Lots of comics enjoy watching comics bomb. The funniest part of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the audience’s response to the awful play performed at the duke’s wedding. This scene is funny because of the irony. We have watched these passionate but unexperienced actors preparing for this night throughout the play and it is exactly how wrong they were that makes it so funny.
When we first meet these aspiring thespians, they are gathered in the woods to rehearse and from the very first moment they get it wrong. It is a failure of leadership, due to a lack of experience that summons the fearful critic among them to point the ship in the opposite direction. They start out concerned that the subject matter is too disturbing for the women in the audience, showing a double misunderstanding: they don’t get theater and they have a false idea of women.
This concern over the violence leads them to horrible stylistic decisions that then shape the rest of the play. To avoid offending the ladies, they invent a prologue to explain that the violence is only symbolic and that nobody is going to be hurt during the play and that the lion is not a lion, etc. To work, a play must create the tension needed to get people’s full attention so that it can then reverse their expectations and surprise, delight, or otherwise entertain. Afraid that the ladies in the audience would not understand how to suspend their disbelief, these actors choose to violate the 4th wall and bring the audience into the show.
This device makes it impossible for the audience to take it seriously, though, and so they are left to critique the choices and to laugh at their unintended buffoonery. The players lack of understanding how they are perceived causes them to botch their shot, and this flat-footed clumsiness makes it even funnier when Bottom is turned into an ass by Puck at the service of Oberon to trick Titania, queen of the fairies. They turn bottom into an ass and give Titania a potion so that she falls in love with him.
To take the stage, in order to win the affection of a fairy goddess you have to have some belief in self, and it is Bottom wrestling with his insecurities and his delusions of grandeur that is so similar to what the path of an aspiring comic likely entails. Bottom is a phase, a stage that must be overcome grown through.
The process of finding out just how funny you are, of seeing an audience respond to you in real time makes for some vicious therapy and it is no wonder that actors and comics have a hard time sometimes making sense of where their act begins and ends. You must love anyone who attempts the feat and give thanks to those who succeed, because it makes our world a much more pleasant place to live. Long live the failure of comedy.
Every day, people publish thoughtful and creative articles, and they dream up some amazingly artful headlines to grab a reader’s attention. Grab is the right word, too. It’s almost an assault. Some of these click bait listicles are so offensively tantalizing they practically give you an unrequested massage. What is a listicle you might ask? It is a title that states: 4 Ways Listicles Will Help You to Win.
Titles have more importance than ever in a world so noisy with content. We need a way to navigate the chaos, and titles are convenient rafts of easy meaning. If we take the role that titles play in our culture seriously, then we will be able to counter the click bait watering down of journalistic credibility. Making it easy for your readers to recognize that your essay is the kind of writing they want to read is best achieved through creative titling.
The art of writing titles depends upon an ear for tone. How can we make this story pop out in a list of potential search results? How can we entice or excite a reader to engage with an article? The title should match the tone of the essay, but in a distilled and potent manner. It is a shot of espresso, a dab of concentrate.
Without a great title, you are standing naked facing the mighty wind coming off the Pacific Ocean. Unprotected, you expose yourself to becoming chapped and sore at the world. The fog bites at you. Spending time to craft a winning title is putting on your favorite clothes and pair of shoes, of stepping out in the world feeling good about how you look.
Writing is like a boombox without batteries until someone picks it up and reads. It is useless, meaningless inert exhausted energy expired and out of date. The second someone begins to read it; it turns back on. Alive and active in a reader’s mind, the writing blooms into being, has form and substance that morph inside someone’s mind. The words become a copper cable for ideas to follow like electrical current.
For the alchemy of reading to occur, the reader must choose the article. Until this engagement begins, the words are dead and dumb. This simple fact of reading and writing makes the title hold so much weight. The title is the on switch of the reading machine. It is a neon open sign. It is a red lightbulb.
What is digital culture? Culture is one of those all-encompassing concepts that is hazy and hard to see, like Society, and with 5G Internet it is omnipresent. Digital culture is like the smell of air. It’s gotta have one, but we only smell things that are floating in the air, like a puff of weed. Digital culture is both the cannabis we smoke and the air it is blown into.
Humans project cultural understandings and misreadings onto the world. Through interpreting the signs around us, we recognize the existence of other cultures, subcultures, even microcultures. Culture is the totality of our collective consciousness and its expression. It is an awareness of our differences and an articulation of those difference in form. Learning happens as individuals act, transact, and are acted upon. Digital culture is a massive conversation and collaboration among billions of people.
Culture breaks down into smaller and smaller sub-cultures online. The smaller the niche the more distinct the code. Language is one key part of cultures, and you can see how this local specificity develops in smaller and smaller places with language through slang. This tendency of creating inside jokes, insider codes, is an engine of diversity. If we are constantly addressing the specifics of our spaces and our experiences, then our communications will become narrower and narrower as we adapt to be useful in that specific place.
Just like breathing, the way we experience culture happens both voluntarily and involuntarily. As long as we are alive and interacting, we are a part of culture, but with conscious effort we can amplify our effect. We can get more out of and give more back to our culture by taking an active role.
The Internet radically changed the way our culture grows and shifts. In addition to the way language and fashion diversify and differentiate influenced by local conditions, the interactive space of the digital network–the world wide web—creates another layer of cultural exchange. What does a website like OnlyFans do to our idea of what our neighbors may be up to? In a world with millions of podcasts, there are more people actively shaping culture than ever before. In that sense, we are becoming more democratic.
Because of the broadening of cultural participation through social media, there is a much more chaotic cultural scene. Internet culture is so interesting because it accelerates the broader culture in two distinctly different directions. On the one hand it allows for an alliance between cultural misfits, for better or worse. People who are in the minority culturally in their geographical location can connect to likeminded people through the Internet. This networking supports and sustains their culture. Culture needs attention to grow.
Content creators have the opportunity to participate in the shaping of culture. There are steps a thoughtful creator can take to be more conscious in designing content to have desired effects. There are parts of the larger cultural contexts we want to change, and by understanding the power of cultural influence we can push the needle in the direction we think will be safe, fun and profitable.
Every time we do a photo shoot, record a podcast, publish a blog and share a story we are starting a conversation. The more effective we are at getting people to care about the things we are interested in, the greater our influence.
You just have to know that the potential is locked away inside of people and change is possible. Listening to Jane Goodall talk about being plant-based inspired me to give it a try. That is one month of not eating meat that is directly attributable to one podcast. I was in a place where I was all but ready to experiment with a plant-based diet and Goodall’s stoic steadfast point of view added that last nudge of encouragement I needed. I’m back to eating meat because I found it impossible to eat enough protein on a vegetarian diet, but it was a great challenge, and is making me more conscious about what I eat and eating more plants than I was before.
That is an example of a moment when something changed for me culturally. It is a significant change, and a voluntary one. Being inspired to try plant-based eating creates cultural conflict, too. It means joining a minority group. Changing a habit means potentially offending people who are used to that habit. I don’t judge people for what they eat. When you are the only one who can’t eat a family dinner, however, it might not feel that way to everyone.
Making anything significant culturally means making some kind of cultural change. It doesn’t have to limit anyone else’s options, but even through expanding a new direction, breaking original ground an idea can be revolutionary. Silicon Valley fell in love with the word disruptive because it minted a lot of new billionaires, but it is more than just disruptive when new ways of sharing and creating culture emerge. Disrupting the culture of gatekeeping has been a good thing for innovation.
This is just the beginning phase of social media, though. I think that the first chapter of social media closed with the storming of the capital. That was a moment when we no longer could deny what had been obvious for a decade: the internet is transforming our culture. Social media is not a cute pastime. It is the new stage. It is a stage of development when subcultures can grow in strength and numbers and have undeniable effects on the real world.
This is a moment when we can participate in the process of cultural change, by exercising our powers of imagination. We are taste makers, conversation starters and innovators of culture. Welcome to the show. Prepare to be influenced.
Mental health should be a major topic of concern around the world as we find ourselves more than a year into a global pandemic. Signs of things opening up are starting to inspire hope about a less restrictive future, but we are also seeing a loss of control in the release of the tension people are feeling. It is going to be very easy to diagnose poor mental health in the coming months and years, but the question is: what can we do to improve our mental health, overall?
The basics of mental health are very similar to physical health. We can be more proactive if we look at our mental and physical capacities in terms of fitness instead of health. Striving for fitness goals is an effective way of promoting and protecting good health. In order to be fit, you have to eat well and exercise regularly. The results of the work are evident in how you feel and how you are able to perform. The more extreme the training, the higher the threshold of possible achievement is, with a point of diminishing return where more work doesn’t lead to the same degree of gains.
Navy Seals train rigorously so that they will be prepared to remain functional under extreme duress. This is one extreme end of the physical fitness spectrum, but their work also includes mental training. All training helps both mind and body, but the more you include technical skills into the training the more interactive the mind and body in training become. Being able to think and communicate, to interact skillfully during physical exertion is a measure of total mind/body fitness.
The same habits that lead to physical fitness can also lead to mental fitness. Creating a training schedule designed to promote strengthening of physical and mental abilities will provide the structure needed to sustain and understand the results of this kind of work. If you are able to effectively perform both mental and physical challenges for a sustained period of time, then you can be said to be sound of mind and body and in good health. Instead of waiting to diagnose an illness, we can choose fitness as a path to well being.
If our diet and our exercise affect both our mental and physical health, what about the things we consume and produce? Is there some kind of calorie-in/ calorie-out ratio when it comes to mental consumption of cultural artifacts? If you are what you eat, what about the culture that you consume? How does what we read and see affect our physical health? How does thinking about what we consume in culture help us to assimilate or eliminate ideas and energies?
Thinking about mental health as a result of good mental fitness practices opens up all kinds of questions and points to exciting directions for research. The method of separating people in to athletes and intellectuals, jocks and nerds is becoming more and more evidently bad form. Instead, we should strive for balanced well functioning minds and bodies. Through training, we can achieve greater degrees of mind/body fitness.
As we attempt to recover physically, mentally and financially from this pandemic, focusing on best practices for physical and mental fitness will help immensely to promote good mental and physical health.
What is the relationship between discipline and creativity? On the surface, these things seem to be opposites. Discipline implies consistency and regularity. Creativity suggests variety and spontaneity. What is the image of discipline in the US? What is our idea of creativity? What is the reality?
Creativity comes from a variety of places, including trauma. Art is sometimes a response to an emotional need, to a state of shock. The thing is, not everyone who experiences trauma creates art, and not all experiences are equally traumatizing.
Will power, or the continuity of choice, is one of the factors that transforms traumatic feelings into creativity. What is the difference between someone who is damaged by a traumatic experience versus someone who is able to transfigure their pain into poetry? It is their willingness to practice. Of course, not all art comes from traumatic feelings.
Another aspect of creativity is choice. Creativity isn’t found in one thing or another. Creativity is the ability to choose. Art can be any combination of aesthetic qualities. There are no rules as to what can qualify as art. Making a creative decision, a decision to go in a creative direction and to practice a formal constraint, is definitely one of the ways to look for creativity.
What decisions have been made? What choices can we make now? What is the basis of a creative choice? What makes up an art direction?
Creativity is the conception of form.
Discipline is sticking with a program of work designed to create growth. To be disciplined is to possess self-control, to know one’s limits, to act within a safe and measured sphere of possibility. It is also to act consistently. When disciplined practice creates strength, there is more control in the execution of decisions. The strength gained from practice brings the line drawn by the hand closer to the mind’s idea.
Creativity derives from passion. Deeply caring about anything leads to opinion and the repetition of opinion creates style. A passion for form leads to the discipline of style.
The subject of a work also has a lot to do with the interaction between creativity and discipline. The loss of a love can lead to a loss of passion, and instead of being productive creativity becomes cathartic. Instead of being driven by a desire to make great work, the artist who is heart-broken uses creative expression to cope with the feelings.
Imagine Jeff Koons versus Mark Rothko. Koons is an artist who conceives of ideas and blueprints for the making of a spectacular visual object. His work is not expressive but conceptual. He is not using art to express something personal as much as he is performing for art. He is making aesthetic and conceptual, formal, choices to create something for the world.
Expressionist artists, like Rothko or Pollock, use creativity to vent their anguish, to express their tragic sense of time. Both routes end up creating something new, something valuable. The expressionists, however, ended up killing themselves and Jeff Koons is one of the wealthiest artists of all time.
The value in art is derived from the desire of collectors and institutions to preserve the work of artists for future generations. Once an artist reaches art historical status, their work is almost immediately valuable.
People get too serious about art when money is involved, and it is always involved. It takes discipline to keep a sense of humor. You have to stick to your decisions.
The tragic artist seems more authentic to us in some ways. There is very little sense of discipline in the tragic artist because they are fueled by trauma, not will power. The tragic artist is living on borrowed time. Creativity is a drug for the tragic artist, and it is just a matter of time before it becomes impossible to re-up.
The pop artist doesn’t use their public work to express their private feelings, but instead takes the task of making an art object as a kind of engineering challenge.
Discipline and creativity are never neutral forces and so it requires an understanding of an individual and their context to really get down to the nitty gritty. What is the purpose of discipline and creativity in your work? Do you tend to feel more creative when you are emotional or does emotion come out of doing the work?
The purpose of the discipline is to earn trust. Through the repeated performance of a task, we inherit an artist’s belief in their project.
Why do we need creativity? Where do we need it?
You would think that making pretty things to look at wouldn’t be super high on our list of priorities in a world that has so many serious problems.
Creativity always starts with a question about form. How would it look if we did this…? What would a viewer feel if we did that…? How do we make this art object feel a certain way? How can we inspire certain feelings in an audience? The questions create the context for formal experimentation and an artist will use their discipline, their media, to create some answers.
During the pandemic, the cannabis plant and the industry surrounding it have become more valuable than ever before. State by state, we are creeping towards federal legalization as the evidence continues to grow in the places where it already has been made legal for recreational use. Legalizing weed is the most SENSIble thing to do. With one stroke from a pen, a switch would flip that could empower hundreds of thousands of people with work, liberate tens of thousands from incarceration, and would potentially provide all of us with the therapeutic tools we need to heal and grow stronger.
Canada legalized recreational cannabis with the Cannabis Act in 2018. Mexico in on the verge of passing their legalization bill. Just as California couldn’t stand by and watch Colorado capitalize on legal weed, it seems beyond inevitable that the US as a whole will finally abandon its stance against cannabis as history continues to show that legalizing cannabis is not just an experiment, but a full-fledged transformation of global drug policy.
Cannabis users who have experienced legalization may have varying views of what legal weed looks like for the people who care most about the plant, but there is a widespread consensus among its advocates that cannabis is a beneficial plant and that making access to quality bud safe and affordable would be a good thing.
When will the US recognize its potential for leadership in the embrace of cannabis and hemp products? If cannabis is federally legalized, will that speed up the process of incorporating hemp commodities into our agricultural and industrial plans? When will we see the ascendency of Hempcrete as a building material? How soon can we phase out plastic and replace it with hemp alternatives?
These questions have urgent importance, and the more we elevate the topic as a priority the sooner we can start working on these powerful problem-solving practices. It is perhaps understandable that people are still resistant to legalization as it shows the power of the anti-drug campaigns that have ideologically backed the drug wars. If you didn’t have personal experience with cannabis, it might still seem like a dangerous or negative thing.
The truth is, cannabis is beneficial to many many people.
When you listen to leaders in the cannabis space, a common story you hear is one of conversion through injury or illness. Oftentimes, these folks will have been extremely conservative people who were anti-cannabis and believed the propaganda against the plant. After being recommended cannabis to deal with seizures, pain, or the side effects of chemotherapy, a great number of people have converted to become stoners who sing the praises of the plant and advocate for it.
One of these people was Jack Herer. He is one of the most iconic examples of a conservative converting to cannabis after trying it for the first time in his 30s. Herer opened up a head shop and started researching cannabis and hemp and became a spearhead for legalization. His book The Emperor Wears No Clothes is a cornerstone work in the legalization movement. Herer became one of the legends of cannabis during his time and he started out starkly against the plant as a Goldwater conservative.
Just as Jack Herer changed his mind about cannabis, we have seen a major shift in attitudes. The more states legalize cannabis, the less the stigma against cannabis users is able to stick, and lots of people you may not have thought were cannabis users have stepped out of the closet. We no longer see cannabis use in the same way. We are getting experienced. Jimi Hendrix would be proud.
We have a culture of distrust at the present moment. Our attitude about marketing is symptomatic of this failure to create honest messaging. The good thing is that this can be fixed through education. If people understand how marketing works better, then we can move into a healthier relationship with media.
Take, for example, this article in Men’s Health on a new trend in beer that is designed for after workout consumption. This is going to be about as confusing as anything in our culture can be, as it is a complete mashup of so many opposing things. It points to how bizarre our relationship with marketing and advertising is. The article’s title merits a close reading, just to illuminate how weird things are right now.
The title is: “A Dietician Is Here to Burst Your ‘Performance Beer’ Bubble.” When judging copy or anything that is produced in media it is important to think about more than just the short-term efficacy of the tactics. The title is strategic. It is click bait. It’s pretty clear who it is trying to reach: skeptics, experts, intellectual elitists, people immune to marketing. It is going to give us a reason to laugh at ourselves for wanting the impossible and in doing so it will elevate us above the people who are foolishly believing the advertising.
Men’s Health, like most publications, doesn’t seem to have much faith in its readerships’ interest, its writers’ ability to captivate attention or people’s ability to be interpret marketing, generally. Hence, the clickbait title, but even more telling is how they summarize the entire interview right beneath the title with the takeaway quote. “The marketing is fantastic. But at the end of the day, is it really some magical product? Certainly not.”
That’s all you really need to know. The article then goes into details about various breweries’ efforts to present the public with performance beers or health beers and the science that goes against it. The dietician, Chris Mohr, seems very educated about the interaction between diet and exercise and speaks competently about the lack of merit presented by performance beers. I have no problem with the content of what he said other than his suggesting that the beers are good marketing.
If they are misrepresenting the benefits of drinking their beer, then that is not good marketing; it is dishonest promotion. It is extremely mistaken to think that this is a smart strategy. Politicians are notorious for overpromising and underdelivering and it is because of that tendency that we don’t believe them. If you are trying to create trust with an audience, then you want to do the opposite. If anything, you want to err on the side of underreporting, under-promising and over-delivering.
If people look into the facts of your business and find out that what you are offering is actually better than how you are presenting it, then there is a much greater chance of creating trust. Brands should leave a margin of error in their claims, and we shouldn’t reward dishonest messaging with the title of good marketing. Giving people what they want is a smart business move. Telling people what they want to hear when the reality doesn’t measure up is a great way to ruin your reputation. As marketers, we need to value reputation and not give into the temptation of exaggeration.
We are in a weird spot as a culture. I think most people would agree with that. Things have shifted in ways we don’t even understand yet. Major world historical events like the Covid-19 pandemic are formative for the generations who live through them. Your age and your social position have a lot to do with how you are able to navigate those challenges, how the times affect you. This is a generational event.
One year of involuntary widespread unemployment is going to have major psychological effects on people. This has to be expected in order for us to be able to help, in order to survive. We need to be ready. We need to actively be finding ways to assist ourselves and others to adapt. What do we need to focus on?
In order to climb our way out of the economic and energetic abyss into which we’ve fallen, we are going to need leadership. We need collaborations. We need positivity. We have to think about the situation critically and work creatively to find solutions. What is the new need, how could it be a new market? How can we address it? What positive energies can we summon to help us overcome our despair?
Enter the alpha executive assistant, Erin Schwartz. The pandemic has restricted so many of our movements, but some personalities are indomitable. Some people have overcome tough situations before and are emotionally equipped to face uncertainty without falling apart. Erin is one of these people. She has that warrior like strength that you need in times like these.
During the restrictive months of lockdown, Erin took charge of her own work life by basically creating a job for herself as a virtual executive assistant. Erin is talented at networking. She thinks of other people and wants to involve them in projects. She has the instincts of a producer. But, she is also a very clear communicator who is not afraid to ask the hard questions or to be strong in her requests.
We are in an era where small businesses are experiencing existential threats, but also where there is a rise in entrepreneurship. It is when we effectively combine the usefulness of the new category of entrepreneur with the needs of businesses to adapt to changing times that fruitful synergies can occur. I have seen it happen so many times in my own work, and this is a time where the opportunity is there for lots of other entrepreneurs.
I became a full-time entrepreneur out of necessity back in 2011-12 and found over time that it is something that I love. I enjoy thinking about business and marketing as much as I do art and literature. I now see them as all so connected there is no way to separate art from business from politics. It’s all intertwined and there is a middle path you can follow, a way to sanely and productively interact with others despite the seemingly divisive times.
I started working with Erin as a model probably three or four years ago. When I work with models, I care more about the results of the collaboration than anything in particular about the person. I’m never looking for a specific look in terms of gender or ethnicity or age. I care about energy and results more than anything. You have to keep it moving and get stuff done, so whenever a collaborator brings that go -etter energy to a project it more often than not leads to more work.
Momentum is a powerful force in creativity, so when you find someone who is stoked to get pictures, who brings creative energy to the project, it adds to your momentum. The same thing is true in running a small business. You need team players.
Everyone has things they can’t do, but that are important to their work. I work with models because I need subjects for lifestyle and commercial photography. I can’t do that by myself. When I work with a model and have a successful shoot, I am able to deliver lots of great content to a client and that often leads to more work. Their positive energy adds to the overall process. So, I end up working with the people who bring the best energy most consistently. Over the years, Erin has proven to be a reliably positive collaborator.
As I mentioned, Erin brings a kind of alpha energy to her life. She is not one to let circumstances stop her. As a result, she managed to get married during the pandemic and I was honored to photograph the ceremony in beautiful Carmel. With her own wedding as I have seen her do in her life in general, she found the will to bring people together and to accomplish a big thing together.
This is Erin’s knack. She has an indomitable will and an awareness of how other people could come together to create a larger team to tackle a project, to accomplish a goal. With all that is happening in the world, it is refreshing to be reminded that the human spirit will find a way. Artists generally make their way to the stage one way or another, and we are living in a world more entertaining for their efforts.
I strive to create the best content for brands, which is why I work with people who bring the best energy to the project and Erin is one of those individuals who responds to the potential of a situation. We are all collectively building the future as we go, and this has been a time of rethinking and reimagining what that will be.
As we move into Spring and whatever that brings, it will be good to add new entrepreneurial ingredients into the mix. Now is the time for young people to initiate internships, to look for mentors, to figure out how to get experience in business. It is also the time for businesses to find ways to work with content creators, influencers, virtual assistants and anyone who is able to bring value to the table.
The internet changed the world. When it began to be used widely by the public in the early 90s, the World Wide Web connected us irrevocably. No other invention has had as much of an impact on human culture. A tech revolution has ensued and the collective effect of the advance of technology and its meaning for the human race is staggering to try and comprehend.
Part of what has changed due to this massive cultural shift is our attitude towards time. How humans change is one of the most interesting topics to study, as it requires a tricky kind of self-reflective sensitivity. As we collectively work to understand how to use the new modes of communication to our advantage, old habits and desires wait to be fulfilled in new ways. Narcissus looking at an iPad.
The word Blog has never struck me as attractive in any way. All of the connotations it brings up for me are negative: a bog, a log, blah, swampy slimy nerd shit. I have never wanted to be a blogger. That always sounds like an insult. This is where technologists have failed miserably: in the poetry of tech. Web log becomes blog, a broadcast you can listen to on your iPod becomes a podcast. Do iPods even exist anymore? It doesn’t matter. Once a name has taken hold, it sticks.
Why are the most profoundly powerful aspects of this new technology so badly named? Walt Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass. The blogosphere should be a place where masterpieces of literature are being created experimentally. Instead, it comes across as lower level than a local editorial column.
I remember at one point jokingly naming my own blog a bjournal. My thinking was that if we had someone who cared more about words, then it would have been called a web journal or a bjournal. That never really caught on, partly because people don’t understand that blog is web log shortened, so when they see bjournal it doesn’t make sense to them. The inside joke is all there, but nobody catches on or cares.
This is because we are still getting used to the idea that the gatekeepers were wrong a lot of the time. We relied upon a system of cultural production that forced creators to work in a system that perverted their visions. Now that we have the ability for a creator to go directly to the public, we are seeing better and better results.
The people who saw the opportunities provided by the blog space took advantage and have created some amazing media conglomerates. The Huffington Post began as a blog. There was an era when blogs were able to turn into full-fledged media empires. Fifty Cent didn’t give two shits about the name blog, he turned his site into a hub of culture.
Joe Rogan started out on the Internet as a blogger. There is a natural progression from blogger to podcaster, but I think that they both are still incredibly important. Rogan is an advocate of writing, but he doesn’t publish his thoughts anymore. Still, that might be what he could bring back into rotation that would make his program even more compelling.
When it comes to creating content, there is no replacement for good writing. The writing is fundamental to the form, the content to the design. A blog is just a place to share writing. It is an idea generator, a conversation starter, and a repository of your thoughts and work.
Every brand, every content creator, every organization should be using a blog to publish their ideas. This helps to keep new ideas coming into circulation, and it keeps the public aware of the vitality and originality of the brand. Whether you love or hate the term blog, the function of publishing your ideas on a regular basis is a stimulant to growth and an invitation to positive networking. Not to mention the SEO.
More important than getting noticed, however, is the work it takes to improve and that can show more clearly than anywhere else in the archives of a blog. Leave your trail of breadcrumbs, create your own routes through this digital forest and inspire others to form their own sense of creative agency. It’s all about the blog, baby.
We have the occasion, during this period of life interrupted, to think about one of life’s great questions: how do we create social change? There are so many ways to approach this topic and I think that one of the great things about contemporary culture and social media is our ability to see plenty of examples and to learn from our peers.
When you stop and look at the flow of history with the objective of seeing how social change occurs, it becomes clear that most of what we see as social equilibrium is merely an angle of repose that has resulted in a dynamic balance from ages of struggle and collapse. Beneath that image of stability is a violently churning reality. There are multitudes of groups pushing for their own interests and it is some vast turbulent ocean of conflict and cooperation that is keeping things dynamically the same and allowing for some change in certain moments.
We have professional activists who study the situation looking for nodal points of leverage where force or support can be applied to some effect. We have career politicians actively transforming ideas into reality through the drafting of legislation, the execution of mandates, and the judgment of actions. Politics is much bigger than a business or even an industry. Politics are the official and often arbitrary outcomes of power struggles. It is the public story power writes.
It is the people who are doing the struggling, though. In many cases, this struggle results in a form of work that is like existential hysteria, an outward expression of the ultimate grief. The display of displeasure, the story of true human suffering becomes a work, a narrative that can be replayed, retold, reconfigured as evidence supporting our cause. In other words, the people who are publicly hurting are providing us with the ability to discuss our underlying problems. In doing the work to understand how to change the conditions that lead to such unnecessary suffering we are honoring their sacrifice.
In many if not most cases, the people who become national topics of debate do not do so intentionally. Our great change makers often are not volunteering for the job, but people who simply suffer the consequences of an unjust system and who inspire other people through the expression of their suffering. It is through phrases of sheer terror that a truth is illuminated: “I can’t breathe.” It is in the extreme vulnerability of a human being involuntarily brought to the edge of life itself asking for their mother or their father that we see something true about our condition of being. How do we become more humane humans?
Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to work with one of my favorite artists, Gillian Young. She is too many things to name, which is why the title of artist is really the only label that fits. She is a fitness coach, a food influencer, a writer, a fashion model, a social activist and a community builder as well as many other interesting things. One thing she is not, however, is quiet about the change she wants to see.
Whenever I see Gillian in person, I have the feeling that I am in the presence of a superhero. She is an exquisitely beautiful woman, with a fashion forward style, flowing with feminine grace and elegance but accented and accessorized with an edginess that speaks to her strength. Her bright and warm demeanor are offset by a tattoo of a knife, by her shoes. This is a woman, one thinks, capable of being a great friend, a valued collaborator, but also one you do not want to fuck with.
Gillian, like anyone mentally fit enough to pay attention, is on a path of awakening to more of the world’s truths and, as we come to understand the depth of the problems we collectively face, it can be daunting to engage. How do we speak up for what we believe effectively? How can we be positive influences of change? What does that look like?
For Gillian, as a fitness coach and personal trainer, the answer is through training. You don’t achieve fitness goals overnight. They take work and dedication and discipline. Well, why would we think it would be any different or easier to create a healthier society? It’s not.
It has often been said, attributed to Ghandi, that one of the best ways to effect change is to be the change you want to see in the world. Gillian is taking this idea to its practical level by training to create the change she wants to see. After all, we can’t just be anything we want without doing the work. We have to practice any art or skill we want to improve.
Taking the discipline and the technique of working towards fitness goals and applying them to building a diverse community, Gillian is modeling an effective approach to changemaking. This is a kind of proactive model of protest. It is about building coalitions and sharing stories so that we can coexist more happily together.
But don’t mistake this movement as a superficial and doomed to fail because overly optimistic flash in the pan. This is not fool’s gold, it’s not gold at all. It is good. The common good. Enlightened self-interest. The social agreement. But remember the tattoo of the knife. In order to build community, you also have to have clear boundaries, and you have to establish a seriousness of your intent to preserve the integrity of the group. We are not fucking around, her smile seems to say.
We are here to do the work, her back states, to create powerful social connections and to articulate our vision of equity and friendship to anyone willing to try. Gillian’s brand name is GYB, the acronym for her full name Gillian Young Barkalow, but it also stands for her motto, her mantra, her mission statement, her mandate: Give Your Best.
Certain people are inspiring to be around because of their verve, their spark, their drive for living and this electrical aura is what makes Gillian such a powerful coach. Following her on social media is witnessing a woman building a movement. If you are looking for motivation in your fitness journey, you should consider an interview with Gillian the Great if you are ready to train for the change you want to see.