Sunday, May 30, 2010

Who Do You Love? (A Featured Post on Brazen Careerist)

I think most people must be far more careful with saying "I love you."

I do not refer merely to romantic love, or eros or whatever the hell you want to call the kissy-kissy kind. I mean any kind of love, for none of them are really as insignificant as we sometimes make them out to be in our society.

There are so many varieties of love that I think it actually becomes easier to make inappropriate use of the word. For if we simply stipulate to ourselves that there are "all kinds of love" and recognize that we feel at least some sort of affinity for another person, we can label it "love" right off, and reap the benefits of expressing that to someone, without putting in the mental effort and the time to determine which type of love it is, or if in fact it is love at all. And when harebrained applications of the term come back to haunt us, we can enjoy the ass covering convenience of saying, "Well, I didn't mean THAT kind of love."

For some, I imagine this is done with intent. They enjoy the theatrics and the potency of saying to someone, "I love you," and all of the almost reflexive responses that come about when others hear those three words. (Especially for the very first time from someone.) For even if it is clearly not meant in a romantic fashion, we live in a world so potentially lonely and void of meaning that we tend to latch on to those words, in any context. Which of course is a problem in an of itself, as well as yet another reason we all should be far more careful with making the most famous of human declarations.

Yet I am willing to conclude, for now, that it is just as often falsely declared as a result of laziness. We don't feel like delving into the nature of what we truly mean, and saying something is far easier than proving it through actions anyway. So we slap an "I love you" on something, and think we have done the ultimate favor. We don't specifically intend to cause trouble or pain, but our carelessness makes such outcomes far more likely.Not unlike firing a gun into the air in celebration. No harm is intended, but it isn't at all a safe or responsible thing to be doing.

In this speed-of-light, social media age, take the time, for your sake, and for the sake of others to examine how you really feel towards any given individual. Be introspective enough to identify your own feelings before you engage in a potential powder keg of someone else's. It cannot always be avoided, but certainly we can go a great distance by considering our true feelings in some depth before expressing them.

We really think we love someone who always makes us laugh. Or who has suffered what we are/were suffering. Or who stands up for a principle that we share. And sometimes just being around a person for an extended period of time, such as a classmate or co-worker of many years will make us conclude, incorrectly that our comfort and familiarity are in fact love. But are they?

You might be dealing with admiration. Or respect. Or awe. Gratitude perhaps. Appreciation. Each of them sometimes mixed in with a bit of lust to add to the confusion. In each of these cases we may find ourselves, either in a very somber moment, or in a casual everyday situation telling such a person, "I love you." But how do you know for sure? We may never be 100% sure at first, but ask yourself some questions:

"What exactly am I feeling? Am I drawn to this whole person, or to an action they took? To one trait they posses? To their view points? To the high level of enjoyment I get out of their company?If I took away any given major aspect of them, would I feel the same?"

And on and on. The point being to decide if you love the entire person. Not that we must love every aspect of the people we love, for we cannot. But certainly we can take the time to ask ourselves if we love MORE than an aspect of a person. And if we do not, we probably really do not love the person, and should call it something else. We shouldn't say "I love you," but instead express our appreciation for that aspect of them to which we feel drawn.

Just because love has many facets, doesn't mean we are released from the responsibility of treating it with respect. Of understanding its awesome power in any form, and refraining from making reference to it lightly, and without thought. The consequences of flippancy can be disastrous, for ourselves, the other person, and, when left to accumulate, the world. (Which I fear we may be seeing nowadays.)

Besides, love is a verb anyway, not a feeling. To love someone in any fashion is to serve them, not posses them. I am being more careful with how often I say it to someone, and trying to take with a grain of salt the times I have been told, "I love you, Ty" until such time as actions back up the words. For when actions back them up, it shows that I wasn't told out of laziness or confusion, but out of a genuine desire for my betterment, sometimes even at the expense of the other person.

That's love.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Don't Always Be Selling. (A Featured Post on Brazen Careerist)

Malcom Forbes once said that he judged a man by, "how he treats those that can do nothing for him, nor to him."

I know nothing of Malcom Forbes outside of this quotation. But it is more than enough for me to appreciate the way he thought.

Volumes and volumes have been written by Gen-Y on social media about the importance of keeping one's nose clean. Of remembering our "elevator pitch". Defining our "personal brand". Tidying up our cyber finger prints by considering that every move we make will one day be checked by a potential employer. Opening our Facebook to the world, making sure we have "nothing to hide". Never leaving home without a business card, and printing some up if we don't have any. About attending cocktail parties to exchange such cards, and about never having lunch alone. About finding a way to "suck it up" if we don't enjoy those things, because we have to do them anyway. About researching a company and a hiring manager for 50 years so we can adequately fake a personal interest in them during an interview.

We're told to always be selling. Networking. Researching. Polishing. Meeting and greeting.

And why? So that we make the right impression; nay the perfect impression on someone because they are a potential employer. Or a potential client. Or a gateway to a better network that might one day provide us access to same.

In other words, to keep up appearances for those who can do something  for us or to us.

How weary I sometimes get of it. How plastic it all begins to appear after a time. And how shallow.

Of course, I must include the obligatory section of this post which reminds everyone that I am well aware that one can do all of these things and still be a damn decent fellow. I must also remind the world that I realize these things can sometimes be very important. But the point is, so much is written about the how's and why's of doing so for profit. Very little in comparison seems to be written about just plain, straight up decency and professionalism towards people when they can't yield you anything.

Don't save your A Game for your networks. Don't spend all of your mental capacity for meticulous research on a potential employer that you probably won't even be working for anymore five years from now, even if you get hired. Show some polish, class, and dedication even when almost nobody is watching. Not because the people you encounter might secretly be able to help you after all, but because your persona is your persona. You are either refined or you are not. Everything else is just selling a used car, as far as I'm concerned.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Facebook and the Lack of Public Privacy

I realize that the ultimate super blogger would link to about 5 million different articles, blogs, and videos that backed up any point he makes. But let's be honest here; the Facebook privacy controversy is in essence ubiquitous these days. If you slung a dead cat in a coffee shop, it would hit a lap top that was open to an article about same. So I'll provide one link here. That will eventually lead you to several trillion more, I am sure. I have a point to make.

And actually, the point is not merely about Facebook, though as the largest social media entity currently out there, and the one with the most problems concerning privacy at the moment, it does get most of the press. My point is about social media privacy in general. But I will refer mostly to Facebook, just because I don't want to write "Facebook, and other similar social media websites," about 75 times in this post.

The general point is that I don't buy into this notion that people are wanting to be more open, simply because social media is growing at an exponential rate. Nor do I accept the often stated position that, "if you have anything to hide, don't go on Facebook." Or my favorite, "you need to let potential future employers friend you, so they can check up on you, and see if your private life fits in with their company image.

True, there may be fewer walls up between us now, and many welcome that. But too often I hear the arguement that people shouldn't object to concepts on Facebook such as Instant Personalization, because...

"After all, Facebook is a public forum...and why would you ever want to put something on Facebook that you wouldn't want your mother or priest to see?"

I've slapped my girlfriend's ass while at a coffee shop before. That's a public place, but I wouldn't proceed to make contact if just anyone was there with us. My mother, for instance.

Here's a less bawdy example. Join my on my imaginary journey into the land of metaphor.

Let's say there were a new local coffee shop. Call it, Cuptastic. It's a public place. It has bulletin boards for jobs, posters for bands, business cards in the window sills. Free Wi-Fi. Clean bathrooms. Very comfortable booths, great coffee and scones, or whatever coffee people eat when they go into such places. In other words, a great place to get coffee, to study, to hang out. Take a date. In short time it becomes the local place to get coffee.

After a while they offer regular customers free membership in their Club Cuptastic, with all kinds of wild benefits. They have cards and everything. With a card, you can get concert tickets, plane tickets, hotel reservations, and all sort of other semi-vital services right there in the store! Popularity spreads, and several more Cuptastic chains begin to open up all over town.

As you can imagine, once this happens, people are going to start getting used to the way things are, and though they can take care of all of that business elsewhere, why wouldn't they take care of it all in one convenient, hip place, at one time?

Then one day you take an out of town date into one of the stores. She HAS to see this place! And there is something new. Microphones at each of the tables. Puzzled, you order and sit down, staring at the mike. There are no signs anywhere talking about this strange new addition. You didn't get anything about it in the e-newsletter for Club Cuptastic. It's quite a surprise. What is it for?

You look around, and finally you see it; in really tiny print under the table, you finally see the explanation for the new additions. Turns out each conversation at each table is now being recorded and saved by the management, so that the next time you come into that store, you can be given a copy of it, and share with your friends what your experience was like the last time you were there, word for word. What's better, anyone else who is a member of your chapter of Club Cuptastic may request a copy of your most recent conversation at table 5, and listen to it at leisure on his I-pod.

Wait a minute...

Enraged at this, (and feeling pretty sure that not everyone in the place is aware of what the mikes are for, given how and where they are explained) you walk up to the front desk and demand to know more. You are told of course that although nobody that is up to any good should be at all worried about having their every word shared with the world, there is naturally a way to opt out of this, and get the mike at your table turned off. What a relief, you think.

All you need do is take the form the manager provides you, and get it signed by the managers of all five branches of Cuptastic, bring it back to the original branch, certify that you are a Club Cuptastic member, notify in writing each other member of your branch of Club Cupastic that they are not authorized to listen to any recording of your conversations, sign on the dotted line, and in just weeks, you can enjoy a Cuptastic Cup of Java once again at any table you select, without your conversations being recorded.

Oh, and by the way, we now take your picture automatically every time you pass through the door, and we post it, without your permission, to Cuptastic chains all over the country! If you are uncomfortable with this aspect, you'll have to leave Cuptastic, and resign your membership in the club. Sorry.

 But are you sure you want to do this? This is, after all, a whole new world evolving, and very soon, Cuptastic will be launching partnerships with restaurants and grocery stores around the state! Just think, everytime you buy something somewhere else, an email of your purchases is sent from that store to your local Cuptastic, where it is put on file, and researched so that they can make your next visit even more personalized for you!

Cuptastic knows you will love this new service. It is, after all, a public place. If anyone would be bothered by it, they would have stayed in their home, right?

You can of course opt out of this service, too. Simply obtain 4 copies of each form from each partnership company...

If you are like me, you would at this point grab your date, haul ass to the nearest Starbucks, and never again come into any Cuptastic anywhere in the world. Life is too short, and no coffee is that vital to your everyday existence. No matter how delicious. And no matter how many other grinning idiots tell you so.

That's not coffee, folks. It's kool-aid, if you catch me. And that's exactly what this business about "more openness" with social media is too. And an awful lot of people are drinking it. Gen-Y and younger in particular, but certainly not only them.

Of course the above scenario wouldn't happen so easily. Because I would venture to guess that all of us value our "public privacy". In other words, conversations that are held in a public place do not automatically open themselves up to public consumption. The fact that we are studying in a library does not indicate we are happy to have 4 or 5 people stand over our shoulder and watch us take notes. There is an assumption of privacy even when making use of public utilities. The argument that anybody has a right to get a piece of you as soon as you leave you home doesn't hold water outside of the internet. And it shouldn't hold water within the Net either.

Personal privacy, even in a public place, is something we have the option of protecting, by sitting in a booth, whispering, and so on. Facebook usage should be the same way. We should have the option. The EASY option. Not because we have "something to hide", but because it is our right, after ingraining the old Facebook into our way of life, to expect that previous safeguards on privacy for this social media giant will continue to apply.

Most will just swallow it, I imagine, because Facebook has become too convenient to abandon. I admit, things would be a pain in my ass if I deleted my account. But they would NOT come to an end. I would adapt, and move on, as would anyone. Because no social media site is worth me swearing loyalty to it's mission to become the one and only world wide social mainframe. Just as no coffee is good enough to give up all the Cuptastic wanted you to give up.

Remember that you're an individual, and not a digital pattern on somebody's hard drive.

Know all privacy settings that are available to you. Hold on to "public privacy". And whatever you do, don't buy into the notion that is being pushed on everyone that "openness" means "no privacy". Don't feel ashamed to want to keep something to yourself even if you have done nothing wrong. And if that means weaning yourself off of social media totally, so be it. Just don't drink that kool-aid.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Excellent" in Spite of Myself.

Yesterday afternoon I had a phone interview. But I was the interviewer, and not the interviewee. I am probably one of the few people that gets more anxious about giving interviews than I do about being interviewed. I could be interviewed by almost anyone and not feel too poorly about it for long. But when I have to give the interview, I get somewhat stressed.

Which is a little odd, because I've never been bad at doing it. I've even been complimented on my work. (More on that in a moment.) But still I quite dislike interviewing people under most circumstances. I continue to look inside myself to figure out why this is. I don't have a solid answer yet, but I am sure it is a mixture of things, not the least of which is a subconscious perception that I am wasting someone's time.

So combine this with a few other extenuating circumstances. The fact that I hate using the phone, period. That the interview was for a magazine piece I am writing that I did not select; I was asked by an editor with whom I have worked before to fill a last minute gap in the publication. And my overall fatigue at the time. It should be clear why I was keyed up for a while before hand.

I didn't want to lay out the interview too specifically before I called, because I felt that could make it even worse by being too formulaic. The key to a good interview is to make it a conversation, and I was determined to do so. I don't want to interrogate people, or launch an endless survey at someone over the phone. Because this isn't a hard news piece I could afford to be more informal.

The subject has her own website, which I had read before hand. It contained all of the details, numbers and contact information that was relevant. The hard facts. I therefore saw little reason to ask her all of these things during the interview. I was determined to ask about more of the intangibles pertaining to her story, and that's just what I did.

Obviously I can't get into details about who I talked to or what I asked because it is a piece for someone else that has yet to be published. Suffice to say I figured my questions were rather natural lines of inquiry, but outside the realm of the website.

She seemed busy at first, and a little rushed, but after my first question she actually slowed down a bit and sounded more mellow. She proceeded to give me some good answers and very useful quotations. 15 minutes or so later I had what I needed for the piece. I thanked the subject, and wished her good luck on her endeavors. As soon as I said that, I started to come down a bit, knowing it was nearly over.

At that point, the interviewee made a point of thanking me. She told me that of all the people that have interviewed her about her situation, I had asked the most thought provoking questions on the subject matter, and it allowed her to discuss aspects of her story that she generally did not get to talk about to other writers and reporters. She was genuinely grateful.

As was I. She didn't have to say those things, but she chose to. I was also surprised. For while my questions were designed to be less statistical, I didn't think I had been so refreshingly probing to her. I assumed that while my questions lie outside the norm, others must have asked similar question of her at some point in time. (Many others have interviewed her about her story, according to her website.) But not so.

So as usual I spent about a half an hour coming down from the stress of having to conduct such an interview. But this time around it was with a certain satisfaction that I had gone above and beyond what most writers do when pursuing a piece. It confirmed that my commitment to excellence in my writing is not affected by my (possibly) neurotic tendency to stress about interviews.

Not bad for someone that's a bit Too XYZ, am I right?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Social Media This Week: I'm Just Not Feeling It.

I have not been totally absent from the internet in the last 5 days. I have, however, been more selective in my use of same during that time.

I would never claim to be as prolific in my use of social media as some of you are. (Particularly those of you I have met recently.) Yet, since the start of 2010 I have been actively engaging in it at a fairly regular, sometimes constant pace. It is certain my pace this year has far surpassed my pace of previous years. Two blogs, an active presence on Brazen Careerist, and my entrance into the world of Twitter a few months ago.

Not to mention the regular, nearly daily visitations to each of the blogs of my new associates, and crafting comments to leave on same. Plus reading of articles, sharing links, research, "conversations", replies, emails. Everything that is done in order to be deemed in good standing in the alleged "social media community." I have, put another way, been doing quite the bit of networking. (The supposed lifeblood of everything these days.)

I realize that the level to which I have engaged in all of this behavior represents but a drop in the comprehensive ocean of social media networking and knowledge sharing that some of you take upon yourselves to complete. I don't even use Foursquare, Tumbler or YouTube. (Though I have some silly old videos up on Youtube.) I have no intention to start doing so in the near future either.

The biggest reason is, I am tired. Mentally so very tired of late of what all of this requires sometimes. I am in many ways Too XYZ for some of it, as this blog hath often showed. I'll never do as much as some of you, and I'm okay with it. But lately even the pace I had been keeping has been draining. I think there are several reasons for this in the last week.

To begin with, much of my mental energy has been diverted to "Heaven Can Wait", the play I am in which opens in 4 days. (Read more here.) I also have an interview weighing on my mind coming up on Tuesday, and some research I have to get to.

But I must confess that the biggest reason for the recent falling back on my social media updating is that I am still uncertain as to what return on the investment I am getting. I have met many of you, and talked to you in more than one platform, and I am grateful for that. I am also grateful for the comments left here on Too XYZ, and for being selected a top user on Brazen Careerist, (where recently I topped 100 fans.) But I am just not yet certain where all of it is going right now.

Very few of my fans on Brazen respond to any direct messages I send them in hopes of engaging in mutual topics. Several, (but certainly not all) of the blogs I visit don't seem to acknowledge the comments that I or others make. The hot bed for "conversation", Twitter, has yet to yield me lasting public conversations of true substance. Yes, I have made several wonderful new acquaintances and friends on Twitter, which by itself is worth the price of admission, I suppose. But I'm not yet getting that sense of intellectual exploration among people that I had hoped for at the start of my adventure.

Some of this, I am sure, is that I have not been able to precisely define a solid metric by which to define my success with social media. And I already hear some of you out there saying I have to keep doing it. I know this, which is why I am not quitting my social media experience. But I choose not to hide the fact that I am struggling with it a bit of late.

Some of it is my choices, I am sure. Some of it is circumstances, (and for those of you who insist no circumstances are beyond our control, please save it for now, I don't have the strength to explain why you are wrong once again). A lot of it I am sure is timing. But even if it cane be corrected, and even if it is temporary, a person becomes drained quickly when they put so much into something and get less back out of it. Particularly when what they put in requires summoning up the kind of strength and stamina that my personality requires. I'm not giving it all up, but I am just not certain I am making end roads yet.

So my apologies to "Tweeps" and blog subscribers, and the Brazen Fans. It's not that I don't appreciate your writings. I'm not ignoring your tweets, and I really do value the opinions shared by some of you. I desire to support you mission as much as I ever did. But I am feeling distant for now. I'm fighting my way back to being present. Not because I owe anybody anything, but because I'm not ready to give up on it just yet.

Questions, advice, concerns, pep talks, etc are more than welcome. Otherwise, I will see all of you when I am back in the game again.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Kindred Spirit in Phone Hatred

Please read this post about hating phones that my like minded friend and internet associate Mehnaz has written over at her blog. There is literally not one jot that I could add or detract from it to express my feelings on the same subject any better myself.

Our thoughts on the subject are identical.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Suck It Up. (A Featured Post on Brazen Careerist.)

A lot of people who are Too XYZ will hear these words when they express something with which they are having difficulty that other people find easy. God knows I have. I have heard it because of the things I write in this blog, or the things I Tweet, or write in Brazen Careerist. Hell, sometimes I hear it when I just live my daily life outside of the computer.

I will be having a problem doing something the conventional way, or otherwise explain that going forward in such a manner is impossible for me. And on message boards or blog comment sections I read it;

"That's just the way it is. Suck it up."

Oh yeah? Suck this up.

Pardon my foulness, but such is my level of exasperation, or even offense, when people approach my situations with such a response.

To say this to people is shallow because it displays a lack of true compassion for someone's situation. It's lazy because it allows one to make a snap judgment about a person's situation without having to invest the mental work that is required to understand circumstances outside of the norm. It displays a lack of imagination.

In short, to say, "That's just the way it is, suck it up", is to be of no help to anyone at all. And if you have no desire to help someone, even if they suffer from problems you are unable to imagine, why say anything at all to them? What is it that fries your circuitry so much about people like me who don't proceed in the way your favorite Gen-Y blogger says to proceed? Are you unable to stay on your highway just because a stray leaf blows by and wrecks your perfect sense of what the world is supposed to be?

Instead of telling those who ask for advice to, "suck it up", because you lack the intelligence to be more clever, just go about your merry perfect way down the road where everything comes easy and every step along your journey is perfectly mapped out, complete with instructions on how to proceed in every contingency.

For those of you that have a sincere desire to help everyone around you succeed by participating in a free and open exchange flow of information and perceptions, read on. You may learn how to be of service to those that are Too XYZ, even if you yourself are not.

So many assumptions are made about people like myself. The huge gaps in my official work history must mean I am lazy. My discomfort with standard networking events must mean I am afraid of people, and should seek psychiatric care. Using the privacy settings on Facebook must indicate I am a zealot with something terrible to hide from the world. The fact that I have, and may at some point again live with my mother must indicate I am afraid of the "real" world. While there is always room for improvement in most aspects in my life, none of the above reasons apply to me. There are legitimate, tangible, and documented reasons why each of these things is true. I don't know what to do about a lot of the actual reasons, but that is where you can come in.

Don't make assumptions. Resist the urge to offer pat advice that all the gurus offer to people in my situation. Care enough to dig deeper into the reasons a person may be where they are, and for the love of all things holy, listen to their situation. If someone is sharing their story with you, even out of frustration, there is a good chance they want to find ways to improve their lot. But they don't want to alter their entire DNA in order to do so. They want to work with both their strengths, and their weaknesses. They are willing to accept the latter, if others would be willing to accept the former.

Help those that are Too XYZ change what they do and not what they are. In fact, that may be the ultimate approach to helping anyone that is less fortunate or on the ball than yourself. Know what they are and who they are before advising them. Think of a way to work with them and their abilities, not make them feel as though they don't measure up as a person because they haven't blogged, tweeted, Facebooked, networked or job hunted the way the gurus say they should.

People that are Too XYZ by and large know that they are different in thought word and deed. We admit it, and embrace it. But that doesn't mean we don't need help sometimes. And we don't begrudge you your conventional success. We plan to drive ourselves, and pay for all of the gas out of our own pocket. (I'm doing a lot of that these days.) We just need to sometimes take the back roads instead of the highway.

Anyone got a GPS?