Lessons for my Daughter

Today my daughter turns 18. Cue the balloons and the flashing lights. What I am most happy about today is that I no longer have to fill our any permission forms for my daughter to literally do anything at college (just ask me how I feel about school cut off dates) But along with that, I am also happy about certain parenting decisions that I made along the way.

So guess what? You’re getting a parenting post today- where I pat myself on the back and extol the virtues of my parenting skills daughter.

When my daughter entered middle school, she was not thrilled. In Manhattan, you apply to go to public middle and high schools, and unfortunately, my daughter did not get her first choice. I told her she had two options: make the best of the situation- (join things, study and make friends), or make the worst of it (rush home every day and watch TV).

She heard about debate team from her social studies teacher, and decided to give it a go. She tends towards the introverted, but I figured if she liked it, I would support her. And she realized right away that she loved research and she loved arguing (well, to be fair, I knew that she loved arguing). A debater was born. She worked tirelessly at becoming better, and by 8th grade her and her partner were good enough to so to the State Championships.

Her plan was to debate in High School, but the year before, a scandal rocked the NYC high school debate world. Her HS had a team in 9th grade, but it the league was in iffy shape, so my daughter joined the Law Team. Fast forward to great success with the law team, due to hard work and dedication.

In college, her school has two law teams, one for mock trial and one for moot court. She applied for the more prestigious mock trial team, but did not get a position. She did get a spot on the moot court team.

The moot court team is fairly new at her college. In fact, last weekend, her college, and my daughter competed for the first time in a collegiate competition. My daughter has spent the past six weeks prepping for this competition, on top of all the course work. While she was happy with performance of herself and her teammates, no one made it to the final round. Yet, they stayed to watch the final round  (instead of driving back to watch the basketball game) so that they could learn for the next time.

So what was the point of all this?

Resilience.

Hard work.

Determination.

Attitude.

More often then not, things will not go your way. That’s just life. Sometimes things are external, like a scandal that destroys things. Sometimes someone is just better than you- remember- for every winner there are a whole lot more losers… But in the end, you need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get on with it. If you love something. you just have to keep pushing along, working towards your goal.

A goal and a dream are two different things. My daughter could dream of being a law team champion. But in order for dream to become reality, you need to work at it. Research, study, watch how the better teams work. Put in the hours…..

Yet there is no guarantee.

You may do everything that you are supposed to, and you still don’t get the outcome you desire. Does that mean it was all for nothing?

My daughter was disappointed, but she doesn’t regret the time and the energy she put into it. She learned the finer points of how the competition works, and is better prepared for the next one. She knows what she can do better in the future. Of course she wants to win, she is competetive. Yet she knows that hardware isn’t the only thing that you get from a tournement. She knows she tried her all and competed- she was in the game. And you can’t win a game that you don’t participate in.

 

 

 

To Dream…

One of the themes that has emerged the last few days is that sometimes you need to follow your dream career path in order to be happy. Now, finding a career, fulfilling your dream, and being happy are all mutually exclusive. Today, I’m going to give you a peak into dream filling.

Scenario 1

Person A decides they want to be an actor. They study acting in college. They graduate and get a job at a restaurant (to pay the bills) and they hit the pavement in search of acting jobs. They occasionally find work, but are far from having a fulfilling acting career that pays the bills. After a few years they decide to go to graduate school to study acting. When they graduate they once again find employment, but it is sporadic and make their living as a babysitter. Person A is now 35, but they are still holding out for their dream job. They share a small apartment with four people (not related to them). Babysitting is not job that they want to be going to every day. They spend money on their looks, because after all, acting is a glamour job, and you need to be glamourous.

Are they happy? Is the dream worth fighting for? The answer resides in the heart of this individual who is keeping at it.

Scenario 2

Person B decides they want to be an actor. They go to college to study acting. After college they move in with their parent and get a waitressing job. Auditions and parts are few and far between. After a few years of this, Person B decides that what they really want is their ow apartment and a family. So they put the character shoes away and exchange them for the character shoes of a person in the 9-5 work a day world. They find a job with a good salary and good benefits and begin to be able to save money.

Are they happy? Did they give up? Or did their dream just change?

Scenario 3

Person C decides that they want to be a rock star. After high school they and bandmates buy a cheap van, and start touring and playing gigs wherever they can. They reach a moderate level of success- they are able to pay their way as musicians. They release a few albums. They are living the dream. Sort of. Because they never become rock stars, which was really their dream, not the reality of playing small venues and then morphing into a wedding band. Person C eventually puts down the guitar and cuts their hair, thinks that college might have been a better path, because being a failed rock star is pretty lousy.

Are they happy? Would it have made a better dream than a reality? Was not living up to what was envisioned just too hard?

So….

Do you follow your dream?

Stability?

Is there such a thing as job stability?

No.

Any job can be lost at any time.

I have been sitting in front of my computer for two hours trying to figure out a way to explain why even though there is no such thing as job stability, I would prefer my own daughter find a career path, and follow it until her desire for that path no longer exists. For her to find employment with a company, or build her own company based on an actual occupation.

But I feel there is a generational difference that can’t be simply put down in words.

I read an Buzzfeed article yesterday, and it stated outdated advice that boomers have told millennials. One such lie was that working hard will get you somewhere in life.

I’m sorry, call me old, call me old fashioned, call me out of touch.

I still believe that hard work gets you somewhere.

I believe in learning responsibility, showing up on time, doing what you are supposed to do, working towards a goal, giving 100% to whatever it is you’re doing, whether it’s an accountant, librarian, doctor or influencer.

I firmly believe that hard work pays off in the end.

But some of the youth of today just do not believe this.

Are they misguided? Clueless? Stupid? Immature? Or are the way smarter than the rest of us?

Maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t.

When did it become that working towards a goal was silly?

Is it because sometimes you can work your tail off, and still fail? And then you wonder why bother working, if you’re going to fail anyway?

Resilience. You know I’m a big believer in getting kids to push themselves, allowing them to fail, and then helping them get back up and start over again.

So maybe job stability doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t mean that we just give up- jobs may not be stable, but internally, we must learn to be.

Is the flux of influencers and gig workers just a way of kids not really trying to set a goal, so therefore they won’t fail?

And while I’m talking about hard work….thank you to those who have served in the armed forces!

Please Silence you Electronic Devices

Last night I went to Lincoln Center Avery Fisher Hall to see The Schumann Quartet perform. When the show was about to start, we got the obligatory “Please Silence Your Cell Phones” speech, with the added caveat that it was especially important because the concert was being taped for public radio.

Great. The opening piece, Mozart Adagio and Fugue in C minor for string quartet K. 546 went off flawlessly. Then they began the premiere piece, Berg Lyric Suite for String Quartet (with soprano). Sometime during the fifth movement, I saw people in left orchestra start to shift in their seats. When the movement was over, right before Tony Arnold was to sing, I heard what was causing people to shift in their seats.

ring. ring.ring.ring.ring.

The performers looked to the audience, where the offending sound was coming from.

People started commenting.

Yet, the phone continued to ring, and no one made a move to silence it.

Security appeared, and put his ear to the task, trying to figure out where the ringing was emanating. The offensive device was apparently attached to a woman (in my age range) and the security guard had to actually remove the woman from the auditorium.

So here’s my question:

Why wouldn’t the woman just shut her phone off?

Why did she need to disrupt everything and actually wait to be escorted out?

Never a dull moment….

Working Hard or Hardly Working

I have had many wonderful experiences while writing my blog, but I do have one stand out moment. I wrote awhile back about how hard it was to make money writing a blog. Spoiler alert: it’s really hard to make money at it. When I wrote, I mentioned Shannon Ables who is my favorite lifestyle guru. I related how Shannon does make money, but along with her blog she has a newsletter, and podcast and books, and works really hard to make money and have a successful brand. Here’s the thing- Shannon thanked me for the kind words about her! Total fangirl moment FYI…

I had written a blog about how hard it is to make money off of a blog.

Because making money off of a blog, or channel or the internet is really difficult.

There are very few people who make achieve success without working really hard. I have no doubt that there are people who can make money being an influencer. But the ones that are successful work tirelessly towards their brand. They put tons of sweat equity into what they do. What they do is not illusionary: they are running their own business where they are the product. They figure out how to market their personality so that people want what they have, which is basically charisma, and then they work to gain sponsors and advance the relationships. Some have been able to partner with stores for clothing lines and household products. Others have become spokespeople for already established brands. Kudos to these individuals for working hard and creating something. I am truly in awe of these people because they created something out of nothing.

But here’s the problem.

To the uninformed, it appears as if these entrepreneurs are just having fun. They see these influencers go on shopping sprees, or do different gimmicks at fast food drive thrus and such and it’s all fun fun fun… They think its easy. They think it never gets boring.

Ha.

That’s my problem with the influencer model of making a living. No one thinks that it’s “work”. They think that you play and people throw cash at you.

Big error in judgement.

No one just throws you money.

You need to work.

Being a successful influencer is as hard as being successful in any other business.

You need to be organized. You need to have a plan. You need to figure out what you want your goal to be and you need to work towards it realistically. You need to converse with the money people, and you need to negotiate. These are skills that are not easy to acquire. And guess what? The business end of any business can be boring. if you didn’t like to sit in class, how different do you think sitting in a board room is? You might not be getting an actual grade, but the person at the table who you want to sponsor you is paying attention to everything you do. Do you want to get a D at that table?

Making money as an influencer is not easy.

Making money as an influencer takes a lot of hard work.

Most people will fail at making money as an influencer.

Too many people don’t realize this.

This is the problem with the influencer business model.

Why I Don’t Like Influencers

Yesterday, I posted about how we’ve evolved into a new short term economy, where many are not choosing to follow the stereotypical 9-5 what a way to make a living path. Blog friend Amy (who I believe resides in Tokyo so most of you didn’t see her comment) made some very valid arguments to the contentions I laid out yesterday.

Of course- I started thinking. And the idea I originally had for today’s blog is now pushed to the future, and I’m going to try to discuss some of the points that she made. For brevity sake, I’m going to break it down over at least two days, so I can narrow my focus.

Today- as the title suggests, I’m going to start with my problem with influencers. I think it is integral to the discussion that I define what I mean when I use the term, and what my issues are.

Influencers are those who use an online platform to discuss their particular agenda, whether is be lifestyle, fitness, or pretty much anything. When I think of influencers, I think of Pinterest Perfect Moms, and I am thankful that there was no Pinterest when my daughter was young, because I’m pretty sure I would have suffered a mental breakdown.

Influencers excel at marketing what is great about their lives. They make three dozen intricately detailed cupcakes for their child, hand dye the tablecloths, build a robot t rex that can give rides, all while wearing a flawless Wilma Flintstone costume (I did not intend to pull out a Kardashian reference- I was merely thinking dinosaur theme, and the recent pic of a top influencer just appeared in my mind) 

Influencers show us a world that we can have if we just try to be perfect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They show a standard of living that is unrealistic, and frankly unhealthy. When I look at some of the influencer pictures, I can’t help but think Stepford… At 50+, I’m perfectly content with not being even remotely perfect.

But if I were younger….

I worry about people who may not have developed self esteem. I worry about people who feel like they don’t fit in. I worry about people who will do anything to belong to a group, to be part of something….

This group is called influencer for a reason….their goal, their purpose, their reason for existence, is to influence you to do something, wear something, buy something, because if you do, your life will be better.

Doesn’t everyone want to be better?

But the problem is, you can’t get better externally, getting better is internal. You can wear the brand du jour, but if you still feel empty inside, the outer shell doesn’t matter. My problem with influencers is that they are really selling hope, hope that all your dreams will come true if you just follow the path that they have laid out. And the thing is, we all need to find our own individual path… We don’t need to be like everyone else. We need to figure out who we are…. Because each of us is unique and perfect just as we are.

When I was growing up, we kept up with the Jones family. Now we keep up with the Kardashians. Hopefully, we’ll eventually figure out how to keep up with no one.

The New Economic Order

Gig Economy.

Who knew this would be a thing.

Back when I pulled out my papyrus to study economics, never did I dream that one day people would make their living by bouncing from one short term job to another. Benefits, pension, stability….these were the words that we lived by. Temp was just something you did to pay the bills until you got a “real” job.

Now….

For those of you who aren’t acquainted with the term, gig economy is one where workers are contracted for short term positions. Ie: temping. We just needed to find a fancy name for it so that it looks good with a hashtag. This is how many people now make their living.

#ihavenosavings

#whoneedsamortgage

#illbecomeaninternetstar

#easymoney

#whyworkinanofficewhenIcansleeptillnoon

But intersecting with the gig economy, we have the internet based cash flow. We all know that  google, and yahoo, and facebook treated their creators fairly well financially. But we also know that the internet has spawned influencers. Influencers get money and gear from companies, because influencing has become the new sort of advertising. If you want to sell something to the demographic that spends the most money on non essential goods, you need to have your brand gracing the channels of youtube, or the pages of Instagram.

How do you become an influencer?

Get a lot of followers.

How do you get a lot of followers?

? ? ? ? ? ?

This is where the game gets tricky. My daughter likes a youtuber who does exercise videos- she thinks the young woman explains the exercises well, has a sunny personality and is easy to follow. The youtuber has created a brand and receives exercise clothing and gear which she markets on her channel, as well as creating a line of her own goods. This is a pretty good use of the internet as a tool for marketing. She doesn’t do stunts or gimmicks or tricks. She basically sells her attitude. The only problem with this model is that her followers are of the fickle group who switch what they like fairly quickly, so I hope she is saving money for when she’s not the flavor of the month. Her product has a shelf life.

Shelf life.

That’s the problem with milk, and the problem with many of the people who try to make money off of youtube, instagram and blogging. You have a unique perspective, and people start following you. You’re trending- you see your stats rise….

And then they plateau….

Or they dip…

So what do you do?

?????????????????????????????????

You make outrageous statements. You attempt outrageous stunts. You attempt anything that will make you go viral.

More views.

More likes.

More followers.

More money.

The internet has created an environment where bad is now good for the wallet. Want people to listen to your music? Start a feud with someone. Want someone to buy your product? Have someone nefarious use it or wear it. Want for score a big sponsor? Do something outrageous, dangerous, stupid….

No publicity is bad publicity, right?

How much of the junk on social media can be traced back to money, and the want/need for it?

What do we think about internet based economics?

 

 

 

 

What Came First

I love a good chicken/egg scenario. To me, these are the questions that computers can’t answer- yet- so it’s score one for humankind. We get to debate these seemingly unanswerable questions.

When I wrote yesterday about how social media has taken over our lives, my perception was that the internet broke us. But after conversing with the blog community, I began to wonder, did they create this mess, or were the internet powers trying to fix something that was broken?

My friends like to wax poetic about the old days: jumping on your bike at 8 in the morning and not coming home till the streetlights came on. You had the kids in the neighborhood and there was always a pick up game somewhere, and the  tinkle of the Good Humor truck was ping sound that you listened for. Your Mom didn’t set up playdates- you hung out on the block. There was an inherent community. People sat on the front porch, and your neighbor would tell on you if you did something wrong.

But we all know, Norman Rockwell is no longer grazing the covers of the Saturday Evening Post. We barely have magazines anymore. Kids barely listen to their own parents, much less care what the woman down the street thinks…

When I was very little, we used to have family dinners at my Grandmothers on Sundays. There was no such thing as being too busy- we sat there and had baked ziti, or manicotti or some other red sauce doused product. My Mother wanted to try this ritual a few years ago…..it’s not that I don’t like the idea of family getting together, but realistically, it just didn’t fit our lifestyle. And if she wasn’t making my sister come in form Seattle, there was no way I was going…

And I know some people still do the weekly family thing, but realistically….

So somewhere along the line, long before Al Gore invented the internet, we had already begun to lose our sense of community. Divorce mitosis begat blended family meiosis. How often can you reasonably see step family, half sibling, third cousins thrice removed…. Logically, we can change a lot of things, but there’s still only 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week (though I’m sure Apple or Google are trying to change that….) Schedules just don’t mesh. Ever try to plan an evening out with eight friends? It’s D-Day style planning…

So as the saying goes, weddings and funerals become the times when groups gather.

But…

Were we meant to be like this?

Were we meant to be single cells bouncing around aimlessly?

Or are humans supposed to be in packs?

Hmmmmm. We no longer have the neighborhood and an automatic social circle. Family is an evolving concept. What is a human supposed to do?

Enter the internet. Enter social media. Enter myspace. Enter Facebook.

If you think about it, the internet and social media have filled a void that humankind had created. Humans need social interaction and community. Somewhere along the line we threw that away, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t need it….we were lost but then we were found in 144 characters. Virtual communities were formed. We found friends and acceptance and a sense of belonging. We created our own online neighborhoods and families. We found what we were missing.

We like to blame social media for a variety of woes, but in its purest form, social media can have much value. How many people have met their partners via apps or algorithms? How many bonds were strengthened because of emails and Instagram? How many were saved by this virtual world?

But then we got greedy. And greed is not good…. Greed destroys everything. We abused the good fortune that was the world wide web….we took what was perhaps a modern day cure for loneliness and lack of family community, and turned it into an ugly, dark place.

As humans, we try to find solutions to fix our problems. Enter social media. But now we are overexposed. Can we retreat, or is it too late?

Birth, Marriage, Death

There used to be a society rule that the name of a respectable person was only supposed to appear in print three times: birth, marriage and death.

When did the norm become the exact opposite?

Why have we become a society that longs to be known? Was it sometime in the sixties, when Andy Warhol stated that everyone has “fifteen minutes of fame”, or did Warhol just understand where society was headed?

Was is it about fame that makes many crave it so intensely?

Do we just want to do something so wonderful that we deserve to be celebrated? Do we want to win a big award, Oscar, Nobel, Pulitzer? Do we want to be recognized as outstanding in our field? I understand this perception: we spend twenty years studying some arcane physics principal, it’s proven correct, and suddenly we’re in Stockholm wearing fancy dress and bowing to the king. You want to be recognized for your hard work and contribution to society. To be fair though, I don’t know how many people know the names of any Nobel laureates, while many have probably heard of Oscar winners….

But what about other ways of seeking fame?

It’s been noted that some serial killers actually thrived on the press that they received. They wanted to have their monikers in bold on the front of the tabloids. Notorious strangler Dennis Rader actually gave himself the nickname “BTK”. Maybe it wasn’t his real name, but he was pretty proud to have it bandied about… I guess you could say they were trying to be recognized for work in their field, but really….Why?

What about people who push the boundaries? YouTube personality Logan Paul made headlines when he went to a spot known for suicides and actually filmed a body. He did it so that he would get publicity for his channel. Any publicity is good publicity, right? Luckily, he was called out for his antics, and issued an apology for his behavior. But the damage was already done. He did something disrespectful in the name of fame, which is just sad and horrible. Unfortunately, he probably became a hero to some. I’m sure there are people who think this is just fine, and are probably thinking what they could do to top that.

How about people that actually risk death and serious injury by performing stupid stunts for their channels? The theory being that if they do something incredibly stupid or risky, people will watch. People will know who they are. And really, isn’t that what’s most important?

Why have we become so insecure that we think people have to know who we are in order for us to matter?

When did our self worth as individuals become tied into how others view us?

Like

Please like me.

Even if you don’t like me, hit the button so I know that I’m liked on social media. Because of everyone else thinks I’m OK, then all is good with the world. Doesn’t matter if I don’t like myself because I got 500 likes on my post…

You must continue to feed the fire of fame. Society has the attention span of a gnat. You have to get your name out there again and again and again. Your name only in print three times in your life? What? That’s crazy.

Selfies. Tags. Photo bombs. Wave at the TV camera when you’re in the crowd.

Fame is acceptance.

Your name in print means you exist.

We need to prove to ourselves that we exist.