are two very nice explanations on this… human condition.  (The first one even comes complete with an “idea” for an aquapad, in order to best capture and write down these water-logged ideas.)

http://www.scottberkun.com/blog/2011/why-you-get-ideas-in-the-shower/

http://lucyinnovation.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/why-we-have-our-best-ideas-in-the-shower/

I didn’t think this WoD would be a bit of a continuation from yesterday’s on the perhaps-deleterious effect of too much work, in too interruptive a fashion, too long in the day.  But after reading these blog explanations, it is.  So people — stop the emails, push your chair back, stretch your arms, go for a walk, and… go take a shower? 

Tuesday:

KOCKEPUTZI (kochehPOOTsee)

A bunch of things thrown together

I guess you could call the WoD a big kockeputzi.  (Eh, I’ve been called worse…)  

WoD – Email and our After Hours

While pretty obvious and something we all intuitively know, I thought I’d share this Techcrunch article anyway (http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/02/80-of-americans-work-after-hours-equaling-an-extra-day-of-work-per-week/), as a reminder of how far we’ve come and how bad it all has gotten…

80% Of Americans Work “After Hours,” Equaling An Extra Day Of Work Per Week 

Have you ever read news that sort of makes you want to cry? I have to warn you, that’s what this new study from enterprise mobility company Good Technology might inspire. The company polled 1,000 U.S. workers to get a better understanding of their mobile work habits. The results are not surprising: the line between work and free time has become so blurred it’s practically non-existent.

80% of people continue working after leaving the office (a figure which actually sounds low, if you ask me). Half of them do so because they feel they have “no choice.” Connectedness means customers demand fast replies. There’s no off switch. Half of respondents check their email in bed, starting at around 7:09 AM. 68% check email before 8 AM. And you wonder why people hate email so much? God forbid we get a cup of coffee in us before dealing with the latest work emergency.

The average amount of “extra work” occurring outside normal working hours is seven extra hours per week – nearly another full day, says Good. That’s nearly 30 hours per month or 365 extra hours per year. THANKS INTERNET.

Good also found email was seeping into other parts of our daily lives, too. 57% checked email on family outings. 38% at the dinner table. 69% can’t go to sleep without checking email. 40% do so after 10 PM. A quarter of respondents said overtime caused occasional disagreements with their partner. Worse, over half said it did not– apparently, work outside of work is so par for the course, we don’t even care anymore. That’s truly frightening.

It’s amazing that no one has seen this level of uber-connectivity as an opportunity to blow up email and start over. For example, why is a “vacation message” the only system we have to support auto-responses for those moments where we need to be offline? By its name alone, the current system tells us that the only way we’re allowed to ignore email is when we are “officially” on vacation. Meanwhile, our societal conventions tell us that ignoring a question is the height of rudeness. At the very least, we need to respond with an “I’m looking into it.”

Why can’t email in a team environment smartly route inquires based on who’s clocked in as “on duty?” Why can’t email support a status message field the way IM does? Why isn’t there a button you can click to respond to simple yes/no queries to head off the inevitable (and bothersome follow-ups)? At the very least, if you could send a “maybe” the sender would at least know the email had been read. Why can’t email systems alert senders when you’re behind in your reading, aka “this inbox is overloaded, your email may not be read immediately?”

These ideas are off the top of my head – if someone actually began working on a such a system, the possibilities for radical improvements are un-ending.

Sad, sad, sad.

Monday:

AROYSGEVORFN (ahROYSgehvohrfehn)

Thrown out, wasted

“Eat all that food on your plate.  Otherwise it’s all going to be aroysgevorfn!  There’s people starving in Africa…” my grandmother used to always tell me.

WoD – You’re Not That Special

Go ahead, take a little lunch break, you deserve it.  And as you do, read this one while you scarf down a sandwich.  (I love the line, “the Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.”)  Good for him for saying what’s on most of our minds…

Wellesley High grads told: “You’re not special”

Wellesley High School English teacher David McCullough, Jr.’s faculty speech to the Class of 2012 last Friday.  Here it is, in its entirety, courtesy of Mr. McCullough:

Dr. Wong, Dr. Keough, Mrs. Novogroski, Ms. Curran, members of the board of education, family and friends of the graduates, ladies and gentlemen of the Wellesley High School class of 2012, for the privilege of speaking to you this afternoon, I am honored and grateful.  Thank you.

            So here we are… commencement… life’s great forward-looking ceremony.  (And don’t say, “What about weddings?”  Weddings are one-sided and insufficiently effective.  Weddings are bride-centric pageantry.  Other than conceding to a list of unreasonable demands, the groom just stands there.  No stately, hey-everybody-look-at-me procession.  No being given away.  No identity-changing pronouncement.  And can you imagine a television show dedicated to watching guys try on tuxedos?  Their fathers sitting there misty-eyed with joy and disbelief, their brothers lurking in the corner muttering with envy.  Left to men, weddings would be, after limits-testing procrastination, spontaneous, almost inadvertent… during halftime… on the way to the refrigerator.  And then there’s the frequency of failure: statistics tell us half of you will get divorced.  A winning percentage like that’ll get you last place in the American League East.  The Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.)

            But this ceremony… commencement… a commencement works every time.  From this day forward… truly… in sickness and in health, through financial fiascos, through midlife crises and passably attractive sales reps at trade shows in Cincinnati, through diminishing tolerance for annoyingness, through every difference, irreconcilable and otherwise, you will stay forever graduated from high school, you and your diploma as one, ‘til death do you part.

            No, commencement is life’s great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism.  Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue.  Normally, I avoid clichés like the plague, wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field.  That matters.  That says something.  And your ceremonial costume… shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all.  Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, each of you is dressed, you’ll notice, exactly the same.  And your diploma… but for your name, exactly the same.

            All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special.

            You are not special.  You are not exceptional.

            Contrary to what your u9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you’re nothing special. 

            Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped.  Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again.  You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored.  You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie.  Yes, you have.  And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs.  Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet.  Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the Townsman!  [Editor’s upgrade: Or The Swellesley Report!] And now you’ve conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building…

            But do not get the idea you’re anything special.  Because you’re not.

            The empirical evidence is everywhere, numbers even an English teacher can’t ignore.  Newton, Natick, Nee… I am allowed to say Needham, yes? …that has to be two thousand high school graduates right there, give or take, and that’s just the neighborhood Ns.  Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools.  That’s 37,000 valedictorians… 37,000 class presidents… 92,000 harmonizing altos… 340,000 swaggering jocks… 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs.  But why limit ourselves to high school?  After all, you’re leaving it.  So think about this: even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you.  Imagine standing somewhere over there on Washington Street on Marathon Monday and watching sixty-eight hundred yous go running by.  And consider for a moment the bigger picture: your planet, I’ll remind you, is not the center of its solar system, your solar system is not the center of its galaxy, your galaxy is not the center of the universe.  In fact, astrophysicists assure us the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it.  Neither can Donald Trump… which someone should tell him… although that hair is quite a phenomenon.

            “But, Dave,” you cry, “Walt Whitman tells me I’m my own version of perfection!  Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!”  And I don’t disagree.  So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus.  You see, if everyone is special, then no one is.  If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless.  In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another–which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.  We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole.  No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it…  Now it’s “So what does this get me?”  As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans.  It’s an epidemic — and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune… one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide, Wellesley High School… where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C, and the midlevel curriculum is called Advanced College Placement.  And I hope you caught me when I said “one of the best.”  I said “one of the best” so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable, and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition.  But the phrase defies logic.  By definition there can be only one best.  You’re it or you’re not.

            If you’ve learned anything in your years here I hope it’s that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning.  You’ve learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness.  (Second is ice cream…  just an fyi)  I also hope you’ve learned enough to recognize how little you know… how little you know now… at the moment… for today is just the beginning.  It’s where you go from here that matters.

            As you commence, then, and before you scatter to the winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.  Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in any more than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison.  Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction.  Be worthy of your advantages.  And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect.  Read as a nourishing staple of life.  Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it.  Dream big.  Work hard.  Think for yourself.  Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might.  And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you’ll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.

            The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer.  You’ll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–quite an active verb, “pursuit”–which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots rollerskate on Youtube.  The first President Roosevelt, the old rough rider, advocated the strenuous life.  Mr. Thoreau wanted to drive life into a corner, to live deep and suck out all the marrow.  The poet Mary Oliver tells us to row, row into the swirl and roil.  Locally, someone… I forget who… from time to time encourages young scholars to carpe the heck out of the diem.  The point is the same: get busy, have at it.  Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you.  Get up, get out, explore, find it yourself, and grab hold with both hands.  (Now, before you dash off and get your YOLO tattoo, let me point out the illogic of that trendy little expression–because you can and should live not merely once, but every day of your life.  Rather than You Only Live Once, it should be You Live Only Once… but because YLOO doesn’t have the same ring, we shrug and decide it doesn’t matter.)

            None of this day-seizing, though, this YLOOing, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence.  Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct.  It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things.  Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view.  Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.  Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly.  Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion–and those who will follow them.  And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself.  The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special.

            Because everyone is.

            Congratulations.  Good luck.  Make for yourselves, please, for your sake and for ours, extraordinary lives.

                                                                                    David McCullough

Thursday:

FARSHIMLT  (FAHRshihm’lt)

Confused (literally: moldy)

I am so farshimlt in the mornings that I need coffee just to find the coffee…

WoD – Low T

I heard an ad the other day which had to do with something called Low T.  What the hell is Low T?  Well, it is low testosterone.  It was making the point that low testosterone could lead to various symptoms like: sexual dysfunction, decreased energy, depressed mood, increase in body fat, decrease in bone strength, etc.  So the opposite is true too, i.e. testosterone levels are responsible for these things in a male’s body.  Which got me thinking.

Testosterone.  Prison.

I wonder if anyone has done a study of inmates, to see if they happen to have higher testosterone levels than the “average” man.  I bet they do!

So the next question is, if yes, what should we do about it?  Should we temper testosterone levels with some kind of anti-testosterone drug?  Or maybe only in those that get put in prison?  With this type of thinking, we’re half way to Eunuch-ville (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eunuch).  Perhaps “society” would be better off…?   But tinkering with testosterone levels might be the ultimate sign of how far we’ve come from neanderthal man (not necessarily good or better, just far…)

Friday:

PISHER (PISHer)

An insignificant person; small, young

What do you know?  You’re just a pisher!   [I heard that one a lot growing up…]

WoD – on Personal Branding

(I wrote this to a few friends, about 15 months ago in fact.  I happened across it, and I realized it is even more relevant today than it was back then.  Also, worth noting is that these questions are answered quite differently by different ages and demographics…)  

Full disclosure — had a big cup of coffee just now. 

Ok, with that out of the way, I was reading an article on online presences/branding and it had a link to this little video.  http://www.personalbranding.tv/personal-branding-make-the-real-virtual/

The vid itself is just ok (actually kind of annoying, but whatever) and likely not too germane for all of us.  But it got me thinking about all these ideas.  Just thinking about all of the *virtual* activity swirling around one offline activity (like a small speaking engagement, as he describes) gives me a massive freaking headache.  And I am sure it does for just about all of you, too.  

Is this really how we are all supposed to do things now in an online, web 2.0 social media world?  Do we really have to manage our “Personal Brand”?  I mean, I don’t want to do ANY of the stuff he talks about.  I don’t want to update Facebook if I do something, or tweet about a good article I read just so I can get others to re-tweet it and boost my online presence, or post comments all over other people’s blogs (and this is the easy stuff), or even try to figure out what Pinterest is all about.  In fact, all this activity seems like a massive waste of time, right?  But, as Tom Cruise says so wonderfully in The Color of Money, “the thing is, if everybody’s doing it… then everybody’s doing it.”

Why does this all matter?  Well, one way is that many of us are or will be in a career transition of sorts at some point in the near future.  Which means that recruiters or HR people or whomever you meet with are likely Googling and Facebooking us.  And everyone is certainly LinkedIn-ing all of us all the time.  On me personally, what they will discover is not a lot.  I am buried on some ancillary pages on Google because many people have my name, my Facebook site is family-oriented and very bare bones, and I don’t tweet.  (I smoked but never inhaled.)  This is all by design.  Even my most outward-facing idea thing — the WoD — I keep private and basically anonymous on the web.  

If we think back, just two or three short years ago there wasn’t even the concept of an online personal brand!  But now, maybe this lack of presence actually hurts?  I think we all now are probably feeling/sensing that on some level we are hurting ourselves by not taking control of and building our own our online personal brand.  So one question in all this is, what is the cost to us individually in NOT doing all this stuff?  

Unfortunately, there is no value placed on being private anymore.  What I mean is, if we decide to be ‘private’ and not post all this stuff, we quickly fade away into the dark, back pages of a Google search.  So a deeper question is, do we have to do all this stuff in order to be at all relevant in this day and age?  Do we have to worry about, establish, and maintain online personal brands (blog creative ideas, tweet about our area of expertise, post our travel online via TripIt, send photos to Instagram, and now Pinterest stuff), if only just to keep pace with the rest of the world?  And if we don’t, are we, or are we perceived to be, old fuddy duddy’s (in other words, irrelevant)…?  

While I understand the value of Facebook, and kinda like the ideas of other social media and inter-connected apps and services, I don’t want to be punished for choosing to be more private and opt out of them.  However, this seems to be the way the world is going.  And I, for one, think it kinda stinks.

So if anyone has good answers to these deep and unsettling questions, let me know.  But please, don’t tweet it.  Email me…

Wednesday:

MISHIGOS  (MISHihgoss)

Madness, insanity, craziness

As my bubbe would have said, “You young people, always posting online or checking your phones for tweets, texts, Facebook updates and Pinterests… it’s all a bunch of mishigos!”


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